Social Enterprise

Poll: Does your company block employees from social networking sites?

I've been hearing from several IT leaders recently that their companies are blocking social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. So it's time to take a poll of the TechRepublic audience to gauge how widespread this practice really is.

In the discussion to my recent post about CIOs on Twitter, TechRepublic member Palmetto noted that his IT department blocks Twitter along with many other social networking sites. I've been hearing a similar story from other IT leaders recently, so it's time to take a poll of the TechRepublic audience to gauge how widespread this practice really is.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

77 comments
hforman
hforman

The County offices blocks ALL social networking sites. However, one of the County Supervisors is putting out a public blog so a request is going out to open all of the sites back up as soon as they can come up with RULES including making sure no one says anything bad about the County government, etc.

ladyjet
ladyjet

My company does not block social sites as long as they use those sites only on their lunch hours and breaks. People need a break from work and if they cannot use the work computer on a 15-minute break to, which is why the 15-minute break is mandatory as prescribed by the government and unions, they will become more stressed and production suffers. What would you rather do? Have a happy employee or an employee that resents your big brother attitudes? I want happy employees, but my employees don't take advantage of me because they are happy. Using social networks during usually down time is one of the advantages my employees have for doing good work so they can de-stress. But then, unlike so many companies out there today, I still have company picnics, monthly birthday celebrations, and other social niceties to show my employees how much I appreciate all the hard work they do for me. Employer loyalty is not dead at this company! In return, my employees work hard and show the same loyalty for me. Maybe this is not your standard business model, but I'm making money and my employees are still working.

george.hickey
george.hickey

.. is the basic approach our management have taken. There is a bit of lee-way granted for things like personal banking sites et al but not a lot. And of course IT are seen as the bad guys for implementing this, even though the decision came from much higher up the food-chain. Someone made a comment earlier regarding productivity management - there isn't any here in most cases - they would rather just make sure that people can't do anything other than work. I can't really comment any further on a public forum as to what I think of that approach...

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

Yes, but they've set up Websense to allow you to visit them in 10-minute blocks (you get three blocks per day). Of course, the policy was established without any real review and some business-related sites that were of pretty significant importance were blocked, but after one or two managers went spitting nails to IT (although it was HR's decision), some adjustments were made. :)

learn4ever
learn4ever

Yes we do, but we provide several workstations on a separate WAN link in our lunch room for employees to access the Internet wide open. It's also a good way for us to 're-use' old workstations.

rsantuci
rsantuci

Yes - as well as YouTube and a lot of blogs and relationship sites.

yolanda.gerber
yolanda.gerber

I am working in the IT Industry in RSA and most of the companies block the social sites. I just find that the mobile people with 3G HSDPA devices still access the social networking sites during working hours when they are not busy. I find that the blocking of the social networking sites is futile and pointless in today's technology depending on what type of job is performed. I would most definitely block call centre environments, survey companies and the financial administrators as these people need to perform optimally.

simmo4prez
simmo4prez

We block social networking for 90% of staff, the other 10% have come up with a bussiness case for why they need access to youtube and facebook at all times wich we have accepted and allowed for specific people only, but we open up these sites to all people between the hours of 12pm and 2pm because we are only half evil :)

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

For example: endusers are allowed to go to Facebook, but are blocked from engaging in Mafia Wars, Farmville, Bloodlines, or similar online games within Facebook.

Wild Card
Wild Card

Level 1 (me), has access to everything. Level 10, which includes most of the rank and file have access to only sites that are deemed necessary. Social networking is blocked in all Levels but 1 and 2. Level 2 consists of upper management, so we try to keep them happy. They can MyBookTweet all they want.

ls1313
ls1313

I know we do not block Twitter or LinkedIn, but those are the only ones I use. I think MySpace and possibly Facebook are blocked.

L-Mo
L-Mo

I'm ok with IT having different standards. As a tech I would not be able to do my job well if I was blocked a lot. I also hope that your IT staff is fully aware of how they use company resources and what this entails. It is the common end user who does not realize that they hog up bandwidth with video streaming. This user may not also value, or even realize, that money and time are wasted every time we have to fix or replace a machine that is infected. For these reasons I'm ok with blocking sites - for everyone. As a security measure, and for cost control, blocking is ok to me. This should not be used to manage employees. We can easily audit network traffic and determine who is the biggest offenders, and then address it accordingly.

kdavis
kdavis

Most of the time it isn't a problem, but I have some people who try to reach me through my yahoo address or through Facebook. I have to explain that I can't reply unless I happen to catch their message through my iPod Touch at lunch or if I browse the Internet on my phone, which I don't do very often. Otherwise, I have to compete for computer time with my kid when I get home.

john.ammon
john.ammon

Yes, our company recently started blocking social networking sites along with black listed web sites. It was not IT decision but Human Resource decision. Human Resources treats us like we can't make our own decisions for ourselves so they will make our decisions for us.

