Mailbag: CIOs and IT Managers Sound Off About Banning Facebook At Work

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Chris,

We've actually embraced Facebook as a development platform at BIDMC

See my blog entry at

http://geekdoctor.blogspot.com/2008/02/rapid-application-development-with.html

John D. Halamka MD

CIO, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess

Chris,

I am in IT and visit Facebook once a week or so, so I am far from the abuser that some might think employees might be doing. I personally think that social networking sites are here to stay and more and more people are using them to keep up with friends, family, colleagues and such. Now in certain parts of the organization it may make sense to block the site altogether, but for the professional, I feel it can be very beneficial.

Thanks,

Erik Watson

IT Business Systems Analyst/Project Manager, Wayport

Chris,

Just got into the Facebook forum and saw your post.

Why would a CIO join it and what would they get from it? Great question, I wonder as well. I use Facebook mainly for friends first, and some business aspects a far second.

Perhaps the problem is Linkedin is not "user friendly" there are no chat rooms or forums to share with others. I prefer Linkedin to connect to people.

Plaxo is getting to that level but still not ready.

I can see where as a company branded site it has some interest and perhaps if I was scouting for new recruits, but if I was a CIO in a major corporation I would be far removed form this sort of thing. And I would think legal would also want me away from it. Too many items in Facebook can cause embarrassments or present challenges to PR if the CIO was part of them. It is just not a secure or private place, in fact it is exactly the opposite.

But I'll try anything and see if this works better than the website.

Facebook = SecondLife to me, a marketing stunt meant to make older professionals feel "in" but really not much value to be found given the time and effort involved to use them and for what? A better wiki/forum/discussion group?

Maybe for some it is, but really is it going to bring $$$ to us, not as much as Linkedin or our website.

Keith Brooks

CIO/ Vice President

Vanessa Brooks, Inc. an IBM and Lenovo Business Partner

Chris,

I personally don't believe in arbitrarily banning any form of communication. Most corporations are starved of information flowing from people who know to people who should also know - so blocking a channel intuitively seems like a bad idea.

Sure, there are risks of time wasted and security leaks. But if your employees are wasting time then they're not being managed. And the security risk is always there, they can smuggle documents out in purses and backpacks, even if every electronic means is blocked.

Bottom line, treat people responsibly. Only remove privileges if people abuse your trust in them. Then they will understand why. Just blocking things before you've given it a chance...how does that make employees feel?

Having said that - full disclosure - we have put a temporary block on both Facebook & MySpace. But we did explain why - there is a problem with the 'image uploader' that makes it vulnerable to an exploit by hackers. And as soon as we have a workaround or fix, we'll restore access. Because we've taken an open approach, no-one complained. It's been 2 weeks now and I'm getting as anxious as anybody that it gets restored soon.

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