of daily routines, both personally and professionally. How do HR
professionals balance the need for information and communication
in this digital age, while adhering to privacy guidelines and
company protocol? There is no easy answer to this question, and
today’s solution may be tomorrow’s problem in this constantly
By now, every employer has or should have appropriate user
protocol for the Internet and social media platforms. Many companies
simply block various websites like Facebook, YouTube and
similar sites. Others, such as LinkedIn, are deemed to be a higher
professional standard and are allowed. Where do employers draw
the big, gray, wavy line to determine what is appropriate or not?
If employees are restricted from using various platforms on company
time, they still have access from their phone. How should
employers regulate the use of technology at break or lunchtime?
Employers can be seen as hypocritical when using social media
platforms to recruit employees, blog industry changes, post their
successes and tweet their activities all while they promote their
brand and products.
From an investigative perspective, all communication and digital
interaction is intelligence, and is a valid means to confirm
information or gather evidence. Looking into a potential new hire
and their background can reveal some fascinating insight into
their character and activities. Are the references listed on a job application
actually valid or perhaps just friends or family members?
Many people would argue that this information is private. Is information
really considered private if posted and uploaded for the
world to see and comment on? Generally speaking, case law indicates
that there is no expectation of privacy when shared with
various “friends” in publicly accessible digital formats. Reviewing
someone’s profiles is akin to calling references or checking with
previous employers to verify particulars. It is important to consider
and understand that people often put on their best face when
posting things. Everyone wants to be seen in a positive light, and
an investigation may find filtered or deleted information as they
try to put forward their best persona.
When investigating matters such as a potential hire, complaints
of harassment, inappropriate employee relationships, wrongdoing
or chronic absenteeism, it is essential to collect this evidence properly
and legally. Online mediums and social media profiles provide
an important snap shot into a situation. It’s not as simple as printing
the information, placing it in your file and then acting on it.
Data collected from these sources will be subject to the same scrutiny
as any other evidence. Collection of this information must
reflect pubic access, through legal means, so that it is actionable
intelligence. It is not acceptable to “friend” persons for greater levels
When collecting digital information from the web or any format,
there are ISO standards that should be observed. These
■■ Information must be preserved and isolated from the web to
ensure it is viewable in the future
■■ Playback and the content must be identical and function like
■■ The documentation must provide the sources and methods on
how it was accessed, so as to maintain an audit trail
Consider the devices that employees use on a daily basis.
Phones and computers are often provided and maintained by employers
for work purposes. Phones are used for much more than
calls these days. They are a computer unto themselves, plus have
additional functions such as text, Internet access, maps, high quality
cameras and every application imaginable.
As people are constantly connected, understand that a device in
the pocket of an employee can be a great risk to your brand. With
proper knowledge, it can also be your greatest asset in an investigation
of a problematic situation. Phones have obvious call logs and
browser history. Applications and social media show how and who
people interact with and when. Maps remember previous destinations,
routes and times travelled. WiFi signals mark paths and
“ping” different access points. Applications track location, have access
to photos and different data sets. It is simply staggering to
think of the resources at our disposal.
While these digital mediums are important parts of an investigation,
they are not the totality to any one situation. Rather,
accessing social media and various platforms should be considered
an essential modern tool in the toolbox. It is important that
HR professionals understand that intelligence in these situations
Keith Elliott is partner and vice president of operations and business
development at Reed Research Investigations Limited. Attend
Elliott’s session at #HRPAAC, “Cyber Intelligence & Social Media
Intelligence Gathering,” on Jan. 31 at 10:00 a.m.
WHEN INVESTIGATING MATTERS
SUCH AS A POTENTIAL HIRE,
COMPLAINTS OF HARASSMENT,
OR CHRONIC ABSENTEEISM, IT
IS ESSENTIAL TO COLLECT THIS
EVIDENCE PROPERLY AND LEGALLY.
50 ❚ CONFERENCE ISSUE 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL