The risks of social networking

The risks associated with social networking sites are becoming a hot topic, but a recent incident demonstrates a new low for employer attitudes towards staff use of the Internet.

ENISA’s excellent report on social networks focussed on the longevity of profiles on the likes of Facebook, mySpace and Bebo, and the risks associated with data retention. Prospective employers are able to look at candidates’ profiles to get a better idea about whether to hire or not. Companies are (allegedly) losing money hand over fist because staff members spend their days doodling about on networking sites. But in the most depressing incident I’ve seen to date, an on-campus police officer in Florida is facing criminal prosecution because of his use of social networking. Why? Because one of the individuals on his list of friends had a link to adult content from their site.

Let’s make this clear: the officer didn’t link to that material himself. He had no reason to know that it could be accessed ‘in just three clicks’ from his site, but clearly the authorities expect him to police his friends as well as his students. Apparently the investigation has stalled, and with a stroke of luck the officer will have no case to answer, because otherwise anyone in a position of responsibility is going to have to exorcise every unsavoury character from their network of friends.

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