Using social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, and even personal blogs can be fun and keep you connected with friends and family. If you are not careful with how you use them, though, they could cost you your job!
According to a new study on data loss prevention published by Proofpoint, an average of 1 in 6 US companies that took part in the survey investigated the exposure of confidential, sensitive or private information via social networking or social media sites. Here are how the numbers from the study breakdown:
- 18% of US companies investigated the exposure of confidential, sensitive or private information via video or audio media posted to a media sharing site (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo). 15% have disciplined an employee for violating media sharing/posting policies in the past 12 months. 8% reported terminating an employee for such a violation. 42% are highly concerned about the risk of information leakage via media sharing sites.
- 17% of US companies investigated the exposure of confidential, sensitive or private information via a posting to a social networking site (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn). 10% have disciplined an employee for violating social networking policies in the past 12 months. 8% reported terminating an employee for such a violation. 45% are highly concerned about the risk of information leakage via posts to social networking sites.
- 13% of US companies investigated the exposure of confidential, sensitive or private information via an SMS text or Webbased short message service (e.g., Twitter). 41% are highly concerned about the risk of information leakage via Web based short messaging (e.g., Twitter).
- 18% of US companies surveyed investigated the exposure of confidential, sensitive or private information via a blog or message board posting. 17% disciplined an employee for violating blog or message board policies in the past 12 months. 9% reported terminating an employee for such a violation. 46% are highly concerned about the risk of information leakage via blogs and message board postings.
Looking at data like this and seeing that companies are looking more closely at what their employees are doing, what is a person to do? Stop using the sites and services to be safe? No, I believe the answer is just use them smarter. Here are some tips on how to keep yourself safe while still being able to connect with friends and family on social media and social networking sites.
Check Your Company’s Social Media Policy
As social media and social networking becomes more prevalent, many companies are beginning to adopt social media policies for their employees. These companies recognize that having and encouraging their employees to post comments about the company on their own personal sites can help the company’s overall brand development and marketing. They also recognize that there are possibilities for having trade secrets or inside information released and so they make policies letting employees know exactly what they can or can’t post. If your company doesn’t currently have a policy, suggest that one be created and do what you can to help out.
Keep Business and Personal Separate
About 6 years ago I was working for a company and it was discovered that they were using key logging and screen capture software on the computers to monitor everything that was going on. This was not a published policy and it was only discovered after a fellow employee had been fired for typing some comments about the owners in an instant message session with a friend. I remember feeling like my privacy had been totally violated. I checked my personal email, bank accounts, sent my wife (girlfriend at the time) and friends email… and all of this had been monitored and captured by the company’s system. Ever since then, I live ‘off the grid’ while I’m at work. I don’t check personal email or personal sites while on a work computer. When provided, I don’t use a company laptop at home for personal items or web surfing. I even carry 2 cell phones when required to have a work phone. Some people look at this as extreme, but I believe that my personal life is my business and not my company’s.
Don’t Use an Updating Service
With something like 50+ major social media and social networking sites out there, it can get really hard keeping everything updated and synchronized. That is where update services like Ping.fm can really come in and save you time. The basic idea behind these update services is that you make one post and it will update all of your social media/networking sites. While the idea behind services like this are fantastic and really helpful, it can come back to cause trouble in the long run. For example, say you have done really good about keeping your Facebook all personal contacts and your LinkedIn profile a mix between professional and personal. If you had Ping.fm setup to update both, anything that you post to one will show up on the other. This just makes it too easy to accidentally vent on Facebook and then have it show up on LinkedIn. Because of this, as a general rule of thumb, I typically don’t recommend using these types of services. If you do, just pay attention to the next point and make sure you think before posting your update.
Think Before You Tweet
This may seem like common sense… but for some reason common sense is always overlooked! Before you Tweet, post that blog, or let those on Facebook know “what’s on your mind”, take a second to think about what you are about to publish for the world to see. If you’re using an update service like Ping.fm, what sites are about to be updated? Who is on your friends list? Should they see what you are about to broadcast? Could what you are about to submit be confidential or a business secret? Just taking a few seconds to think about questions like this and what you are about to post could mean the difference between collecting your pay check or a pink slip on Friday. As general rule of thumb, when in doubt… don’t post. Bottom line, social media and social networking sites are here to stay and can be fantastic resources. As more and more company HR departments use these types of sites in applicant screening, they can even be used to get you that next job. It all comes down to your ability to manage your personal brand and being able think about who will see the posting before you end up making a huge mistake that could cost you friends, your credibility, and even your job.