News Analysis: Social networking is a great means of personal, unfiltered communications with customers, employees or the general public--as long as you don't do something stupid.
Just when you think you've seen the heights of career-ending stupidity in Washington, you're reminded that stupidity has no upper limit. With that in mind, I submit as evidence the continuing tragicomedy of U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who finally confessed to this town's worst kept secret.
He did indeed send lewd photos of himselfclad in tight underwear to a college student. After several days of evasions and lies about this incident in which he claimed his Twitter account had been hacked, the congressman finally came clean.
One would have thought that he'd learned a lesson from the somewhat less graphic Craigslist posting by Rep. Chris Lee, R-N.Y., who used his cell phone to take photos of himself topless in front of a mirror. The question still remains: What were these two New York politicians thinking?
But there are other serious questions that go beyond speculating why two apparently sane New York lawmakers would think that somehow their foolish use of social networking wouldn't become public and ruin their political careers.
Instead, companies of all sizes should consider what would happen if a senior employee or maybe one that's not so senior used the company's computers and network to send embarrassing and even offensive photos around the Internet. Suppose, for example, that your CEO is caught sending similar photos to an employee or someone outside the company.
Worse, suppose that Joe down in the mail room is collecting and distributing even more offensive and illegal photos over the Internet? What happens then? What this means is that you need more than just the sort of vague Internet policy that most companies have. You know-the one that allows some personal use as long as it's on your time and not interfering with company business and doesn't involve leaking trade secrets.
Your Internet policy has to include proper conduct on social media as well as actions on crimes committed on the Internet. Just in case you think that I'm making this up, companies deal with these problems daily but frequently don't have a policy in place that lets them do anything to either prevent the problem or deal with its aftermath.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.