Entries Tagged 'In the news' ↓

Another pro-and-con piece

The Washington Post carries an AP story I read in my local paper, The Contra Costa Times, that gives equal time to those who see some value in letting employees freely access web content and those who see it as a dangerous place to go. Here’s the worthwhile quote of the piece:

“We suggest companies have policies concerning use of the Internet and to stress those in a positive way,” (Administaff senior HR specialist Rick) Gibbs said. “Take it from the perspective that most people are professional and they’re going to use things professionally.”

The other side of the coin

While many organizations are frantically blocking access to websites, Serena Software, a 900-person company in San Mateo, California, is taking the opposite approach, actively encouraging employees to spend time on Facebook — at least an hour each week — to keep their profiles current, interact with clients and fellow employees, and recruit from among Facebook’s millions of prospects…er…profiles. In addition, the company has set up an employees-only group to act as a rudimentary intranet where employees can share documents and videos and update business information. Heather Green has the full story on BusinessWeek‘s Blogspotting blog.

Personal wireless devices: How employees route around obstacles

I missed this USA Today report from October 17 on issues surrounding employees who view pornography in the workplace.  The article raises some intriguing issues, including a focus on lawsuits stemming from employees who felt harrassed by colleagues’ viewing of porn. On the other hand, the article points out that only 6% of men and 5% of women surveyed acknowledged that they deliberately looked at online porn at work. Doesn’t it seem excessive to block everybody based on the behavior of 5% of the population? What does that do to trust and engagement? Surely this can be handled as a management issue instead of taking the technology approach.

More interesting to me, however, is the fact that employees are easily accessing this content even when their companies have blocked access. They’re doing it over their cell phones and their wirelessly-connected laptops — personal gear brought to work over which the company has no control.

You knew this was inevitable, right? As the use of personal wireless devices at work increases (for uses other than porn), companies may just have to face up to the fact that technical solutions are the wrong approach and that training, communication, and a slavish commitment to following through on consequences for those who violate policies will have a much greater effect.

Malware on Facebook? Guess again

The irrational urge to block employee access to online content often results from a kind of mass hysteria: Somebody makes a claim and others blindly accept is as fact — especially if it was reported in the mainstream press.

Such is the case with one of the most oft-cited reasons for companies to block access to Facebook. No, not worries about lost productivity (which still ranks as most frequently cited rationale), but worries about the risk Facebook poses for infecting a company’s servers. It was reported that Facebook’s open API is leading to the development of apps that contain malware.
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Well…not exactly. It’s actually “scareware.” And it’s not coming from any of the third-party apps, but from Facebook’s own “Facebook Flyers” application. As noted in a piece from Mashable:

These ads that show up on your Facebook pages in a similar manner to content-specific Google Ads has been found to be scamming folks left and right. Some of the discovered ads are posing as a dating service, redirecting you to a site that says “Your machine could be infected” and then onto a site for a product called Malware Alarm.

The people behind such marketing are still scum, but let’s be clear: This is a far cry from downloading a virus, yet that’s exactly the reason cited for blocking employee access to Facebook.

It would be nice if the IT powers that be would check their facts before falling in lockstep behind these ethically-challenged marketers.

Nearly half of companies block Facebook access

An article in SearchCIO.com asserts that the hoopla over companies banning Facebook access may be overblown. Citing a study by the InfoTech Research Group in Canada, the article by Shamus McGillicuddy contends, “Despite security and bandwidth worries, fewer than half of IT managers recently polled ban employee use of consumer-oriented social networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace.”

While it’s great to hear that 54% of companies aren’t blocking, the fact that nearly half are restricting access should cause jaws to drop. Nearly half of employees are kept from these services, resulting in lost business  opportunities and reduced employee engagement. It’s also hardly reassuring to learn that the main reason companies aren’t blocking is because they have other priorities and not out of a recognition that the benefits of providing access outweigh the risks.

The article also cites an American Management Association study that finds:

65% of U.S. businesses block connections to inappropriate Web sites, such as pornographic or sports gambling sites, a practice called URL filtering.The chief reason businesses block access to Web sites is to prevent the spread of spyware and other forms of malware, said Lawrence Orans, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. He estimates that about 20% of commercial organizations block social networking sites.

Hmm. Malware and spyware are of greater concern than the Human Resources issues that could arise from such behaviors. But again, such filtering often inadvertently blocks inoffensive and useful content. Keeping employees away from porn and gambling — and malware and spyware — should be a management issue, not a technical one. (I don’t block anything from myself at home and my reasonably priced anti-spyware and anti-virus packages have kept my computer from becoming infected. )

Some may take comfort from these numbers. I find them alarming.

A balanced report

InformationWeek offers a comprehensive and balanced report on social networking in the workplace. Penned by J. Nicholas Hoover, the article lists the concerns about social networking but also explores the various ways companies are leveraging social networking to their advantage. The key sentence in the article — rejecting the notion of wholesale blocking of social networking sites — reads as follows:

The trick for businesspeople interested in using social networks and for IT departments that need to manage access to them is to steer clear of the time-wasting stuff while leveraging the collaborative potential.

The article lists a number of companies that have found was to leverage social networking, and thankfully they’re not all high-tech. McDonald’s, for instance, is implementing an internal social network to accommodate employees’ need to find colleagues who share common subject matter expertise. McDonald’s has implemented a social media platform for internal blogs and communities that will soon include a social network.

But the more interesting coverage looks at companies using Facebook:

Hinting at the potential of social networking at work, thousands of employees of Shell Oil, Procter & Gamble, and General Electric have Facebook accounts. A Facebook network of Citigroup employees — only those with Citigroup e-mail accounts can join — has 1,870 users. Procter & Gamble employees use Facebook to keep interns in touch and share information with co-workers attending company events

Social networks can be a great recruiting tool. Lisa Bopst, who works in the training department at Aerotek Staffing Agency, uses Facebook’s messaging system to keep in touch with new hires because it’s “less formal” than work email…Jason Cronkhite, marketing director for video compression startup Kulabyte, uses Facebook to get the word out about his company. “We’re trying to create conversations with folks,” he says.

The article lists a variety of business uses for social networks, including viral marketing, recruiting, peer networking and emergency coordination and communications.

Cracking down on Facebook “addicts”

ZDNet offers an article about companies cracking down on Facebook “addicts.” According to the article, “Two-thirds of silicon.com’s 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel said they have banned or restricted employee access to Facebook and similar Web sites in the workplace.”

There is a voice of reason on the panel, however. Props to Ipsos CTO Ben Booth, who said, “Our view is that Facebook, and other social uses of the Web, are legitimate in moderation and specifically out of core working hours. But their control is properly achieved by management, not by IT restrictions.”

Booth belongs in a Stop Blocking hall of fame. That may be something to add to the wiki, eh?