TCIII
TCIII

In the era of the iPhone does blocking sites for productivity purposes make sense? Your employee can just take out their personal iPhone and update their blog or Facebook page. You can no longer manage your employees network connectivity using the tools you used in the past. If you haven't established appropriate policies and worked to establish productivity using management tools you have already lost the battle.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's not exposing my systems to potential malware. It becomes an issue between that employee and his / her supervisor over how he uses his time. The IT department has been removed (has removed itself?) from the conflict.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

it's back to being your problem again.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

But then the keyboard stops working and all the USB devices along with it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Disable USB in the CMOS and slap on a password. Or disable in the OS and deny users administrative / root access. Or both.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

not.

TCIII
TCIII

Enough people have smart phones that if you ignore this, you are only fooling yourself.

ashenfalcon
ashenfalcon

Upper management at this place actually went and installed one of those jamming devices, which definitely pissed people off... including the ones in the adjoining buildings due a lack of range-limitation... Back to the old drawing board for management.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

when most people are trustworthy and would not commit a crime?

ladyjet
ladyjet

you do not trust your employees. Too bad because many employees are trustworthy and work their butts off for you and your company. Maybe you should check your company to see who they are hiring. If they hire hackers, I'd be worried too. And that's also assuming that EVERYONE is untrustworthy and will do anything thing they can to steal from you. Not very realistic.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

get caught using it and face the action. Besides as these phones can double as memory devices - It would make sense to ban them as they could be used to transfer files out the company door!

TCIII
TCIII

Yeah. That'll work.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Ban the use of the personal mobile in the office. Problem solved. There is not one business need for them in the office.

jbignell
jbignell

We don't, we use websense to allow employees an amount of time for personal web use, if they choose to use this for social networking, then that's up to them.

heyme1966
heyme1966

Blocking is not a solution, and will only bring on a feeling of not being trusted. If you do not trust your employees to behave responsibly your company has a problem. Leave access open, install monitoring tools, tell your employees about this, and allow usage as long as this is in function of the job (sales NEED networking tools) or for recreational purposes for let's say 30 minutes a day. Restrictions have the opposite effect. Check regularly and in case of a problem have a talk with employees abusing trust. With the current trend of homeworkers the Q is obsolete, for how are you going to check home-usage? You should judge people on accomplishments, not on being in the office for 8 hours 5/7. And if someone meets and exceeds targets set why not allow some recreation? And why not start a facebook page on the company? Great advertisement possibility, post new products etc.. A good policy starts with the humans, not with technical restrictions. Heyme

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Well as they should be using a company PC and not their own PC that one is simple.

n3twork
n3twork

The problem with this is that companies have trusted hemans to be honest and do their job but it has proven to cause reduction in productivity as people would abuse it. Most companies would love to not have a bunch of rules and regulations that "control" their employees. People are so quick to jump on the companies and that it's not fair or whatever but the reality is that those are 9 times out of 10 the ones that are the cause of why there are restrictions in the first place. Starting a facebook or other page for the company is a good idea but access should be for business only and done through the HR or Marketing department. If people at work need a to access a social networking site that bad at work, they need to get a cell phone with a data plan. That way they can do get the contacts needed say for sales or such. Remember, trust is something that needs to be earned. You are not entitled to it automatically.

ThumbsUp2
ThumbsUp2

You said 'trust is something that needs to be earned'. I disagree because that is the same as saying people are guilty until proven innocent. We treat people like the adults they are and trust them until they display qualities or behaviors which would violate that trust. They've all signed documents stating they will not use company owned equipment for personal use and are subject to immediate dismissal if they do. They each know the consequences of 'playing' while on duty, especially while using company computers (personal devices are blocked).

urkson
urkson

Social networking, streaming media and any type of forum. They allocate 60 mins in 15 min segments for anything that can be considered 'shopping' the same for sports.

gadgets
gadgets

What about IT related social networks like Tech Republic or Spiceworks? I guess it all depends on the business. We are a publishing company, so Social Networks like twitter and Facebook are used to actually help our business. So instead of being scared of them, we take time to properly train our employees on how to use them.

