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Social networking sites will lead to more snooping on workers

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April 18, 2006

Social networking sites will lead to more snooping on workers

Stephen Baker

Visible Path has raised $17 million in venture funding. The idea is that they'll help corporations understand the social networks within companies, leading to better connections with suppliers and vendors. But once corporations have in place a tool to study the e-mail, chat, cell-phone and other communication patterns within their enterprise, they'll use it for a lot more than just honing sales efforts. University researchers are analyzing social networks to figure out who's productive, who's a malcontent, even who is organizing a cabal against current leadership. When companies and governments get the details on our communication networks, they'll learn a lot about us. What's the saying? Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you about you.

06:30 AM

research, society

I think the most likely result of this will be more and more employees finding ways to work outside of the organization's network.

What Visible Path seems to lack, is an opt-in aspect. The strength of social networks is that though they make individuals more available and accessible, they are still based on an opt-in principle. From MySpace to Friendster to Facebook, individuals are able to put some level of limitation on who sees what and who they interact with. The same applies to enterprise social bookmarking platforms like dogear and Cogenz.

In my humble opinion the best approach is to give employees the tools and the choice of how to use them. It is the job of corporate communicators to convince employees that using social media can make their job easier and make them more successful. However, in the end you can't force relationships, just like you can't create authenticity and you can't manufacturer conversations. Social media makes connections easier, but it is the people who make them meaningful.

Posted by: Jeffrey Treem at April 18, 2006 11:34 PM

Hi Steve!

Good for you, pointing out the potentially dark social side of new technology! No pullin' the wool over YOUR eyes!

Posted by: Marsha Johnston at April 19, 2006 04:21 AM

A corporation is simply one kind of social network. Instead of joining Friendster or MySpace, people (typically employees) can join XYZ Corp.'s network, powered by Visible Path. With Visible Path, individuals opt in to their company's network, they control what is scanned, and they control who can see their relationships (and who drops their name to get and "in"). The "top down" approach didn't work for CRM, and it won't work for social networks. Privacy matters when it comes to relationships, and any company that is successful with social network technology already gets that.

Posted by: Lynda Radosevich at April 19, 2006 04:46 PM

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