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Apple reportedly fires employee for negative Facebook post

An employment tribunal in the U.K. upholds Apple's right to fire an employee who posted a negative comment about the company on Facebook.

At some point, Generation Y (short for yak) will learn.

While there are those who believe social media is opening the gilded doors to a new world of joyous connection, some might wonder whether there's a slight downside for those who are able to make that joyous connection.

This dour notion comes to me on hearing of a labor tribunal in the United Kingdom. It reportedly upheld Apple's right to fire an employee for saying something not entirely flattering about the company on his private Facebook page.

As related by IfoAppleStore, an Apple store employee named just "Crisp" offered a chippy post or two about Apple and its products.

London's Covent Garden Apple store. CC Magnus D/Flickr

He didn't do this during working hours and he merely posted it on his own Facebook page.

Apple reportedly has strict rules about posting any negative comments on any social media sites in order to protect its commercial reputation. So the company fired Crisp for gross misconduct, according to the report.

The UK labor tribunal upheld this right because it declared that posting even on your own private Facebook page doesn't give privacy protection. Any one of your friends could copy and paste those comments and effectively publish them.

This is what reportedly happened here. A Facebook friend showed the comments to the Apple store manager and Crisp was burned.

This isn't the first time, naturally, that someone in retail has been fired because of something uttered on Facebook. Last year, for example, a server in a North Carolina restaurant was fired for expressing that she thought the customers cheap.

However, this decision raises a troubling precedent. If the court believes that the mere potential for copying and pasting negates an individual's right to privacy, then even personal e-mails sent, say, to a former lover and her mother might also be deemed not private.

The court here relied on the fact that Apple's image is very important to its commercial success. So imagine if an Apple store employee wrote to her lover's whole family: "My iPhone 4S battery sucks more than the Indianapolis Colts."

Imagine, then, that she falls out with her lover and he still has the e-mail. What if he shows it to her employer?

While e-mail isn't classified as a social network, might some enterprising lawyer attempt to show that sending an e-mail to more than one person--or even just to one--makes that message social by definition?

This self-expression thing has always been a dangerous game. So has the social thing. It's likely that at least some of your Facebook friends really aren't. They're merely acquaintances with a dangerous level of access.