Employees may need to begin taking more care over what they upload to Facebook, with 60 per cent of Australian businesses expected to be formally monitoring online social media by 2015, according to a recent study by Gartner.
However the Gartner report was quick to note that corporations will need to be wary of the legal and moral pitfalls involved in keeping tabs on employees.
“Surveillance of individuals … can both mitigate and create risk, which must be managed,” said Andrew Walls, research vice-president of Gartner.
The study comes after news reports accused several businesses in the USA of requesting that job applicants submit their Facebook login details as part of the interview process.
Several colleges have also been accused of monitoring the social media activities of potential students.
In a note published on March 24, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, made it clear that the social networking site does not approve of this practice.
“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job,” said Egan.
Facebook recently upgraded its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, making it a violation for individuals or organisations to share or solicit a Facebook password. Egan suggested legal action could be taken against any persons or corporations found to be deliberately violating user privacy.
However many firms now offer legal forms of social media monitoring, while security organisations are also exploring the format as a way to investigate potential external threats to businesses.
Social media activity can pose a major threat to business security if employees do not understand their obligations under company protocol. Sensitive information which seems harmless at first could result in confidential company details being visible to outsiders.
Cautious businesses should consider improving security measures to prevent such privacy breaches. Vulnerability management assessments provide a high-level risk evaluation to companies and can identify possible pitfalls in security.
While social media tracking services can be beneficial to employers for their ability to recognise and prevent employees from engaging in illegal or immoral activities, care must be taken to avoid the legal landmines involved.
Gartner has asserted that any social network monitoring performed must be purely in the interest of investigating company policy violation. What is concerning, says Gartner, is the potential for employees to use confidential Facebook information to discriminate employees based on religious or sexual orientations.
“The problem lies in the ability of surveillance tools and methods to produce large volumes of irrelevant information,” said Mr Walls.
“This personal information can be exposed accidentally or become the target of voyeuristic behavior by security staff.”