Employers crack down on 'Facebook addicts'

A majority of a silicon.com jury of CIOs say they have already banned or restricted employee access to Facebook and similar Web sites due to their addictive qualities.

Employers are being forced to crack down on staff accessing social networking Web site Facebook at work because of the high levels of usage, security risks and the drain on corporate network bandwidth.

Two-thirds of silicon.com's 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel said they have banned or restricted employee access to Facebook and similar Web sites in the workplace.

Paul Broome, CTO at 192.com, said Facebook has been banned completely after it was discovered the add-on applications used by those on Facebook were taking 40 per cent of the company's available Internet connection.

The TUC trade union body this week urged employers not to overreact by banning Facebook in the workplace but Spencer Steel, IT manager at IT recruitment job Web site Informatiq Consulting, said his company was forced to put restrictions in place recently.

He said: "To a certain cross-section of our staff Facebook was more addictive than crack cocaine--and we had several 'users' who were in desperate need of a 12-step program. Now, you can get onto Facebook before and after our 'official hours' and during a flexible lunch window."

Steel said the next step will probably be to use filtering technology that allows restrictions to be set on how long an employee can spend on any one Web site in one day.

He added: "It's about being fair. No-one here wants to slave away in an environment where 'nothing but work' is allowed. Our limits are in place, however, to stop the temptation to log on during core working time. It's all irrelevant anyway, Facebook will die a death in the next 12 months and something new will be along to wow our fickle attention spans."

Another option some employers are looking at is to ban Facebook on the corporate network but provide some Internet access in communal staff areas for use on breaks and during lunchtime.

Sue Yeo, director of technology, information and facilities at payment industry body Apacs, said her organization automatically blocks access to any 'https' Web sites--which require a user to log in to access content, such as Facebook--because their content can't be virus-checked, which poses a security risk.

She said: "Instead, we provide staff with a number of completely free Internet stations in coffee areas, where they can access any site--Hotmail, Facebook, etc.--to do their personal stuff."

The Food Standards Agency is also currently reviewing its approach to social networking Web sites and Web mail from a security perspective.

Neil Harvey, head of IT and accommodation at the FSA, said: "The likelihood is that we'll go more restrictive rather than less. But if we do move to tighten things up on the corporate side, we'll probably also look to provide a slightly increased number of isolated Internet connected machines outside of the corporate network to meet our users part of the way."

But Ben Booth, global CTO at research company Ipsos, said while his organization prevents staff accessing gambling and pornography Web sites and video streaming, Facebook does not fall into that category.

He said: "Our view is that Facebook, and other social uses of the Web, are legitimate in moderation and specifically out of core working hours. But their control is properly achieved by management, not by IT restrictions."

Today's CIO Jury was…

Ian Auger, head of IT and communications, ITN
Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
Ben Booth, global CTO, Ipsos
Paul Broome, CTO at 192.com
Michael Elliot, IT director, Hasbro UK
Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
Neil Harvey, head of IT and accommodation, Food Standards Agency
Alan Shrimpton, IT director, Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Spencer Steel, IT manager, Informatiq Consulting
Rob Wharton, CIO, Colt Telecoms
Steve Williams, head of ICT, Sunderland City Council
Sue Yeo, director of technology, information and facilities, Apacs

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