IM raises corporate trust issues

Instant messaging is increasingly being used in the workplace, but some companies are taking control of who is talking to whom

Instant messaging is gaining a corporate following in some workplaces, but issues still remain about privacy and accountability. A need for secure instant messaging with US counterparts led product development company Virtual Impact to develop a private instant messaging network, according to director Daniel Barnett. Later commercialised, Barnett said the idea with the product was to have an administrator within the company who had access into the chat network, to control the issue of staff simply using IM to chat to friends. Guests can be added, but it's the administrator who controls this feature not the individual users, Barnett said. "The application also has full archiving and recording tools so that any conversations are recordable and searchable," Barnett said, describing this as providing an element of accountability to the organisation. Barnett believes enterprises have concerns about public instant messaging programs, because of the lack of accountability over the network in the commercial environment. Security and who is able to chat to whom are other issues he cites. Uptake of IM within enterprises has been one of the fastest since email was rolled out in businesses, according to John Brand, senior programme director of electronic business strategies at industry analyst META Group. He sees security and privacy as issues corporates are tackling, as they go through what he calls a "soul searching period at the moment". Brand said there were ways of limiting usage of IM within organisations, such as firewall products and extensions to firewall architecture. "The bigger issue is one of being able to capture the conversations and being able to create an audit trail of that information," he said. "Now we're seeing companies putting very stringent rules in place about what can and can't be done," he said.

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