Social Enterprise

Could your blog cost you your job?


A recent issue of Workforce Management talked about the growing risk to companies of employees who misuse e-mail and blogs. In particular, it sites a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting and Proopoint that indicated blogs and message boards have become a growing source of risk for companies."More than 19 percent of the companies disciplined employees for violating blog or message board policies, and more than 9 percent fired employees for such infractions."

The problem is not so much with the time employees spend reading blogs and sending e-mail as much as it is with what they blog and e-mail about. The article quotes Robert Scott, a partner a Dallas-based IT compliance and management firm, who says, "The ramifications of leaks of important data on blogs and message boards can be devastating. A company's brand could be irreparably damaged if trade secrets fall into the hands of competitors."

That might sound a little alarmist to some of you, but consider these stats from another survey, this one conducted by Croner Select, an HR firm in the U.K. "About 39 percent of bloggers say they have posted comments that could be construed as harmful to their companies' reputation, including the compromising of sensitive and proprietary data." And those are only the people who are aware that they've done that and have admitted it. Can you imagine all the ones who inadvertently passed on sensitive information?

Of course, your company has subjectivity on its side. What you may not consider sensitive, your company might. I didn't understand the firing of the Delta flight attendant because of photos she had on her personal blog, but I can understand the firing of Michael Hanscom who snapped pictures of Apple PowerMac G5 computers sitting on a loading dock at Microsoft and then posted the pictures to his blog. (His temp job had been contracted by Microsoft to handle work on its Redmond, Washington, campus.)

It's just a lot better to err on the side of caution.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

20 comments
evajohnsy
evajohnsy

The caution regarding the blog will be useful. And everything regarding the blog is fine and useful.

happy_banshee
happy_banshee

I blogged about how an OSAP official in my university told me I could be entitled to a loan (because currently, I don't because of my parents' income), and the government found it and sent me a letter asking me not to misrepresent myself. If the Canadian government found it, no doubt employers are aware (though I do not identify the company I work for). Now I lock everything that could be used/twisted against myself or people I know, to the 'friend's only'.

panchmaa_007
panchmaa_007

Respected mam, hello mam how are you? now i am doing a job as computer networking engineer. now i am india in Gujarat.but now i want to change my location and want to go outside but my problem is job so please mam help me. you can mail me on this Id panchmaa_007@yahoo.com Thanking you, Mahesh panchal Networking engineer

Shellbot
Shellbot

if your a networking engineer and your silly enough to post your email address online..you deserve every bit of spam you are going to get. If you work in IT, think IT.. < shakes head >

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Companies are more concerned about email than blogs, as the company can also be held legally liable for the content of an email from or on their corporate mail server. Remember back to the mid 1990s with a few multi million dollar payouts for what was in some corporate emails - despite them being between staff, and more along the lines of jokes, the emails leaked and the company had to fork out. edited to fix a typo and cut error

dareguy
dareguy

...And then there was the employee who called in sick, and on their "popular social networking website" indicated they were on the way to a popular vacation destination. They were asked if they wanted to leave voluntarily, or be terminated. They left voluntarily. Oops.

Kays07
Kays07

Yes. Especially, if your company does not approve of blogging in the first place. May be it does not explicitly say that, but the disapproval can be felt. Then you are better off not blogging at all.

bhmiller512
bhmiller512

Recently I had to speak to an employee concerning his blog and what a specific article contained. The article explained how he wanted to physically harm his boss in a way that would cause death. The employee accused someone of hacking into his account and posting the article. The employee was reprimanded and went back to work, only to post a comment later laughing about the matter and the fact that he did'nt get fired. Was this the corrrect way to handle this? In the back of my mind I worry about all my employee's safety. Thanks for your input.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

document EVERYTHING from this point forward and prepare to subpeana the webhost. This joker needs to be gone, POST HASTE!

cmz
cmz

Although I think you need to give people the benefit of the doubt, the first incident should have been referred to HR and documented in his file. As for the second blog entry, I would certainly hope that these actions were taken and he's out the door now. I would also hope that HR contacted the local police and let the manager in question know what was going on. Unfortunately, some people have weird sense of humors (I personally don't think threats are funny) and others are sick/disgruntled enough to do something about perceived slights. Better to err on the side of caution when personal safety is involved for anyone.

justin
justin

Or atleast referred him to counseling. Threatening bodily harm to someone is not cool. I sincerely doubt this guy's account was broken into.

ra2676
ra2676

It does seem tempting at times to post stuff that you encounter at work. I am a blogger and even though the stuff I tend to post has little to do with the company I work for, sometimes it gets into a blog. Once, when I was writing about faith, I accidentally stated my Directors name and exactly what the project was. My brother read the post shared with me the possible outcomes of it if it were to be misunderstood, so I removed her name. Than as I thought about it, I removed the entire blog. I am really careful not to post about work now, even though it takes up a big portion of our day and is relevant to my subject matter. As a blogger I have to be mindful of the potential that something I say can be misunderstood or blown out of proportion. www.ra2676.blogspot.com

Tech Warrior
Tech Warrior

you're right angry white no matter what you do online, you can dig up all kinds information on a person with a few tiny pieces of information if they have any kind of internet presence even just by typing in a username in google. But as far as the matter at hand with the free exchange of information comes the fact people need to be intelligent enough to realize that what they do even online can come back and haunt them. Kinda like the bill engvall heres your sign. I didn't know I would get fired for defamining my company. Here's your sign.

angry_white_male
angry_white_male

Been there, done that - learned the hard way. Even worse is when someone's looking to screw you - they'll spend time digging up what they can and slip it under your boss' door.

mattohare
mattohare

This came through the news a while back: http://theblogconsultancy.typepad.com/techpr/2006/12/the_barrowinfur.html Someone upset with how his assignment to open a new shop was going put his opinions into his blog. Some how the local press got it and took it as a slur from the company itself. Thing that really makes me laugh about this is how seriously the town took it. Most places I know would just shake it off as so much fluff. The way the town took it, threats and all, tells me that there was some accuracy to what he said.

justin
justin

I think as a general rule of thumb you should use discretion when posting information to the internet. For example if you're blogging about a project you're working on, it's always good to be vague about it, or you should check your companies' policy to see whether you're aloud to even talk about the project outside the company. Another rule of thumb when blogging is to keep in mind that what you blog is a representation of you to the world. You really shouldn't post anything defamatory on a blog because that will be a negative reflection on you. So in general just use some common sense when posting to the internet.

AndrewB
AndrewB

There was a big stink in the even less big town of Dover, DE, where a reporter for a local paper was FIRED because he had a blog that was full of obscenities and racial slurs.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

What an idiot. I have advised all those who use my computers, wife, kids and relatives that they are not to ever reveal their true identity. Never reveal your full name, address, phone number, place of birth, social security number, drivers license number or those of anyone else, friend or foe. Only then would it be safe to even voice your opinion lest someone not like it and retaliate against you or your employer. Also usernames can reveal alot about you and your possible sexual or political leanings and use that to attack you. My user name was selected back in 1985 by my then 12 year old son and I when we started an AOL subscription. The first three letters are my initials, 420 was the date and nova was the car we were building. I realize now that plenty can be assumed from this and none of it right, but you know what they say about assumptions.

mattohare
mattohare

I do put my name out there. You can see it on my username here. I even put some contact information on the web, not a lot. I do try to be careful not to gossip, or the like. I did replace someone once though that got the sack for mishandling confidential data. Back to the point though, I get tired of everyone assuming we have to live secret lives online. And that people we meet online are never really our friends unless we've met face to face. I have online friends that I've known for years, just not face to face. (Some day I'll get to visit them in Mexico, Australia, Brazil and Israel.) I can claim them as better friends than some that I've met, even initially, face to face. To be blunt, people can still hide a lot in face to face meetings.

Shellbot
Shellbot

one has to be careful. I think the point Nova was making, that IF you are going to be engaging in online activity which may not be appropriate, you shouldn't be using your own details. Like listing your name and where you work, and then proceeding to blog about stuff which you woulnd't say in front of your manager. i take the approach that everything I do online can be found by someone. Hence I try and behave like its the "real world" and this way I'm not going to find myself in trouble over somehting stupid. Plenty of people on TR know my first name, some know my full name, some know my full address, but thats all done in private email, not posted to a blog or Facebook..

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