Will Your Company Monitor Gossip on Canary?

There’s a new app out there called Canary. It allows people to anonymously share internal news, thoughts, pictures, rumors, and secrets with your co-workers.

It’s amazingly simple to sign up for the app (currently only available for iPhones and iPads) and start spreading the juicy tidbits about your company. Along the same lines, it’s also just as easy to see what others are saying about any company.

As pointed out at Refinery29.com, “The app is an intriguing idea for anybody who loves a good office rumor. … But, while it might be anonymous, it can’t possibly be intended to be private or secret in any real way. It seems all too easy to get caught snitching on your colleagues or, worse, your boss.”

Why’s all that important? Your company needs to quickly defend itself against rumors that could be considered inside trading or worse, just not true.

Also, your company is going to need to make a decision on how hard it wants to determine who is spreading the untruths. Do you simply counteract the information posted – or do you vigorously search out the person sharing confidential company information?

As noted in a New York Times article, “‘The options for getting facts and personal information removed once it’s been posted online in the U.S. are fairly limited,’ says Christopher T. Bavitz, managing director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School. ‘It’s very challenging to regulate the spread of this kind of information, but it’s challenging for very good reasons. The first good reason is the First Amendment.’” In other words, once the door is open on information about your company, it’s going to be difficult to close – if not impossible.

According to Canary CEO Geoff Pitfield, who was quoted in a SocialTimes.com article, “I think that we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that this is actually anonymous. We store no personal information whatsoever, we don’t even keep the email address you use to verify. So there’s no way we can ever disclose your information; we don’t know it and there’s no way to figure it out.” In other words, good luck finding out who is spreading gossip about your company.

Pittfield told SocialTimes.com, “there are 500 companies signed up — ‘pretty substantial’ companies … Adobe and Twitter among them. Here’s the real catch: Canary is really, actually, totally, 100 percent anonymous.” Canary can’t seem to stress that enough to encourage greater use of its free app.

Canary defines itself this way on its website, “Although Canary is an anonymous service, it is also a community. Our overriding guideline is that you should conduct yourself in ways that help build the community, rather than harm it.”

It adds, Please Do Not:

  • Collect any personal information about other users, or intimidate, threaten, stalk or otherwise harass other Canary users;
  • Post content that is illegal or unlawful;
  • Post content that is abusive or bullying;
  • Post content that is threatening;
  • Post pornography; or
  • Post content to which you do not hold the copyright.”

Of course, all it is saying is “please,” which means deep down Canary probably wants you to break most of those rules. But remember that it said no!

Heather Bussing, writing at HRExaminer.com, says the best way to prevent employees from leaking confidential information through websites like Canary.com is to clearly define what’s appropriate. “If you want to prevent people from saying things online that they should not say, teach them what is off-limits and why it’s important to the company or the people involved. Help them develop the knowledge and understanding they need to make good decisions. In the days of instant communication and the ability to publish broadly, monitoring what has already been published won’t help solve the problem. Information and training will.”

Keith Griffin
Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.