Risks Of Not Allowing Social Networking In Work Place

For the last four or five years we’ve attempted to understand how the corporate world would respond to the social networks. Would companies allow employees to identify their employers, their work or their activities on and off line?  We talked about “approved” bloggers, who were essentially public relations folks who, in theory, understood the corporate message and would adhere to any stipulations made.  The short answer is, there wasn’t much interest in another form of the press release, even if it showed up on Twitter or a Facebook page.  Today we read how government CIO’s and other technical administrators are looking after their networks and keeping them secure, in lieu of information leaking out on the social platforms that is not intended for public dissemination.

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Data Protection for Businesses with Remote Offices Across Multiple Locations
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I suspect the Bradley Manning fiasco and WikiLeaks debacle has added fuel to the fire.  In an article today by Cindy Waxer at Government Technology gives us some good, bad and ugly reasons for the dilemma:

“When a deadly tornado touched down in Cincinnati, Ark., last New Year’s Eve, state officials could have relied on typical channels like TV and radio to warn citizens of dangerous road conditions and weather patterns. Instead, the Arkansas Homeland Security and Preparedness Agency chose to tweet up-to-the-minute storm reports. The result: “We were overwhelmed by the level of volunteers who came in to support our citizens in their time of need,” said Arkansas CTO Claire Bailey. “We had to turn people away.”

“Welcome to Government 2.0. In an era of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and blogs, more government agencies are embracing these social media tools to communicate with citizens in real time and supporting internal collaboration. In fact, 66 percent of all government agencies currently use some form of social networking — from blogs and wikis to instant messaging and discussion boards, according to a recent study from the Human Capital Institute and Saba. And 31 percent of counties and municipalities surveyed have embraced social media as a more efficient customer feedback channel.”

Is there more pressure on government employees than there is on corporate employees?  The benefits for city, state and local governments are many and they are quite a savings over the cost of creating technologies that are limited but secure in some sense.  In addition, most government agencies are bankrupt and the idea of building any sort of communications tool for social networking is beyond reality.

Needless to say, there are always risks, but employees are just as likely to divulge some government secret via the telephone as they are over the Internet.  The idea of special training is addressed but are government employees really that naive about what they put on a Facebook page or a Tweet that training is necessary?  I mean, can’t the training they already get include how to behave on the Internet?  Suffice it to say, tax dollars will be spent going over the minutiae of what can be said in a tweet, ridiculous as it sounds.

Cindy quotes Steve Ressler, president and co-founder of GovLoop.com, an online social networking site that connects government innovators:  ““Part of government’s role is to get information out to citizens and get their feedback. Social media is one of the No. 1 tools people want to use right now.”  And he adds, “There’s a huge risk if you’re not active in social media channels,” he said. “For example, if your brand is being beaten up or if there’s a great conversation going on and you’re not a part of it.”  If it depends, however, on anyone in Washington, we’re afraid they simply won’t get it, or won’t want it because it may lead to their own downfall.  As we’re seeing today in Wisconsin, and as we are learning from Tunisia and Egypt, some things just need governments to listen, something that you don’t find any where.

The security industry has not been asleep of course.  They understand how to monitor and search to find what folks are doing.  Whether you work for IBM or the Justice department of a State government, folks are going to know what you’re putting out there.  Accept what you say on your own phone or over a drink at some saloon.  I guess they are still trying to figure out an app to cover those venues but governments need to not only allow employees to communicate, but encourage them to do so.  If they do, perhaps our citizens will manage their stuff effectively and we won’t be invaded by body snatchers.

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