Social Media Concerns: What Employers Should Know


In the first of our three-part Technology & Privacy Law in the Workplace series, we will be discussing the Federal government’s recent ban on certain social media platforms, and what employers can do if they wish to follow in these footsteps with a view to protecting their own privacy concerns.

In an effort to improve cybersecurity in Canada by identifying threats and vulnerabilities, the Canadian government in February of this year banned the use of TikTok on all government devices, due to an “unpredictable level of risk to privacy and security”. This move has since been followed by some provinces and cities across Canada.

In clarifying this move further, the Chief Information Office of Canada stated that TikTok’s data collection methods “provide considerable access to the contents of the phone”, the use of which may leave users vulnerable to cyber attacks. Privacy protection authorities for Canada, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta announced in February that they would jointly investigate TikTok to examine whether the organization’s practices are in compliance with Canadian privacy legislation with respect to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

Privacy concerns aren’t the only motivation for employers to introduce policies regarding the restricted use of social media on employer time or property. Whether it’s to protect the confidential information of the employer, or to ensure employees stay focused during their workday, many employers are establishing robust social media and privacy policies for their employees. Employers wishing to enforce such limitations on their employees should ensure that their policies set out clear expectations as well as repercussions resulting from a breach of these policies. When drafting such policies, employers will want to consider a variety of factors, including the appropriate use, if any, of social media within the scope of employment, employee rights, privacy and confidential information considerations, the use of employer property for social media, social media posts that involve the employer or any of its employees, health and safety considerations and how to monitor for compliance. In drafting any policy, employers should turn their minds to whether the parameters set out are realistic and reasonable in the circumstances.

Drafting a comprehensive policy is only the starting point. Once a policy has been drafted, employers must ensure that each employee is aware of and agrees to what is set out, and that the policy is consistently enforced with each employee. Employers can run into challenges where it is unclear whether employees were aware of the policies in place, or where an employee can demonstrate that a policy hasn’t been consistently applied by the employer over time.

We recommend a regular review of your handbook, including your privacy and social media policies, to ensure they keep pace with the rapidly evolving landscape of technology and privacy issues.

For any questions regarding social media use or privacy concerns, please contact any member of Clark Wilson’s Employment & Labour Group or Privacy Law Group listed below:

Employment & Labour Group

Andrea Raso

Catherine Repel

Debbie Preston

John Soden

Privacy Group

Scott Lamb

Jeff Holowaychuk

Monica Sharma

Debbie Preston