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March 25, 2010

Watch Out Social Network Users! Your Company May Be Watching

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines

My friend recently posted on Facebook (News - Alert) a couple pictures of our quiet but silly night out at a favorite restaurant. Considering we’re two very average, middle-aged suburban women, it was really nothing much to see. Still, I cringed when I thought about how some of my business colleagues might see these photos; and while I had a hilarious caption for one of the shots, there was no way I was going to add it in this public forum.

So when I heard that there’s a new service, called Social Sentry, that allows employers to track in real-time their employees’ activities on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube (News - Alert), I thought I had made a pretty good decision about the caption.

Teneros, the company that is introducing this monitoring service, notes that more than 70 percent of white collar workers have Facebook accounts. And, although I have more than enough work to keep me busy 24x7, apparently not everybody does, because Teneros says many Facebook users regularly access their social networking accounts during work hours.

Although I, like many folks, am uncomfortable with this kind of monitoring, I get it. Companies need to protect themselves from employees who are less than discrete in communicating company information and other potentially-embarrassing information. Domino's Pizza and British Airways learned that the hard way. And, really, we all know these are social networks, so we need to mind our Ps and Qs when using them.

I enjoy using Facebook. Like so many before me, it’s allowed me to reconnect with some old friends and colleagues. I have fun seeing the travel and family photographs from my little circle of contacts. And it’s nice to learn more about the interests of these interesting people. On the other hand, the impulse some folks have – particularly some of the younger people I know – have to share every personal detail of their lives on these social sites is more than a little troubling. And this is just me saying this.

I can’t imagine how troubling that would be if I were an employer.

Edited by Alice Straight

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