The Downside of Social Networking


Companies are experimenting with social networks to market their products, to recruit potential hires and to boost internal collaboration (sometimes building an internal network to accomplish the latter goal).


Yet social networks are just too, well, social for some early adopters. In the UK, office workers while away at least half an hour every day on social networks like Facebook, which equates to roughly three weeks a year, according to a Global Secure Systems (GSS) survey. According to a vnunet.com report about the survey, such networks also gobble up 15 percent to 20 percent of corporate bandwidth.


The organizer of a recent Infosecurity Europe 2008 event tells vnunet.com that CIOs and information security officers "loathe social networking sites and would ban them completely if they had their way."


Indeed, that's exactly what a number of prominent London companies did last year. (Some didn't ban access entirely, but restricted employee use to designated periods such as lunch hours.) This kind of "reasonable use" policy is the approach that GSS recommends.


The managing director of GSS notes that social networks tend to be popular tools for HR departments, which causes "a lot of internal pushing and shoving between HR and IT over how best to manage these sites."


A bigger concern than lost productivity, says the GSS executive, is the possible exposure of sensitive data. Companies have good reason to be concerned, writes IT Business Edge blogger Carl Weinschenk. The silver lining to this dark security cloud is that vendors appear to be working on possible solutions. A company called WorkLight has developed a server-based tool called WorkBook that is designed to allow employees to use Facebook while keeping proprietary data safely behind the firewall.