Social networking and the use of these tools that enable it (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, et al) have been a frequent topic of posts and white papers by me on this site and over at SummaLogic. If you’ve read any of my thoughts on this subject you will see that (1) I am an advocate of this new model of social interaction; (2) I believe that employers should encourage and enable their employees to use the same tool as their customers, suppliers and partners; (3) social networking, just like any other corporate tool or resource needs to be managed; (4) employees must be aware of the risks and possible actions associated with brand damage from improper use of social networking tools; (5) the way to mitigate this problem is through active participation by employees in the development of a meaningful social networking policy.
I recently was asked about a new service from Teneros called “Social Sentry”. Basically, what this software as a service (SaaS) offering does is monitor your employees’ social networking activity. Not just their activity related to conducting your company’s business – but ALL their social networking activity. To me, this steps outside the bounds of enforcing corporate policy.
I’m the first to highlight the importance of brand protection, so I don’t think monitoring for situations that put your brand at risk is out of the question. But to do it on an employee by employee basis by injecting sniffing technology into their personal communications seems way too intrusive on their rights to personal privacy. Granted, I believe that by voluntarily engaging in social networking (or just using the internet in general) you by default give up most of your rights to privacy in the digital age – but for someone, especially my employer, to probe my personal communications seems a bit too much.
It’s hard to tell from the Social Sentry literature how the service actually detects brand risk situations. However, it does go so far as to say that it monitors communications from different devices (e.g., mobile) and detects “aliases” of personal identifiers. If Social Sentry is simply scanning for keywords related to a company’s brand and then highlighting those communications, well… maybe that’s not too bad. But the question is, how much information is Social Sentry saving about me? All my communications? Hmmm… That’s what it seems like from their literature. And what really surprised me is that Social Sentry even monitors my job search activities. Wow… employees beware…
Social networking is the elephant in the room. It’s here, you can’t move around without bumping into it, and it has the potential to mess up your living room. But tracking its every move seems to be a pretty extreme approach. Why not try showing it how to behave in the room – and then give it some trust?