A story I published nearly three weeks ago about the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social applications in the workplace has taken on new life from readers who responded passionately for and against the issue.
In the report, Gartner analysts Anthony Bradley and Nikos Drakos argued that social apps be allowed in enterprises with the caveat that businesses craft a “trust model,” concerning reasonable use of Facebook, YouTube and other fun-filled communication and media programs.
The responses ranged from revelations from readers who said their employers banned Facebook after people revealed proprietary information on the social network, to security admins who offered advice on how to protect corporate sites while using Facebook, to related but spirited debates about whether humans can truly multitask.
One anonymous reader wrote:
Another noted: “you work for the company, not for yourself,” noting that it is a privilege, not a right, to have instant messaging, Facebook and other such apps.
WT disagreed with this position, noting that while social apps can be abused in the enterprise, we need to reprimand the abuser, not the app. In short, it’s a sort of “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” argument. WT wrote:
Yes, FB and other sites can be abused. Accountability is the answer not banning. Educate your employees and make them happy and proud to work for the company. Then they will behave accordingly. There will always be bad apples. Deal with them, not make unnecessary blanket policies.
I presume that WT does not disagree with the trust model Gartner proposes, where employers and employees agree on a fair use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube et al. But I agree with the position that you don’t turn fascist on your workers and ban such apps across the board.
Donthesecuritywonk, as his username suggests, plays the security card, noting that the problem with these sites going to business desktops is the frequent introduction of malicious code that not only wastes company time and resources implementing repairs, but may put the entire company at risk by exposing critical data. He adds:
These sites are a magnet to malefactors who know that all they need is some intriguing or salacious content to get you to run the multimedia on your desktop and then use the viewer vulnerabilities to do most anything they want including a root kit to use the desktop as a base to attack the system.
Facebook, Twitter Use in The Enterprise Sparks Hot Debate
We have seen this recently, with two variants of a worm, Net-Worm.Win32.Koobface.a and Net-Worm.Win32.Koobface.b, which attack MySpace and Facebook, respectively.
Judging from the comments, there seems to be a generational divide going on between older people annoyed that Facebook and other apps are leveraged at work and younger colleagues, who are annoyed that their older colleagues scoff at their social app use.
These users tend to throw out multitasking as a defense to tell older colleagues that they can work with instant messaging, wikis, blogs and social apps at the same time.
These users suggest that those against the use of social apps are older, are incapable of multitasking, and should retire.
But one anonymous reader said multitasking does not exist:
You cannot simultaneously do several things. Just like a processor, you’re dealing with things in small time slices. Each time you break away for Facebook, Twitter, or some other non-work-related issue, you’re breaking concentration. Even internal email, IM, etc. impact this.
Dr. Zinj agreed: “Humans don’t truly multi-task. What we do is switch focus between tasks. Younger people are able to switch faster than us old folks. However, younger people have less experience and are more prone to making mistakes than older folks. The end result of productive efficiency is a tie.”
I can get on board with that. What I can’t get onboard with are people who try to argue that nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, needs to be done about social apps in the enterprise.
First, employees need to use common sense. Don’t spend two hours a day on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or whatever social app you like to use. It’s dishonest unless your company doesn’t care a lick about time management and productivity.
Second, as Gartner described, the door swings both ways. Employers needs to put trust policies in place, making it clear that employees who don’t stick to the social app rules mandated by employers can be terminated. Employees need to realize they can’t put proprietary company info on Facebook, et al.
Third, security admins need to have top-shelf Web application security, the kinds that sniffs out malware from social networks. There needs to be stringent anti-malware to protect against the worms and viruses that may proliferate from such spammy apps.
What side of the fence are you on?