Social Networking

Steamed Employers Slamming the Door on Facebook

Employers are denying a growing number of workers access toFacebook, the now ubiquitous social networking site, a Sophos survey shows. The poll queried 600 visitors to the Sophos Web site over a period of weeks earlier this summer.

Some 43 percent said they had been denied access to Facebook at work. Another 7 percent said that access to the site was strictly limited to professional use.

Surprising Findings

Despite the productivity drain that Web 2.0 sites can cause, Sophos researchers were surprised by the number of employers specifically banning Facebook. “As recently as last September, we didn’t have any companies blocking Web 2.0 applications,” Sophos security consultant Ron O’Brien told TechNewsWorld.

There are a number of reasons for companies’ reluctance to block these sites. For starters, human resource departments are increasingly using Facebook and MySpace as tools for researching potential hires. Also, Facebook is becoming a potent networking tool for people over 30. Some companies refrained from curtailing access to the site due to fear of employee backlash, according to some respondents to the Sophos survey.

Lost Productivity

Still, it is clear that a growing number of employers don’t see these reasons as compelling enough to allow access to the Web site. It does suck productivity from a workplace, O’Brien acknowledged. “There are very few job descriptions that require access to the Internet. I know most people say they need it for work — but in reality, most employees can do their jobs with the office network and systems, and don’t have to have access to the Internet.”

Privacy and security — both for employees and companies — are other reasons cited for blocking access. However, banning Facebook at work does not prevent employees from spilling corporate secrets, even unwittingly, via their home computers.

The same is true for employees’ privacy, O’Brien acknowledged. Companies motivated by these reasons may find that protecting employees from themselves is a futile effort.

Friendly Plastic Frog

The reason Sophos focused on Facebook for its survey, O’Brien said, is that the company had just completed another study to determine how willing site users were to share personal information with strangers. Sophos set up a profile on Facebook for a plastic frog, and then set about getting people to accept the frog as their friend and give it their personal information.

A shocking 43 percent of people contacted by the frog allowed it to view their profiles, which contained all sorts of private information.

“Facebook is a tool that requires a certain amount of dexterity to use,” O’Brien concluded — both at home and in the office.

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