by Kristin Burnham

Look Before You ‘Like’ — Your Employer May Start to Monitor You

Jun 01, 20122 mins
FacebookSocial Networking Apps

A new Gartner report reveals that social media monitoring in the workplace is on the rise. Until now, concerned companies simply blocked access. Would you rather your company block social networking sites or allow them and subject yourself to monitoring?

Back in March, debate raged about whether or not businesses had the right to access employees’ Facebook accounts. Within days, Facebook responded, saying that sharing or soliciting your password is a violation of the social network’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Sounds like an open-and-closed case, right?

It’s not so simple. A few days ago, Gartner released a report that finds that monitoring employee behavior in digital environments is on the rise: Sixty percent of corporations are expected to implement formal programs for monitoring external social media for security breaches and incidents by 2015. That means that within the next few years, employees could access your personal social networking accounts.

This trend, however, is a tricky one to manage, according to Andrew Walls, research vice president at Gartner.

“Surveillance of individuals can both mitigate and create risk, which must be managed carefully to comply with ethical and legal standards,” Walls says. “Given that employees with legitimate access to enterprise information assets are involved in most security violations, security monitoring must focus on employee actions and behavior wherever the employees peruse business-related interactions on digital systems.”

In the last few years, businesses and IT departments have felt mounting pressure from employees to open up access to social media channels that were once blocked—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. I’ve heard the phrase, “If you don’t give employees access to these sites, they’ll find a way to access them” a hundred times. In many cases, restricting access creates more problems for IT departments.

External social media monitoring, however, isn’t anything new: It’s done for brand management, sentiment analysis and reputation purposes. But bring those monitoring tools for purposes inside the business, and things get trickier.

“There are other times when accessing the information can generate serious liabilities, such as a manager reviewing an employee’s Facebook profile to determine the employee’s religion or sexual orientation in violation of equal employment opportunity and privacy regulations,” the report notes.

So businesses are facing an interesting Catch-22: Allow employees to access social media and you open up the business to breaches. Monitor employee activity, and the business becomes vulnerable to liabilities.

Should businesses be allowed to monitor your social networking activity? Or would you prefer they block it entirely?