“More Generation Y workers globally said they feel more comfortable sharing personal information with retail sites than with their own employers’ IT departments,” says Cisco.
This attitude is at odds with business concerns about the disclosure of commercially sensitive information through social media to potentially hundreds of millions of Twitter and Facebook users.
In Europe, concerns about privacy linked to security are particularly acute, as evidenced by proposals for a new cyber security directive that link privacy and security.
The proposals aim to impose EU-wide reporting requirements on companies that run large databases, including social networking firms.
Although the final wording of the directive remains to be seen, the proposals are a good indication of just how seriously European authorities view data breaches.
But not only is social networking a threat to a company’s security because of what employees might disclose, but also because social networking sites are a prime target for cyber criminals.
The ability of individuals to share information with an audience of millions is at the heart of the particular challenge that social media presents to businesses. In addition to giving anyone the power to disseminate commercially sensitive information, social media also gives the same power to spread false information, which can be just as damaging.
The report’s authors draw the analogy of shouting “Fire” in a crowded cinema. Within minutes, people can be trampled to death before a correction can be made to the message.
The unprecedented reach of social media is something companies cannot afford to ignore because of the positive and negative effect it can have on the business.
Its power must therefore be recognised and managed. In the UK, BT is one firm that has done just this. Its customer service team runs a sophisticated social media operation across the most popular services.
The strategy is helping BT improve its reputation for customer service, and producing a clear return on investment for the business, according to Warren Buckley, managing director for customer services at the telco.
Like BT, investment bank Investec has technology in place to measure sentiment on the internet by picking up any mentions of the bank in social media, mainly for marketing purposes.
The other technology piece is a granular firewall to limit social media activities based on the user’s role in the organisation.
Manage social media with policies and technology
The most important part of Investec’s social media security strategy is awareness of its policies designed to ensure regulatory compliance and to prevent commercially sensitive information leaking.
The bank’s social media policycomprises just 10 bullet points that make it clear to staff what their obligations are every time they publish something online.
“There is no way organisations can hold back the flow of social media, so it is better to put policies and technologies in place to manage it,” says David Cripps, information security officer at Investec.
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