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New Software For Employers To Monitor Facebook 342

Posted by Soulskill
from the poke-with-care dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The NY Times reports that a new service called Social Sentry has been released to monitor employees' Facebook and Twitter accounts for $2 to $8 per employee. The service also plans to support MySpace, YouTube and LinkedIn by this summer. 'Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a research and advocacy group, called the automatic monitoring of social networking a "disaster," and predicted that it would lead to people being fired for online griping, the airing of political views and other innocuous conversation. There is a tendency to react to an off-color joke or complaint that appears online more harshly than to the same comment made in a cafeteria or company picnic.'"
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New Software For Employers To Monitor Facebook

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:48PM (#31660476)

    1. Don't use Facebook on company computers
    2. Keep your profile private
    3. Don't post work related topics on other user's profiles (they may not be private)

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:52PM (#31660536) Journal
      1. Yes
      2. Yes.
      3. Yeah, too bad non-work-related posts may be damaging as well. Your personal, non-work opinions and writings can get you into trouble at work, whether that's fair or not.
      • For #3, you have to trust your friends; what if one of friends is a coworker and shows stuff to your boss, etc... So #1 is the best bet. Or completely separate work-facebook from home-facebook (don't add anyone connected to your work to your home-facebook account). Wow that's just too much work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drachenstern (160456)

      No, the way this would work is that they monitor ALL your usage and so you get screwed when you're not at work and are griping.

      Nothing to do with being at work and using the services.

    • Hardly enough. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:06PM (#31660752)

      That's hardly enough. Suppose you're an American who holds Democratic views. Your superiors happen to be hardcore Republicans (the fucking crazy kind).

      They're monitoring your social media profiles, and see that you've joined Facebook groups supporting health care reform, joined some groups opposing the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, you've made some comments suggesting you think it's fine for homosexuals to marry and adopt children, and you once twittered a pro-abortion news article link.

      Now, they wouldn't have known this about you otherwise. But now they do know. Even if they don't fire you outright, they'll treat you differently, for sure. Maybe they won't trust you. Maybe they won't give you tasks that would allow you to further your career. After all, they probably don't like you any more, just because some political views you expressed differ from theirs.

      All that can happen without you using your account at work, without you discussing work-related matters, and even if you keep your profile "private" (which for Facebook these days seems to mean it's open to just about anyone...).

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by einhverfr (238914)

        Simpler solution:

        1) Don't work for assholes.....

      • by Hatta (162192)

        The problem here isn't Facebook. It's the farce of "at-will" employment. You're not really free when expressing your political opinions outside of work could cause you to lose your job.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shakrai (717556)

          It's the farce of "at-will" employment. You're not really free when expressing your political opinions outside of work could cause you to lose your job.

          So what do you purpose to replace "at-will" employment?

          You're not really free when expressing your political opinions outside of work could cause you to lose your job.

          So if you found out one of your employees was a member of the KKK, you'd keep him on the payroll?

      • by einhverfr (238914)

        BTW, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the worker in this scenario. I have run into one employer once (and not at a job interview fortunately) who expected all employees to have a specific political ideology. If I was seeking a job and such came up, I would be very clear that my political views were my own and that no employer had a right to tell control them.

        I have run into subtle pressure. For example, when I worked at Microsoft a lot of my co-workers opposed Maria Cantwell just because she came from

    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:09PM (#31660808) Homepage Journal

      4) Have two names, one for work and one for home.

      (I learned this the hard way, since people called Archimedius Thrublepants-Kopovski aren't exactly common).

    • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:21PM (#31660972)

      1. Don't use Facebook

      Why did you type all that extra text when you had the perfect solution from the beginning?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Culture20 (968837)

        1. Don't use Facebook

        Why did you type all that extra text when you had the perfect solution from the beginning?

        Because if you don't use Facebook, Bob will for you. You know Bob, the weasel who's looking at the same promotion you are? Yeah, that Bob. A profile picture of you from either linkedin or the company website, then add some pictures from Girls Gone Wild, etc. None of the ggw ones have to show you, just show that you hang around with a wild crowd. Then some photos of a KKK meeting, and "fan of Grand Wizard Cletus" for good measure. You might not get fired, but you're not getting promoted.

        • by mlts (1038732) * on Monday March 29, 2010 @04:34PM (#31661860)

          Even without someone posting slanderous FB profiles, I have had a large number of HR people ask me in job interviews about my Twitter/FB/MySpace accounts. In the past, when I told them that I didn't have one, I got looked at like I was completely insane. One interview actually got ended when the interviewer told me that I was a fossil and too behind the times to be part of their company because I didn't have accounts.

