August 22, 2007 7:04 AM PDT

Poll: Half of employers restrict Facebook

Half of businesses are restricting employees' access to social-networking site Facebook, due to concerns about productivity and security.

According to research by security company Sophos, 43 percent of workers polled said their employer blocks Facebook access completely.

A further 7 percent said access is restricted depending on whether it's required for a particular job.

"I think it's a growing concern for employers for a number of reasons," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The most pressing concern at the moment is one of productivity...Some people are spending an inordinate amount of time on nonwork-related Web sites."

Cluley added it is difficult to tell when people are using a social-networking site when they are sitting at a computer.

The issue of security was also raised by the Sophos research. In a separate poll by the company, 66 percent of workers said they are concerned about colleagues sharing information on Facebook.

Details such as employment history and mobile phone numbers have been found on the site and could be used for identity theft or to launch corporate phishing attacks, security experts warn.

Sophos research found that 41 percent of Facebook users are willing to divulge personal information to complete strangers.

Sophos last week released the results of a Facebook ID probe indicating that a relatively large percentage of people were willing to divulge e-mail addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers and other data to a stranger--a fake character created by Sophos, in this case--who requested "friend" status of 200 randomly selected Facebook members.

"Everyone's just sort of letting it all hang out online without thinking who might be watching," Cluley said.

Facebook noted that it provides users with the ability to hide personal information and "welcomes every opportunity to educate users about how to protect their data online."

Of the 50 percent of companies that allow access to Facebook, Cluley said, some view it as a valuable networking tool while others are nervous about the possibility of an employee backlash to a ban.

Tim Ferguson of Silicon.com reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
Graham Cluley, Sophos Plc., Facebook, employer, productivity

7 comments

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That's what my iPhone is for...
and now with iphone.facebook.com up, I rarely access facebook on anything other than the iPhone.
Posted by BOLListener (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is this news?
Is it news to anyone that employers are removing any
temptations for distractions while at work? When one is at work,
well... they're SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING!!
While I may not understand an outright ban of a site, I do
understand an employer's need to control any distrations while
at work. That is why there are policies that may limit or remove
personal phone calls, reading books while on the job, etc. One
is giving up their time and efforts to an employer in exchange
for pay, not to sit around and gossip with their friends or read
random thoughts of a bored housewife in the midwest.
I don't agree with some news sites writing stories that MySpace
and Facebook will be the "new e-mail" for Gen Yers. Social
networking sites won't be useful in the workplace UNTIL the
social networking sites are specific to a company. Even then,
that won't replace face-time with your boss. For now, be social
with your friends on YOUR time, not your employer's.
Posted by wsuschmitt (30 comments )
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Nor is it new!
No, this is NOT news! However, I am surprised that this particular report overlooked a recent study that tried to put a cost figure on Facebook usage. Since I reported this study on my own blog on Monday, after reading about it on my Reuters feed, I have to wonder why it escaped the author's attention:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://therehearsalstudio.blogspot.com/2007/08/in-enterprise.html" target="_newWindow">http://therehearsalstudio.blogspot.com/2007/08/in-enterprise.html</a>

It would be disappointed if the reason for discounting the study was that it was conducted in Australia!
Posted by ghostofitpast (199 comments )
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Alternatives to Facebook
While it is true that Facebook is beginning to be used more and more for legitimate business reasons, the fact remains that it is still mostly a site for social/personal use.

We block Facebook at my company for the same reasons cited in the poll: security and worker productivity. However, we actively encourage our users to avail themselves of LinkedIn, which is designed for business use.
Posted by devbost (82 comments )
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But why go to this extreme?
Why go to the extreme of blocking a web site? If employees are not productive, that would suggest they're not getting their job done. Are they, or are they not? If they?re not, then it does not matter what web site or what other problem might be the source, the issue ought to be handled with the employee. If they are, leave them alone: a happy work place will result in better performance overall and less turnover.

Blocking sites seems rather childish. Perhaps it's just a difference in the kinds of people I work with versus people working at these sites that feel compelled to block web sites. People do spend a fair amount of time browsing the Internet where I work, but they also work hard and more hours than the average person.

We live in a very strange place. Europeans enjoy lengthy vacations, with many countries allowing more than double the amount of vacation time than American companies. Worse, most Americans do not use all of the time given, due to the fact that there is too much work. Yet, companies feel that the occasional use of a web site is a significant problem?
Posted by paulej (1261 comments )
Link Flag
Not News and Not New
This isn't news or new. Most large corporations filter such sites and any other that they consider a security risk or a distraction. People go to work to work, yes, that is true, but you can't turn off that part of you that wants to socialize. It has to happen, it will happen, it's happening now. The trick is to have just enough of it so that you don't feel like some soul-less machine at a nameless corporation. That's why you'll find people reading the newspaper, talking in the cafeteria and calling up their moms while at work.
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
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