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Should your company limit what you can post on Facebook?

Bridget and I thought with all the furor over Facebook's terms of service over the past few weeks, it raises a few other work-related questions about what people are posting online.

So here's what we wrote about in our column in today's paper:

We think the reason it caused such a furor was because people were finally coming to terms with the fact that information posted online doesn't just disappear when it drops out of news feeds -- it actually can be a permanent thing.

Enter Douglas E. Winter, who heads the Electronic Discovery Unit for the law firm Bryan Cave.

The Washington, D.C., lawyer wants people who use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to know that their posts may not only be permanent, they can also be used against you in legal proceedings.

He sees a couple of ways employees get themselves into trouble on social networks.

The first involves people who are saying things they shouldn't about co-workers. Lawsuits, including sexual harassment cases, can consider statements on social networks as evidence.

''Most social networking online between employees is similar to what they used to call the conversation around the water cooler,'' Winter said. ``People usually say things in front of a water cooler that they wouldn't say to a boss.''

He suggests thinking of anything you write on a social network like publishing information rather than just talking to friends -- and assume what you write will be forwarded to others.

Companies should also have discussions with workers about what can and cannot be shared online.

Everyone knows that when your work is involved in a lawsuit, any personal computers, e-mails or cellphones used for work can become part of the investigation. And the same could be said about work information shared over social networks, depending on the situation.

''There is a tremendous amount of individual responsibility that's being called for,'' Winter said.

So we wondered: are companies actually communicating with workers about this? Does your company have a policy? Should they have one?


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I'm sure the Philadelphia Eagles will be setting some policies now.

People need to understand that Facebook's privacy settings allow more than just blocking your profile from non-"Friends".

I was considering a separate profile for work contacts only, but it might be easier to set limits for co-workers, and only have one profile to maintain.

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