Better to test than ban social networking in the workplace

Personal technology has a way of sneaking into the office. Instant messaging, for instance, began as a fun way to keep in touch with friends and morphed into a business tool. Today, social networking is an increasingly popular way to stay in touch.

Managers should pay attention to sites such as Facebook and weigh the risks and benefits of bringing them into the workplace, said Kevin Haley, director of product management at Symantec Security Response. 'As with IM, there is good and bad to it.'

Social-networking technology allows users to keep in touch and share data with colleagues in an increasingly rich environment. But features are being developed without much thought to security, making social-networking sites a vector for delivering malware.

'It's inevitable when you see something as popular as Facebook or MySpace and have the ability to create applications for them,' Haley said.

Then there is the question of privacy. A great deal of personal information can be exposed on a social-networking site, especially among members of the generation that grew up online and are now moving into the workforce.

'I don't think there is an expectation of privacy in Web 2.0,' said David Marcus, security research and communications manager at McAfee Avert Labs.

As with instant messaging and wireless access, banning the technology from the office is not effective because it is likely to creep in anyway. It is better to recognize it, evaluate it, manage it and then use it appropriately.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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