In addition, social networks are like email systems with Copy All turned on by default. That's dangerous; employees can get excited about a secret product or process and share it on the network, which then passes that information to the world. Social networks have ruined an impressive number of careers, and you have to wonder how many firms find out what their competitors are doing through them.
Most troubling, we seem to pretend that social networks don't exist outside of marketing. Monitoring current employees for bad behavior is still almost unheard of, though it does happen even though using social networks to vet prospective employees is increasingly common. In some weird way, we accept that Facebook can identify problems in job candidates but forget this same benefit for existing employees of which you likely have many more.
Finally, we know that infidelity at an executive level can cause substantial disruption. Recall Mark Hurd's departure from HP. Monitoring executive activity on social networks may be a way to catch or mitigate these problems.
Is it Time to Ban Facebook at Work?
Banning Facebook on the job was my first thought. But I think it's unreasonable, unworkable and, in the end, ineffective, as employees can even more easily get into trouble at home.
That said, you can justify aggressively monitoring employees' Facebook use to ensure the security of the firm and make sure executives aren't behaving in a way that embarrass the firm or degrade the company's brand. We can also conclude that heavy social network users at work aren't doing what they are being paid to do unless it's part of their job and have a higher probability of becoming a security risk or leaving the firm. That should impact the kinds of jobs and promotions appropriate for them.
In the end, it's well past time for every large firm to have a social networking policy that does a more complete job of protecting the firm's interests.
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