The majority of attendees for a Gartner debate on whether
Facebook should be ousted in the workplace agree Facebook isn't the
problem-careless or malicious people are.
LAS VEGAS-Should Facebook be
banned from the workplace?
That question formed the center of a debate between two analysts at the
Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2008 here April 7 before an audience of about 100
Gartner analyst Nikos Drakos argued that Facebook should be banned,
while Gartner's Ray Valdes defended the social network. The debate was
interactive, with audience members chiming in after every point.
Drakos said enterprises should consider banning Facebook because if
organizations let their employees spend time on it, they may reveal
confidential company information, perhaps even revealing tips that help rivals
gain competitive advantages.
Valdes countered that while proprietary information may make its way on the
Web via Facebook, it is no more damaging than information revealed over the
phone or via e-mail.
"Facebook does not reveal secrets; people reveal secrets," Valdes
said, arguing that the medium of communication should not be punished for the
actions of people.
To further illustrate his point, Valdes said he could have made a lot of
money if he leveraged the information he heard on long flights about corporate
secrets, details that could actually influence stock prices for publicly traded
companies. Yet these corporate secret spreaders are rarely castigated.
However, an audience member noted that while Facebook has gotten better
about enabling privacy, information on Facebook, whose medium is the Internet,
is anything but private and not built to prevent unauthorized information
Facebook ratchets up privacy controls, read more
Valdes conceded this point but pointed out the myriad cases where corporate
workers accidentally e-mailed sensitive documents to rivals, journalists or
opponents in litigation.
Valdes cited a recent Eli Lilly case
, in which the company's
employees accidentally e-mailed details of the company's trial strategy to
the New York Times. This blunder was the main factor in the company's
decision to settle with plaintiffs to the tune of $1 billion.
Drakos then stated that Facebook is a huge drain on employee productivity
because its usage is so addictive in a medium that has no worthwhile business
information. This constant stream of information is a misuse of company
resources, he said.
Valdes said Facebook, being such a new technology, is similar to when people
began getting Web access at work years ago; people spent hours of time not
doing work-based tasks to learn their way around the Web and eventually got
back to business.
At this point, an audience member raised the point that companies such as
Google, which provides its employees all the amenities of a home environment,
actually boast significantly high productivity rates. This point boosted
However, another audience member then cut to the chase, noting that if
Facebook can be managed, why would anyone ban it? Valdes said that is part of
the compromising nature of his argument, but other attendees questioned whether
or not Facebook could truly be managed.
So, who won this argument? Gartner analyst and debate moderator Stephen
Prentiss asked whether or not Facebook should be banned before the debate and
then again after the debate.
Some 68 percent of the audience of more than 100 attendees said they were
against a ban in a vote taken before the debate started. However, at the
conclusion of the debate, 81 percent voted against a ban.
Valdes, and Facebook, won this round. But this is a debate that will
continue to rage.