April 2, 2010
Big Brother is watching (to see if you're breaking confidentiality)
Forget dinging employees for using social media to gas on about how many cocktails they drank Saturday night or how they really spent their last sick day. A new software application allows companies to monitor whether employees are revealing trade secrets on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
According to Computerworld, by the end of April this application -- named Social Sentry -- will hit the marketplace, allowing employers to scour social media sites to "find out whether employees are disclosing sensitive corporate information, such as financial figures, personnel data, or trade secrets."
How does Social Sentry work? By enabling employers to track the whether their people are typing certain off-limit keywords on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
The makers of this seemingly omniscient product say they recognize that social media is here to stay and that they're not advocating keeping employees off these sites altogether. Instead, they want to give companies "the controls to make sure sensitive material isn't being released."
As one technology consultant who appears to be in favor of the product told Computerworld, "We've seen soldiers release battle plans, politicians release sensitive information, and employees discuss unannounced products on [social networking sites]."
Fair enough. But I tend to agree with the consultant who told Computerworld, "This product tracks employee social network activity even when they are outside the workplace, which, while not illegal or anything, probably comes under the heading 'creepy' or 'overbearing' for most people."
Companies are more than entitled to ask and expect their employees to keep their traps shut -- both online and off -- about trade secrets and other information that could be damaging if made public. But wouldn't a one-hour training session on how to keep corporate secrets close to one's vest suffice? Isn't monitoring employees' personal conversations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like overkill, especially if the worker isn't on the clock at the time? What's next -- finding a way to legally tap the personal phones of employees?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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