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.