Survey: 71% of IT departments block users from social networking

Survey: 71% of IT departments block users from social networking

Summary: The American Management Association has estimated that about half of all U.S. employers have policies restricting workers from visiting social networking sites. A new TechRepublic poll conducted during the first half of July indicates that the number is even higher.

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The American Management Association has estimated that about half of all U.S. employers have policies restricting workers from visiting social networking sites. A new TechRepublic poll conducted during the first half of July indicates that the number is even higher, as 71% of respondents said that their companies were blocking social networking sites.

Since the TechRepublic audience consists primarily of IT professionals, this poll reflect mostly enterprises and SMBs large enough to hire an IT specialist.

This issue is becoming a growing source of tension between IT and users, especially new college grads who are entering the workplace and expecting to use sites like Facebook to network and connect with people, but are being blocked. The Associated Press shed light on this issue in its recent piece Young workers push employers for wider Web access.

Also, a policy that is too stringent can actually inhibit users from doing their jobs, including IT workers. TechRepublic member Juanita Marquez explained how her company's policy has caused her problems:

All but LinkedIn are blocked - and that is only allowed because the company owners use it. The blocking at my company is so draconian in order to keep the assistants from surfing, playing games, reading blogs, streaming videos or music ... that I have difficulty finding job-related, pertinent IT information on blogs for fixes I need ... In one case, I'd posted some technical humor to our IT newsletter only to find the next month that the site for the article had been blocked! And then there was the time I was completing an IT survey and all went well until the final page, which was blocked.

Some companies have different standards for different classes of employees. TechRepublic member david.valdez reported, "Social networking (myspace, facebook, etc.) is blocked generally, but then there is the class of employee (owner, GM, IT) where we only bock adults sites, hate sites, and gambling, and not always the latter, even. I've tried to convince management that MBWA (management by walking around) is far better and more useful than tech, but that's a whole different discussion."

TechRepublic member egermain argued that the rationale of blocking social networking to boost employee productivity is flawed. "People do not suddenly become more productive when they lose access to a social networking site," he wrote. "Employees wasting time online is the fruit of the issue, not the problem itself. An unmotivated employee will find another way to waste time. Security is a good reason to use controls. Productivity management is not."

Part of the answer might be smarter software. Companies such as Palo Alto Networks are now making firewalls and filtering appliances that give IT much more granular control. For example, a company can allow users to go to Facebook or Flickr but prevent them from uploading files, in order to protect company data.

To read more of the comments and responses to this issue from TechRepublic members, go to the discussion thread from the original poll.

Topics: Social Enterprise, CXO, Collaboration, Networking

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14 comments
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  • Block it......

    Most jobs don't require Facebook or Myspace access, so why open it. Myspace especially since it is a huge security risk. Facebook is much safer, but is not really necessary for your job in most cases. People just can't grasp the idea that the work computer is the work computer and the company should do with them as they please. You don't like it find another job and move on. Open your own business and let your employees access it and be the cool guy. Until then shut up.
    OhTheHumanity
  • It's Time...

    ...for corporate America to wake up and smell the coffee! We are not in the 60's and 70's anymore. Not only should companies not block these services, they should also incorporate them into the business process and culture. Additionally, there should be options for employees to work from home which is a perfect fit for the implementation these social services. Just think of the overhead costs that would be reduced as a result!
    tonyhunterajh
    • What?

      Not sure you speak for every company. Where I work there would be no business sense at all. If a business wants to get on the social services it can hire an individual to manage their profile and such. not sure how opening your profile so you can converse with your friends is business logical at all? Here and there, there is a purpose but for a company to open it up for the sake of saying this is not the 60's or 70's really doesn't make the grade, nor does saying it serves a business purpose without an example make much sense either.

      No one used it as you say here at my company before we blocked it and since we have its been business as usual and actually productivity gains and less security risks. Myspace is more or less a trojan horse website with all the user content that loads on each page. Oh nice background, but it leads to a drive-by site, how nice. Its like those ad networks that load malware on legit sites and to me your buddy time is not worth risking company data.
      OhTheHumanity
  • RE: Survey: 71% of IT departments block users from social networking

    Its work time not play time, I see no reason to allow access to such places. name one good reason to allow facebook in the work place!!!

    SkipTindle
  • I think they may be looking at this the wrong way.

    Some times company hire many unmotivated employees to do easy jobs just so they can ensure customer service is provided.

    When sally doesnt answer her phone because she is busy typing an update into a social networking site or browsing myspace rather than typing in information the caller is telling them.. its a problem.

    Yes, maybe managers should get off their rear and actually watch employees... but it cant be a full time job.. they also have work do to. Truthfully, anyone holding them back from working.. should be fired.. but not all companies are kosher with this. This is why its easier to block access to sites.

    We do block access to sites and we provide special people with bypass passwords so they can bypass the filter at will. It also allows us to track them when they are logged in unabated.
    Been_Done_Before
  • RE: Survey: 71% of IT departments block users from social networking

    The sort of people who want to visit MySpace are the same sort who will happily waste an hour or two playing solitaire (no internet connection required).

    Any organization that wants to keep it's employees away from 'certain sites' should use OpenDNS's (http://www.opendns.com) free service. I use it to keep my kids away from adult-themed sites, but it works great for other categories too (such as social networking).

    I think it's herding cats anyway - I'd rather trust my employees but make it clear that abuse will not be tolerated. In my experience, it's the people who impose the rules (eg Sysadmins) that are the worst offenders. :')
    DumbTube
  • Ours hasn't blocked Zdnet yet

    but maybe they should have blocked Facebook a few weeks back, just to have saved to our users from whatever they're visits there spawned. As long as the work getting down, and its 'hard' for them to filter workers from students, and it's not out of control, it's more department level dealt with than broad strokes.
    Boot_Agnostic
  • RE: Survey: 71% of IT departments block users from social networking

    I work for a bank in their IT department. We block Facebook and Myspace because so many users were going to these sites that it practically killed our internet connection due to the large amount of bandwidth required for 100 or so users to play games or post pictures on their "personal" networking pages. Social networking has its place but not in the work place if it isn't specifically tailored to your work environment. We allow LinkedIn for just that reason. You have to consider all of the possible reasons for IT to block something before jumping their cases for doing their job.
    rallyracer_24
  • RE: Survey: 71% of IT departments block users from social networking

    A couple of thoughts come to mind. First, the company with the inconsistent standards (one set of rules for the workers and a different set for management) is just begging for a lawsuit the first time they try to fire someone for violating the policy. And even without the legal risk, I can't think of a better way to stir up animosity than to have double standards.

    More importantly, idea that blocking certain sites will somehow stop mediocre employees from finding ways to waste time is just ludicrous. Long-term studies of aggregate productivity and effort show that new technologies have little effect on the number of hours that workers put in. Lazy people were unproductive long before the internet. Technology can do many things but it can't replace a manager's obligation to his/her job - to get up, know what your people are doing and set and enforce standards.

    The good employees, on the other hand, find new uses for new technologies and build skills that they bring back to the office. Not only do they twitter or blog personally, they discover ways to use those tools to reach customers in new ways and to improve the business. And they still get their regular work done. Throwing that away on the fool's errand of blocking for "productivity" doesn't make sense.
    Rossami
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