Social networking websites have been a hit with many people across the world, particularly young adults who use these sites to meet new people and network with old friends. Facebook.com offers a social networking service for students, corporate people and geographic communities. Its website features include blogging and news feeds.

As some employees of Farm Boy discovered recently, employees who use the publicly accessible Internet as their forum to discuss work-related matters may come under fire, or even be fired. In this particular case, employees of the fresh produce grocery chain were dismissed for posting comments on several Facebook subgroups dedicated to Farm Boy employees. These subgroups feature the corporate logo and members frequently use their real and full names.

Farm Boy has not made a public statement on the dismissals citing privacy concerns, but most of the fired employees have argued that the posts were not accessible to the general public and could not be found among the results of a search engine.

McCarthy Tétrault Notes:

Ever since email has been the ‘killer application’ of the Internet, we have counselled users of email to be very circumspect about their email messaging, given that email is essentially permanent. What you say in email form will be recorded for posterity (whether you like it or not). Thus, advice along the lines of: "if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all," makes a lot of sense in the context of email.

Now, the same advice has to be repeated in respect of the new social networking sites. Young people, including university students, are especially vulnerable. They have a tendency to be open with their views about a range of subjects, and many of them enjoy participating in online dialogue and blogging with carefree abandon. However, they have to be told that all sorts of unintended viewers are reading their postings, including HR departments at companies they are applying to for jobs. So, teach your children – "discretion is the better part of valour."