Greater Guidance needed for Corporate Social Networking

It was brought to my attention that if you wish to delete your entry on Facebook simply choosing the delete your profile is not enough. A full deletion takes time and is only possible through completing an online form.

Many people have decided to leave such social networking sites as they feel that they are either bored or feel that they may be staked! I know the latter sounds a bit extreme but by opening up your personal details, even if done innocently, these sites can allow other (non-friends) to find out about you (subject to how much you reveal on your public site).

A recent Ofcom report, which surveyed 8,500 adults and children, reveals that half of all eight to 17-year-old Internet users – about 4million people – have a personal profile. This compares with 22 per cent of adults. Ofcom said two-thirds of children using social networking sites were on Bebo, while another third were on MySpace and Facebook (Facebook is most popular with adults). The survey showed 16 per cent of parents did not know who can see their children’s profiles. A worrying 41 per cent of children admitted they did not use privacy settings and only 53 per cent said their parents set them rules for use.

NB ‘Non-friends’ can also be defined as commercial companies that can profile advertisements towards you. In addition, one should also consider that it has been reported that snooping by potential employers also takes place.

Another area to consider is the use of such networks in the workplace. The UK Trades Union Council has established some guidelines (see: http://www.worksmart.org.uk/rights/socialnetworking).

One a positive note, over the last 2 weeks I have managed to re-establish contact with a couple of really great business colleagues. It was great to catch-up with them, where they are now – NB Both after at least 10 years. One could argue and question why did it take so long to reconnect? The only answer I can give is that the world is a big place and we all get busy in our own lives.

In the future it is likely that Cyberspace will provide us with virtual worlds with advanced features that connect to existing networks – These worlds will allow people to interact in a chosen identity or identities, introducing the possibility of an even bigger potential for exploitation. I was recently told by an Internet security expert that

the problem with the Internet is that nobody knows if you are a dog and if you are a dog what kind of dog are you going to be!

With such power comes great responsibility – No, this is not just a throw away line or something that can be exploited by a Spiderman movies. It is true. Today we have more power at our fingertips than ever before and it appears that children are apt at adapting to the latest fads and openness offered.

A few years ago I was consulting at a government medical organisation.There an Instant Messenger service was established but on an Intranet only basis. A number of issues were raised in terms of its use:

1. Surely, some outlets need to be enabled to the outside world, especially for true dialogue with trusted partners.
2. The potential to send files instantly can open up security issues.

We again return to the issue of the need for greater guidelines. It is excellent that the TUC have taken a serious view on the risks of Social networking in the workplace but we need more information on the implications of information use being abused, protecting our children and the risk of exploitation from companies wishing to profile current and future customers.

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