After LinkedIn went public this year, its use as a professional networking tool has grown. But is your company watching your LinkedIn profile? Some interesting news has come out of the U.S. that leaves us wondering if big brother is on his way to Canadian companies as well.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the organization responsible for regulation of the securities trade (i.e. making sure brokers play fairly), released a regulatory notice on social media guidelines, noting that for both personal and professional accounts, static content must be approved prior to publishing.

What does this mean? Basically, that you’re your boss could be watching. Not only can an employer be notified of all your online activities, but it can actually prevent you from making any changes to your own personal profile. Yikes.

We asked lawyer Kathleen Hogan, Director of Knowledge Management at BMO Financial Group (and avid social media user and advisor), if the FINRA ruling was as scary as it sounds. (What do you mean you own my profile??!!) Thankfully, it may not be as bad as it looks.

 “I was impressed by the FINRA ruling,” she says. “It was not a knee-jerk reaction and took a very principled approach to the use of social media in certain industries.” So, for industries that depend on highly confidential information (think the Department of Defense or big financial institutions) there is a valid reason that employees may be monitored.

But what about the rest of us?

The business community in the U.S. has (of course) responded accordingly by recently releasing some controversial products that can track and monitor activity across different social media channels, and are available for purchase by any businesses. This recent article in Forbes talks about a U.S. company that got the green light by the government to continue its services that scour the internet for dirt on employees.

What does this mean for Canadians? Hogan predicts that similar software programs will eventually make their way into Canada. Their reception by Canadian companies, however, is yet to be determined.

For now, Hogan advises any job seeker to be proactive with their online persona, and LinkedIn is a social media form just like any other. “You can’t ignore the fact that social media is a blending of the personal and the professional,” she says. “It’s a new style of the old style of networking.” Taking control of that networking, she argues, is the best way to avoid any problems. (Just in case big brother does come to Canada.)

Here are some tips to get the most out of your LinkedIn profile:

1)   Have a photo. And this does not mean your sexy iPhone self-portraits.Make sure you have a nice professional picture—something you want your potential employers to see,” says Hogan. She also recommends using the same picture across all forums on the web. If your company has a photo of you on their website, use that, and the same goes for a twitter profile.

2)      Actually use it.  “Get into using it as a tool,” Hogan encourages. “LinkedIn figures very highly on Google searches, so the first thing people will see when they Google you is your LinkedIn profile. A lot of people start a profile and accept contact requests but never actually go in a view or update their page.” A regular contribution , even once a week, something as simple as sharing an article you found interesting, can show that you’re engaged with your industry.

3)      Careful what you say. The internet is public. Period. Different companies have rules about what can or cannot be said publicly—and a LinkedIn profile is indeed very public. Be wary of publicizing details about clients, sales numbers, or anything else that might ruffle feathers. When in doubt, leave it out.

4)      Creepers beware: LinkedIn is a professional networking tool, and unless you have adjusted your privacy settings, your ex-girlfriend can see that you’re creeping her. Keep the stalking for Facebook hours (or at least log out of your account).

5)      Network, network, network. There`s a reason they call it a `social network`. Keep the communications going with your peers. Hogan recommends joining groups that are open forums for discussions to keep up with industry news.

Have an opinion? Workopolis has a LinkedIn group where we share the latest news and advice. Come join other job seekers and get involved in the discussions.