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Facebook's anonymous 'Rooms' could cause IT headaches

Matt Kapko | Nov. 10, 2014
Facebook released a new app that's designed to provide anonymity and encourage users to discuss things, in secret, that they might not normally share with friends. CIOs and their IT teams would be wise to keep an eye on apps like Rooms that let users perform private activities over corporate networks.

Implications of Facebook Rooms on CIOs and IT
The implications of Facebook Rooms and services like it on CIOs aren't glaringly obvious, but the rise of ephemeral messaging and anonymous sharing could spell trouble for IT in some dark corners of the Internet. Some organizations already block access to social media sites on company-owned devices, due to perceived productivity losses. Apps like Rooms could provide further motivation for IT to regulate the sites its users can access on corporate networks.

Millions of people use apps like Secret and Whisper because they want their communications to remain anonymous. Their motivations for seeking that anonymity run the full gamut from simple playfulness or curiosity to malevolence and mischief. A disgruntled employee could cause trouble for IT by creating a room to bash their employer or share protected data and trade secrets, with very little fear of being tracked down. Users who employ Rooms to hide their identities and perform online activities they might not otherwise perform using their real names could utilize corporate networks.

Apps like Facebook Rooms continue to gain traction as users seek outlets to rebel against the commercialization of Facebook, according to Carmen Sutter, a product manager at Adobe Social. Facebook knows this, and it is taking a more hands-off approach with Rooms and other similar apps, including Slingshot.

Users might not even have any idea that Rooms comes from Facebook unless they do some digging. "I think anything that Facebook does gets an immediate publicity surge," Sutter says. "People always hate it, then they adapt."

Rooms could initially see some level of negativity due to its Facebook connection, but the app also benefits from direct access to the company's infrastructure, security tools and resources, which no other app or social outlet can match.

When users become disillusioned with Facebook, "it's more a feeling of being manipulated versus having your identity at risk," Sutter says. "When was the last time you heard about somebody hacking Facebook?"

Sutter's implication is that if there's one company that can operate an anonymous and safe community today, why shouldn't it be Facebook? It's too early to tell if Rooms will spur a massive online-chat revival or inspire new levels of sharing via pseudonyms. Sutter feels certain about one thing, though: Apps like Whisper and Secret won't be the long-term solutions to consumers' mounting privacy concerns.


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