If you are addicted to Facebook, you may be in for a big shock when you go to work in the corporate world. Based on a survey just last year by Robert Half Technology, over half of today’s companies block social networks completely, while another 19 percent only permit it "for business purposes." The blocking percentages are still going up, rather than down.
Beyond wasted productivity and network bandwidth, here are ten additional reasons given by employers in a recent Network World article for why they continue to place these restrictions:
- Data leaks – social networks are all about easy sharing, and employees go too far.
- Social networks have become a great vector for Trojans like Zeus and URLZone.
- Keep out social networking worms, like Koobface and other botnets.
- Phishing bait – Facebook was a lure into FBAction and fbstarter.com
- Shortened links (bit.ly and tinyurl) obfuscate sources, masking malware installs.
- Twitter accounts are being used as a command and control center for botnets.
- Advanced persistence threats (APT) – opens the door to a new class of intelligent application cracking tools.
- Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) – technique used to spread networking worms.
- Impersonation – Twitter accounts hacked to spread false info and malware.
- Users haven’t learned not to trust all social applications.
On the other side, here are the major arguments I hear from Gen-Y (Millennials), on why they can’t live without Facebook and Twitter, and are ready to go to war, overtly and through subterfuge, with any employer who would dare impinge on their access to their favorite site:
- Email is dead, takes too long, and it also is a major source of viruses.
- Hate to pick up the phone or find the person every time I needed something.
- My clients and customers use it, and I need to stay in sync.
- You need to be plugged in to be career competitive with hyper-networked peers, and keep ahead of competitors.
- Best online collaboration platform for project teams.
- Flexible, easily customizable productivity tools.
They also point to the fact that, for some roles and professions, like real-time monitoring of news and consumer issues, these sites can be leveraged as effective business tools, now about one in five companies actually requires their use for work-related purposes.
The net is that most companies do dare to put restrictions on social networks “at work.” An obvious complication is that it is becoming more and more common to be “on the job”, but not “in the office.” Consider these examples:
- Employee works at home with company computer equipment.
- Employee works at home with personally owned computer.
- Contractor, temp, or outsource worker off site.
- Campus student environment with resources provided by University.
In these cases, the company often can’t control the social network activity directly, so they have to rely on corporate policy, personal integrity, and personal ethics. This is uncharted territory for some companies, who are struggling to write the “guidelines” and “code of conduct” manual.
To me, the answers are clear. When you work for a company, whether as an employee or an agent, everything you do is viewed by the client or customer as a reflection on the company, good or bad. Just as you are measured by the integrity and image of your company, your company is also measured by your image and integrity, on company time or your time.
I don’t see this as an entitlement issue, on either side. In fact, in the grander scheme of things, this is really a momentary issue. Over time, specific tools like Facebook will morph or go away, so I can’t imagine wasting any energy and jeopardizing your career for something so trivial.