They may not hold you up at the pearly gates but one of these technology risk management sins could still land you in one of the circles of hell.
As Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media tools gain in popularity, they are changing the way people interact and communicate, forcing companies to consider a whole new set of risks that weren't even on the radar a few years ago.
Here are perils associated with social media and the workplace.
1. Forgetting Who Your Friends Are
We have all heard about how important it is to use tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to find jobs and make contacts with customers and potential clients. Well, consider this. A woman who was unhappy with her job and her boss, posted a rant on Facebook in August--forgetting that her boss was one of her Facebook friends and thus had access to all of her posted comments. Her boss wasn't exactly amused and, in a reply to her post, told her not to report to work the next day.
2. Opening the Door to Hackers
Hackers are always on the prowl, looking for new ways to invade computer networks and steal both money and confidential personal information. About half of all companies block some or all access to social networks because of concerns about cybertheft, security company Sophos said in a study released in July.
Findings revealed that 63 percent of system administrators worry that employees share too much personal information via their social networking sites, putting their corporate infrastructure--and the sensitive data stored on it--at risk. One result is that a quarter of businesses have been hit by spam, phishing or malware attacks via Twitter or social networking sites, according to Sophos.
3. Failing to Take the Proper Precautions as a Provider
The social media companies themselves are now targets for a variety of lawsuits over user-generated content as well as privacy issues. Internet and social media companies generally enjoy broad immunity from legal liability under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 but the act has its limits and individuals continue to test them with lawsuits in this evolving area.
Facebook, for instance, was named in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by a SUNY Albany freshman over allegedly defamatory content contained in a private Facebook group several classmates had set up. Another lawsuit filed in August against Facebook claims the site is violating California privacy laws and profiting from mining user's personal data without their consent.
4. Failing to Set an Employee Internet Use Policy
Companies used to have an iron clasp on corporate communications. But employees now have a vast audience and can disseminate all kinds of potentially damaging information on posts on blogs or on social networking sites, which could present a liability risk for companies. Companies need to be sure they have policies that set out how and when employees can use the Internet and they need to be sure they are protecting personal data.
5. Imitating the Ostrich
One of the biggest dangers is to just ignore the whole darn thing. In doing that, companies may miss out on valuable and effective ways to reach customers and clients. Especially in certain areas such as sales, social media may provide opportunities for employees to build relationships and stay in touch with their markets.
PATRICIA VOWINKEL lives in New Jersey.
October 1, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications