The majority of employers permit employees to
have reasonable personal use of the internet during
working hours. Employers have sought to minimise
the risks that this personal use might present by
introducing Acceptable Use Policies (“AUPs”) and
monitoring employee use. This bargain between
employers and employees is now being tested by the
phenomenon of online social networking, in which
the popularity of sites such as Facebook, Bebo and
MySpace poses a new question for employers; do we
trust our employees and allow unrestricted access to
such sites, or do we perceive the danger as too great
and ban the sites?
Social networking sites can bring young workers
together, yet the risks are much greater than lost
productivity. Malicious content, data leakage and
legal liability mean businesses need an efficient tool
to control internet misuse.
The online social networking
More than a chance to get your face on the web and
research new acquaintances, social networking sites
such as Facebook makes uploading photos, video or
blogging easy, and tagged friends are ‘pinged’ when
they’re featured – creating a virtual network that
reaches right out and grabs you.
While the vast majority of Facebook users are in the
US, Canada and the UK, 2.5 per cent of its users are
Australians. In the second half of 2007 alone, Australian
Facebook members grew by 1 million users to around
1.5 million in total. MessageLabs’ statistics reveal that
Facebook is now the most blocked site for businesses in
the Asia-Pacific region, followed by RSVP.com.au.
Online social networking presents specific problems
because of the nature of the content on such sites.
Social networking sites can be both addictive and time-
consuming, damaging employee productivity. Employers
may be identified and there is always the possibility of
derogatory comments or disclosure of commercially
sensitive information being made by an employee,
which then becomes a permanent feature online.