Employers Are Freaking Out About Twitter and Facebook, Study Shows

There has been no shortage of anecdotal evidence suggesting that using social media like Facebook or Twitter can sometimes jeopardize your job.  Back in March, a Philadelphia Eagles employee lost his job when he posted a Facebook status update lamenting free agent Brian Dawkins' signing with the Denver Broncos.  Around the same time, a Twitter user jeopardized a job offer at Cisco by tweeting "Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work."  This summer, the D.C. Department of Employment Services fired a contractor who was working with city youth after he posted updates on Twitter calling the Anacostia neighborhood a "ghetto" and suggesting that he was slacking on the job.  A New York civil servant resigned in July after posting apparently racist comments to Facebook about President Obama and the Henry Louis Gates arrest.

My personal favorite comes recently from an image posted on Imgur.com:

Now comes some empirical data to back up our intuition that employee use of social media, blogs, and video-sharing sites gives employers the howling fantodsIn its annual study, Internet security firm Proofpoint Inc. reports that 45% of the companies surveyed (220 companies with more than 1000 employees) are "highly concerned" about the risk of information leakage via posts to social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, 10% have disciplined employees for violating social networking policies in the past year, and 8% have terminated an employee for a violation. According to Mashable, the latter figure is up from just 4% last year and represents "a serious crackdown by corporate America on tracking their employee’s online activities."

The study also shows that 41% of companies surveyed are highly concerned about information leaks through Twitter and similar short message services.  No figures are provided for Twitter-related discipline or firings in the past year.  Figures for blogs and message boards are similar to those for social networking sites: 46% of the companies surveyed are highly concerned about information leaks through these avenues, 17% disciplined employees for violating blog or message board policies in the past year, and 9% terminated an employee for a violation. 

If developments last week are any indication, there could be a whole lot more firings and other disciplinary actions coming down the pipe. High-profile ones too; just think of all the professional football players, U.S. Marines, and ESPN reporters

All the more reason to exercise a little common sense when posting to the Internet, especially when you're at work or when the subject matter of your post relates to your employment.

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