Somewhiteguy
Somewhiteguy

We have levels of blocking. I'm not sure what all of the levels are, but I do know that I have more access than those that are 'on the floor'. There is a distinct line drawn between the hourly and the salary folks. Maybe they think that the Salary people can control how long they are on the Net and the Hourly cannot.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

surprised when they aren't. People can always do that stuff at home or at an Internet cafe. Although some work related social sites like TR are permitted. Then again, TR isn't overloaded with those garbage programs you see on OffYourFaceBook and UselessSpace etc. Hell, I got a OffYourFacebook account and find a weekly check suffices as everyone is playing those weird games like Idiot Wars and Do You Know this Moron.

gadgets
gadgets

RT @zappos If you don't trust your employees to tweet freely, it's an employee or leadership issue, not an employee Twitter policy issue.

gadgets
gadgets

I am the IT Director for a Christian Publishing company, we not only don't block social networking sites, but we have created a corporate class to teach our employees how to use social networking sites like twitter and facebook. If Dell would have been blocking social network sites, they would have $3 Million less in the bank!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Publishing companies and retail computer sellers work directly with the public. The manufacturing firm I work for has a very small market (rail and mass transit), and all of our customer relations are handled by the account representatives.

rjluvkc
rjluvkc

Absolutely! Not just for productivity gains, but for security reasons as well. By blocking certain categories, you can help alleviate spyware,adware, etc..

smittyjl25
smittyjl25

This isn't a very well worded question. For example, my company blocks sites like facebook and myspace, but allows twitter, and linkedin.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

"Does your company block employees from social networking sites? * Yes (110%) * No (0%)" :)

Mohammad Oweis
Mohammad Oweis

Yes, we block all social networking sites. But last week, we had a request from your communication department that they need to access Facebook to see the comments and respond to it on company group at Facebook.

tc_ratcliff
tc_ratcliff

OpenDNS is a great tool for blocking as little or as much as you need. It's a free site, and has a really good up-time record. We are a non-profit organization, and most of our people don't require a 'big brother" to watch over them - they're busy enough. But it helps with HIPAA compliance in blocking peer-to-peer file sharing, etc as well as "efficiency extractors" like facebook and twitter.....

oswaldo.palomino
oswaldo.palomino

Security Network blocks all social networking sites...damn... too strict.. IMs too...

Str8thru
Str8thru

I suspect those aren't blocked because the higher-ups like them and use them. but what they don't know are the webpage-masking sites are being used.

tech-chick
tech-chick

A year or so ago, after a rash of virus detections stemming from MySpace activity, our company approved a Websense implementation. We block all social networking sites except LinkedIn, which hasn't appeared to cause any problems. The policy has freed our IT staff from having to check several computers a week for malware. Also, our retail management has reported that it has been very helpful in recapturing productivity from their staff. The demographic of our typical retail staff is particularly fascinated with social networking, and seemed not to be able to resist spending hours a day on this non-work related activity. I personally love Facebook, so I realize how easy it is to unwittingly spend more time than intended on social networking. I also realize it is something I should do on my own personal time, and not on my employer?s time.

bwilliams
bwilliams

We actually block web based email, social networking, streaming media, and more.

tony.kew
tony.kew

We allow personal emails. Should see the number of personal emails bouncing about in work hours. Be even worse with Social Networking Sites.

rspzeke
rspzeke

i guess it sort of depends because if you work for a company that has a marketing team that might need it for example to promote a specific product or even target specific idividuals then you might have to grant them access because that is for work purpose. what do you guys/ladies think? zeke

mredgar2005
mredgar2005

I'm the IT Manager for the organization. I've implemented Google Web Security (powered by ScanSafe) on my entire network. The biggest reason was to increase security - and if it helped productivity in the meantime, then even better. By blocking certain categories of websites (dating/relationships, social networks, illegal software, drugs/alcohol, online games), I have seen GREAT results. Before this, I would spend my day cleaning out viruses, imaging infected PCs, telling (L)users to stop visiting this 'n that website because of security reasons, but they didn't care, because the downtime they created for themselves allowed them for extended smoking/social breaks. I've allowed LinkedIn because HR needs it, and I honestly don't see any threat from that site.

rspzeke
rspzeke

question. what if marketing dept needs acess to a networking site to advertise a certain product to specific people. for example your company deals with health and the marketing department tells you that they need facebook to advertise a certain procedure about weight lose and with a networking site they can target overweight people. what do you think?

