Monday, 24 August 2009

(Un)Social Networking

People are social animals for the most part. We love to communicate with one another, share information about what we and people we know are up to – and it’s been suggested that this is why human beings developed the capacity for speech. In years gone by, people wrote letters to one another, or if urgent would send telegrams. Later, the telephone allowed actual real time conversations between people and that has lead to the growth of the more modern methods.

With the growth of the Internet, different methods of communicating have been developed and are used by people to enhance the way that they converse. And this has created a major problem; many workers want access to these new methods of communicating – instant messaging, blogs, wikis, social networking, video streaming and photo sharing sites. This increases the amount of data being transmitted and stored, which also increases the pressure on resources, and adds to the possibility of security issues.

Now many will maintain that these new methods provide significant benefits to the modern organisation – arguments are put forward such as “providing new revenue streams”, “improving marketing opportunities”, “ensuring real-time communications” – all the usual buzz words that you get from the people trying to persuade you that this is the way forward.

I like to think that I am quite open minded about most technologies, and I can see that there is a lot to be gained on a personal level from the use of these products. I can even see a number of practical applications within a business environment and have planned some projects to explore some of these. However, I do have a number of concerns relating to the security of these systems and how much time people will spend on them.

For example, being cynical I know that most data losses are caused by internal staff, not by outsiders hacking into the systems. Most companies are extremely protective of their data; but the social networking facilities can make it very easy for this to be copied and moved.

There is also the possibility that these systems could provide a route in for malware to be loaded. A user wants to install a new “Tool bar” application they see advertised on an IM message and click to install, not realising that what they are really doing is installed a keystroke logger.

Of course, there is also the concern that the staff may spend more of their working day actually chatting or posting items online rather than doing the job that they are supposed to be doing (I’m doing this in my lunch break!). And we have all heard the stories of embarassment of people posting comments in emails or on Facebook that are then sent around the world. These can cause an organisation to lose business and come to haunt a company for many years after the original event.

I think that there is a place in work for some of these tools – if we can teach people how to use them properly. But we have to make sure that they are being used appropriately and that we have a set policy so that all staff know where they stand, and we have to make sure that we can enforce these. I doubt that we can completely block their use, but I think it appropriate to try to set some ground rules so that we can at least try to make sure that they are not being used inappropriately.

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment