Social Enterprise investigate

The boss is watching, look busy: Employers step up social media snooping

Employers are planning to routinely monitor what staff say on social networks - but risk finding out too much about their workers' personal lives

Worried your boss is spying on you on Twitter and Facebook? You probably should be, as companies are planning to plan to step up routine monitoring of employees via social networks.

By 2015 almost two thirds of companies (60 per cent), will monitor what staff say on social media sites for posts that leak sensitive information or could otherwise damage the company, according to research by Gartner. Today, fewer than 10 per cent of businesses have implemented such surveillance programs.

Organisations will need to monitor what staff do online outside of work, the report Conduct Digital Surveillance Ethically and Legally said, because of the way that technology is blurring the line between workplace and personal activity, with people using the same social media accounts to talk to friends and colleagues inside and outside of work.

"Given that employees with legitimate access to enterprise information assets are involved in most security violations, security monitoring must focus on employee actions and behaviour wherever the employees pursue business-related interactions on digital systems," said Andrew Walls, research VP at Gartner.

"The development of effective security intelligence and control depends on the ability to capture and analyse user actions that take place inside and outside of the enterprise IT environment."

The most common approach that companies take when monitoring what employees say on social networks is "continuous monitoring", the report said, due to the high volume of data and the speed with which the data changes.

However, when companies monitor employee behaviour there is danger that managers will abuse information available through social networks and act in a way that breaks employment regulations, the report said.

"Multiple Gartner clients have indicated that managers have been caught using public social media to determine that an employee or job candidate is pregnant, is ill, is a member of a religious group or has a particular sexual orientation," the report said.

Walls referred to a recent case where a US employee was told to give their employer their Facebook log-in details, saying it highlighted the need for businesses to tread carefully when monitoring employees if they want to avoid violating employee privacy.

The report recommends various steps for companies to take when drawing up monitoring and surveillance plans, including: limiting data that is collected, restricting access to that data, seeking advice from legal counsel, HR professionals and senior management and being mindful of differing employment and privacy laws worldwide.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

11 comments
sboverie
sboverie

It is understandable that a company would want to prevent information leaks about sensitive information that can hurt the bottom line, but that does not give companies carte blanche to prowl their employees' private activities. Employees can leak information just by talking to their friends or those conversations can be overheard by an outsider. What I object to is the idea that a company thinks it is entitled to breach their employees' privacy. If there is a cause for suspicion then the company needs to follow simple protocols that deal with the suspicion in a way that focuses on evidence and not a fishing expedition into the employees' private lives.

avsol
avsol

You agree to work for them, they agree to pay you. If you are not happy - leave. If you can't leave - try to survive somehow but you'll have to sacrifice something. To make it psychologically easier you can play some retaliation games on your employer, like trying to find holes in the rules, or using sites like keeplookingbusy.com to get some fresh air. Anyway, it's your choice, as much as your employer chooses what kind of people they need for the company - they'll get what they asked for.

opcalucas
opcalucas

We have the choice to stand up to this kind of creeping tyranny or we can forfeit our rights like cowards... There are people dieing on foreign lands to protect our rights, liberties and security, the least we can do is to have the courage to say NO! Remember, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" So, what's next? you gonna give your house keys to your employer so he can search your home?

jonrosen
jonrosen

I don't use 99% of the social networking crap. About all I really touch is LinkedIn. Employers watching more carefully might tone down the amount of idiocy that we see on FB

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

What I do not agree with is that my employer asking for my personal FB or other account information or requesting that I allow them to see my activity. Unless the account was set up for work/business usage then it is none of their business I do agree that if my job requires special security clearance, etc.. and it is written in the company handbook and explained at my hiring/interview that due to my job they do require to review my account as part of my hiring process then....

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

I had recent discussions with my boss about how to cut down on employees using their company e-mail for personal use and monitoring what web sites persons may be visiting that are not work related (more so people abusing those privileges) when "on the clock. I agree with him, if your on company computers and e-mail than my boss' have the right to monitor was their employees are doing. Yes they understand we work all day and do at times need to make personal phone calls, send quick e-mails, look up information not work related, they want to cut back on those who go overboard.

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

I had recent discussions with my boss about how to cut down on employees using their company e-mail for personal use and monitoring what web sites persons may be visiting that are not work related (more so people abusing those privileges) when "on the clock. I agree with him, if your on company computers and e-mail than my boss' have the right to monitor was their employees are doing. Yes they understand we work all day and do at times need to make personal phone calls, send quick e-mails, look up information not work related, they want to cut back on those who go overboard.

attackgypsy
attackgypsy

Anybody asks me for my FB and Twitter passwords, the first words out of my mouth would be "I'm sorry, but giving that information would violate the Terms of Agreement I signed, opening me up for both civil suits and criminal charges. I categorically refuse." Let them fire me. I would sue them so fast it would make their head spin.

uwishtoo
uwishtoo

I think it's ridiculous the judgmental nature of some employers these days. I am ME and I always have been no matter if the ME I present is dressed in heels or jeans - and if an employer or potential client wants to judge me by who I have on my FB page and my politics (there is alot of political renderings on my page lol) then PHHHTTTT and KMA

uwishtoo
uwishtoo

I own my own business so I really couldn't care less what anyone thinks of my FB postings ( I wouldn't care even if I was still in the corporate world actually ) so I will disagree here. I use FB on a daily basis since I work from home alot and I also work alot of hours and I don't get to talk to my wide circle of friends as often as I would like to since I seem to always be working but I also use it to promote some charities I am involved in. I have a profile picture up of me riding my motorcycle and one look at my friends list will show 95 percent of people on my friends list also ride. If someone wanted to judge me solely on those facts I am sure I would never be hired again by anyone, which is ridiculous. All they would see is a mid 50's female on a bike with alot of long haired tattooed biker friends. What they wouldn't see is that I don't drink or do drugs, I have three college degrees and I own my own business. Alot of my friends also don't drink or do drugs. ALL of my friends at one time or another have done volunteer work for the Veterans or other charities. And I do mean ALL of them. I don't know one biker friend of mine who isn't totally active in the community and involved with charity work in one way or the other. I know for a fact that I have had some HR people find me on FB when I was still trying to work the corporate rat race and to them I said a big old SCREW YOU! What I do on my own time and the people I associate with are NONE of their business and don't effect my abilities and skills.

opcalucas
opcalucas

but this is not about wasting time at work, this is about big corporations expanding their end-run around our laws and constitution to subvert peoples god given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by tricking or bullying people into forfeiting their rights to privacy, security and basic human dignity! We don't know exactly what information will be collected, from personal pictures to passwords and bank accuonts, who will have access to it, or how it will be used and abused! Also, there can be no doubt that this information will be sold, stolen and misused!