L-Mo
L-Mo like.author.displayName 1 Like

Excuse the title, a dumb song went through my head. It was hinted upon but not singulary expressed, "Blocking certain sites saves money". Isn't that what business is about? Making and Saving money. Everytime IT has to reimage a machine it wastes money - the time spent by IT and the users downtime.

hforman
hforman

There are also bandwidth considerations. We found out that, just one person listening to music or watching videos, could slow down the (antiquated) network we were using impacting business.

juliebeman
juliebeman

Apparently twitter is considered to have legitimate business benefits. I agree. Links from thought leaders to various articles have been quite valuable. Re-tweeting the links has resulted in great discussions among my peers.

mandelion17
mandelion17

As far as I know, we block Facebook (with some exceptions) and Plaxo. Twitter and LinkedIn are accessible.

mveh
mveh

Our policy blocks the purely social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook but we can get to LinkedIn and other business networking if we indicate that we are doing it for business related activies.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We block most except LinkedIn. We also block job sites, except for HR employees. A user can request temporary access to these sites on an 'as needed' basis.

rhjohnson
rhjohnson

but exceptions can be made if the site is necessary to assist with a development solution. (i.e. developer blogs)

egermain
egermain

People do not suddenly become more productive when they lose access to a social networking site. Employees wasting time online is the fruit of the issue, not the problem itself. An unmotivated employee will find another way to waste time. Security is a good reason to use controls. Productivity management is not.

dave
dave

your employees will find some other web diversion. I installed SurfControl here at the office where I work about two years ago. It has solved nothing as far as productivity was concerned.

Jay217
Jay217 like.author.displayName 1 Like

New sites are popping up all the time, when you block a certain set, many employees will spend their time trying to gain access to those sites again, or find something else. How are you gonna block surfing on their phones over Edge or 3G?

david.valdez
david.valdez

I have a wide range of different ACLs for sites. My sites are semi-autonomous and can select different shades of gray. Social networking (myspace, facebook, etc.) is blocked generally, but then there is the class of employee (owner, GM, IT) where we only bock adults sites, hate sites, and gambling...and not always the latter, even. I've tried to convince management that MBWA (management by walking around) is far better and more useful than tech, but that's a whole different discussion. The car industry, by nature, is stuck in the 60s overall and I daily fight IT battles that were won in other industries 15 years ago.

hforman
hforman

For example, working in areas that involve searches for individuals (child support, justice systems, etc.), sometimes you need to go into areas that you normally would not be allowed. Certain high-end executives, on the other hand, may not like even having to signon to use the internet, and, if they are powerful enough, they can usually get their way with a phone call. As pointed out, IT may need access to technical blogs. Social networking sites can also be used by some employees in government offices as the agency may support departmental profiles out on these sites to increase government-public dialogs. How about a govenment office out on Second Life? Some big companies may also be out there.

Jay217
Jay217

The problem is that much of what flags a site as questionble also can make them useful. Doesn't Tech Republic count as a social networking site?

musicisair
musicisair

I run Facebook and Twitter accounts for my company so I need them unblocked (which i guess is more of a marketing thing than IT thing...but we're a small company). Others in the company don't have access to those sites.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

why would these people need different policys. What is it about their job that should allow social networking or 'questionable' sites anyway? There is no need.

Jimmy S
Jimmy S

we generally block all sites but give access according to the business need - whether the user is an "ordinary" coworker, a director, or a member of IT.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Why give IT access and not others. Double standards.

ganyssa
ganyssa

including LinkedIn. This is as close as we get to a social networking site. Until a recent change, I was blocked from most IT-related sites as well.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

All but LinkedIn are blocked - and that is only allowed because the company owners use it. The blocking at my company is so draconian in order to keep the assistants from surfing, playing games, reading blogs, streaming videos or music (sensible blocking) that I have difficulty finding job-related, pertinent IT information on blogs for fixes I need (I know this because I see the previews in Google for the Holy Grail only to have them snatched away from me when I click the links because the answers were on blogs), and in one case, I'd posted some technical humor to our IT newsletter only to find the next month that the site for the article had been blocked! And then there was the time I was completing an IT survey and all went well until the final page...which was blocked.

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