Survey: Social networking policies still scarce

Research finds more companies allow employees to access social network sites, but many haven't adopted policies to guide use

Most organizations do not have a social networking policy, despite giving employees unfettered access to the popular web sites, according to a survey conducted by Symantec earlier this month.

The survey was an attempt to gauge employee use of social media after a 2010 Symantec report on enterprise security found that enterprises view social media as a threat to security, said Kevin Haley, director of Symantec Security Response.

Also see 4 tips for writing a great social media policy

Approximately 50 percent of the 336 respondents to the survey said they access Facebook or YouTube at least once a day, with 16 percent indicating they access the sites between three and five times daily. More than half access the sites for business reasons, according to the research. Another 46 percent said the sites were accessed for personal reasons (for more on the security risks this can create, see Social media risks: The basics).

"To me the most interesting thing about this is this high level of concern CISOs and CIOs have about social networking, and yet so few of them have really implemented policy or procedures or any kind of blocking," said Haley

Among organizations who responded, 42 percent said their organization does not block employee access to social media sites, and has no policy in place around social media use. Only 5 percent indicated a complete blocking of the sites at work, a solution that is not really feasible in today's business environment, said Haley.

"You can block something at the gateway," he noted. "But if your laptop users go home, they are no longer behind that gateway, and they feel now is the time they can go out to social networks."

Haley said most companies will need to allow employee access to social networking sites, both for business reasons and because employees have begun to demand it. In fact, 32 percent of survey respondents indicated that being banned from social networks on the job would play a role in their decision to work for an organization. A report released last month by Clearswift found unrestricted internet access was more important than pay to many of today's younger workers.

"The first step is to have a policy," said Haley. "You can't enforce anything if you dont have a policy. People need to evaluate the risks, put a policy in place and educate users about the policy. With things like this it's also important to educate users as to why these policies are in place, because these things are often so easy to circumvent."

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