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Privacy & Social Media Policies

November 02, 2011

Social media can be an invaluable marketing tool for promoting a particular franchise brand.  However, a franchisor’s establishment of a social media profile is not as simple as an individual’s registration of a Facebook or Twitter account.  There are multiple variables that need to be considered when implementing a social media page for a franchise, and one that franchisors should always be mindful of is privacy law.

Personal information privacy law exists in Canada to protect individuals from the collection, disclosure, use and retention of their personal information.  “Personal information” is generally understood to mean information about an identifiable individual, but does not include the name, title, or business address or telephone number of an employee of an organization.  This is the reason for the existence of those privacy policies which you may have seen on company websites or have been required to “accept” before proceeding with your online navigation. 

Franchisors should have a privacy policy incorporated as part of their franchise agreement or operations manual which franchisees are required to comply with, however the situation can be less clear-cut in the context of social media communications. 

It is critical for franchisors (or authorized franchisees) who maintain social media profiles to not post the personal information of individual customers, users, followers or ‘friends’.  Despite the familiarity with customers that social media breeds, the disclosure of an individual’s personal information online may exceed the approval that was contemplated by the privacy policy, since the individual likely never consented to a privacy policy while browsing the franchise’s Facebook page, for instance.  This is especially tricky when users or customers post comments to a franchisor’s social media account, which may warrant a response.

Employees of franchisors who are responsible for posting material online should be made aware of the liability they may be exposing franchisors or franchisees to by not adhering to these laws.  Failure to do so may result in a penalty under federal privacy legislation.

Tags: Franchising