Social networks are currently all the rage in the tech industry and one of the current debates is around whether “we should keep our data holed up in walled gardens or leave it open for developers to build upon”. While having certain data freely available may help to drive new uses and new technology innovations lets not lose site of the fact that a significant portion of the American, and other, economies is driven by the proprietary use and manipulation of data. While there is a certain information that companies may wish to freely share with the world such as marketing material, there is also a significant amount of information that they want to limit access to. Companies such as Gartner and The Burton Group would not be able to stay in business if they made all of their information freely available.
Consumers would riot in the streets if all of the information health care companies, banks, supermarkets or even Google had on them were made freely available. The big issue is about how to keep the things that need to be safeguarded secure and not expose them to unauthorized parties. Corporations may be willing to give employees unfettered access to social networking sites IF they can ensure that the proprietary and customer information that their business is built on can be safeguarded. In order to do that though, businesses that currently protect their data need to be shown the value that can be added via the use of social networks and that value has to be greater than the cost of modifying their networks to allow that access while still protecting their data. For some that may mean building out new infrastructure that allows social network access to be isolated from access to business data.
The amount of work related information that can cross a users desk in a single day can be staggering and when you add the real time flow from as few as 1 or 2 active social networks, all of this information appearing in multiple windows on a users screen, it becomes very easy to cut and paste or type information into the wrong screen. One simple mistake by an employee can cause a significant amount of work to correct and a lot of bad press if word gets out, not to mention the lawyer bills associated with the the law suits. If the firm the employee worked (yes the use of past tense is intentional) for is subject to any of the myriad state, national and foreign laws that govern requirements for notifying customers whose data has been disclosed the costs can skyrocket and mitigation costs such as a year of credit watch on the customer’s credit information could seriously damage, or even bankrupt a small firm.
Companies that handle consumer data need to weigh the risks and rewards of allowing Social Network access very carefully before allowing access by employees, and where the rewards outweigh the risks need to carefully consider which controls (preventive, detective, corrective, or perhaps all three) they need in place BEFORE allowing access.
While writing this, I was listening to "Bay Smooth Jazz (1.FM TM)" in iTunes