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Gartner: Social networking here to stay

Companies that have taken measures to block social networking tools may have to begin making provision for them in future, according to analyst.

Social networking applications may have got a bad rap in enterprises due to security scares, but according to a Gartner analyst, companies should begin building for these in the workplace because they are here to stay.

In fact, Andrew Walls, Gartner research director, said the research firm expects online environments such as social networks and virtual worlds to become "the base infrastructure for businesses and personal interaction in the future".

Moreover, companies should begin to think beyond merely allowing these tools to be used; Walls said in a statement, the "enormous potential for improved collaboration, customer interaction and information processing" can only be realized with appropriate security measures.

"Now is the time to build security tools and infrastructure that enable the organization to benefit from them," he said.

Security measures should be spelled out on the parts of both employees and IT management. While malware and spam issues can be caught with the appropriate software, employees need to exercise educated control in using the applications.

"Social software services currently provide very few user-controlled security features and do not provide users with complete control of the life cycle of uploaded data, for example, the ability to delete old information, and the establishment of user-defined access groups and multilayered profiles with varying levels of information presentation.”

Some measures Gartner recommended included companies monitoring and gaining familiarity with social environments. Companies should define policies for access and also implement education programs for staff so that they can protect themselves and the company.

The wild popularity of social networks is also causing employers to worry about how to contain the threat posed.

According to a recent report, social networking sites are also rising to become the key target for online fraud and identity theft.