          So I created some dummy accounts. These days, I do use FB because it is a good tool for events, but I don't bother with any other social networking site.

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:49PM (#31660478)

    Hey, people in the work place have to keep their mouths shut already about politics without Facebook.

    • by t33jster (1239616)

      Hey, people in the work place have to keep their mouths shut already about politics without Facebook.

      Maybe so (depending on where you work and what type of assholes you work for), but you can speak openly about your opinions at home or in a public place (even if your coworkers are there). The problem here is that it doesn't matter where you are when you post your rants, there's a possibility that your employer has subscribed to some service that will trawl the internets for your posts, similar to a pre-employment google search (which the last time we discussed it on /. we all agreed is bad too).

    • The difference is this would be people getting in trouble for airing their views on Facebook from home. Do you think just because someone is employed means that they should talk about their views ever? If their employer tells them not to talk about it at work, fine, but the employer shouldn't be monitoring their online presence for the same things.
  • Good thing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:49PM (#31660498)

    I've never used any of those services. Everyone told me I needed to take my tinfoil hat off when I told them that this would eventually happen.

  • I'm outraged that slashdot.org monitoring is being left out of this! We must petition this company to include /. in the monitoring! That way we can feel safe in the knowledge that we must all bow down to our-Facebook-Myspace-LinkedIn-Twitter-/.-monitoring Overlords
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:51PM (#31660512) Homepage Journal

    In particular it seems that this service is monitoring publicly available posts and also flagging how many of them happen during work hours. Considering employers are likely within their rights to monitor when their networks are used to make private posts, this doesn't really seem so bad.

    It might serve as a wake-up call to people who share too much publicly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vux984 (928602)

      Considering employers are likely within their rights to monitor when their networks are used to make private posts, this doesn't really seem so bad.

      Given how many of us own personal laptops, personal smart phones, and have personal wireless data plans, this doesn't really seem so bright either. I am also legally entitled to breaks from work.

      I'm actually all in favor of IT locking down and monitoring the corporate network to -protect the corporate network-. However, attempting to monitor or restrict the corp

    • by exhilaration (587191) on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:01PM (#31660676)
      It might serve as a wake-up call to people who share too much publicly.

      So I'm a software developer, in my early 30's, pretty tech-savy. It took me about 45 minutes (a long time, I think) digging around Facebook's privacy settings to properly hide everything. Not only do you have to go under "Privacy", but also "Application Settings" - would the average user know to do that? Apparently "Group" privacy settings are under applications??? Those settings are complicated And even now I can't hide 1) my friends list from the public 2) my pages from the public. So my point is it's hard to NOT share too much publicly with Facebook.

      • by six11 (579)

        And even once you've figured out how to make your Facebookery private (or approximately private), this doesn't address (1) things your friends say or pictures tagged as you, and (2) privacy changes Facebook makes in the future without warning.

        I am on Facebook but I take the view that absolutely everything I say might eventually be up for scrutiny. There's lots of rumors flying around about Zoidberg, Facebook's founder, and even if 10% of it is true, I think it is merely a matter of time until Facebook has b

        • Regarding (1), it's definitely possible to hide photos tagged of you from everyone except yourself. It took me a while to figure out how to do it, but that's my current setting.
      • by Culture20 (968837)

        So I'm a software developer, in my early 30's, pretty tech-savy. It took me about 45 minutes (a long time, I think) digging around Facebook's privacy settings to properly hide everything. Not only do you have to go under "Privacy", but also "Application Settings" - would the average user know to do that? Apparently "Group" privacy settings are under applications??? Those settings are complicated And even now I can't hide 1) my friends list from the public 2) my pages from the public. So my point is it's hard to NOT share too much publicly with Facebook.

        Aaaaand, that's only private from the general public. Even if you update Facebook only on your own time, with your own equipment, on your own network, there's a chance that your employer can see your full profile anyway... and your mom's profile, and your dog's profile. There have been posts on /. in the past from people who said that a P.I. license and a little money shoved to FB for a special "fraud detection" account will allow HR departments full access to anyone's profile pages and photo albums. I d

    • by e2d2 (115622)

      "Trust" - an ancient word meaning whale's vagina apparently.

    • In particular it seems that this service is monitoring publicly available posts and also flagging how many of them happen during work hours. Considering employers are likely within their rights to monitor when their networks are used to make private posts, this doesn't really seem so bad

      I know! I think the most ridiculous idea is that people are PAYING for this software! You get your IT guys to put some Open Source Linux variant on their routers that keep track of internet usage - and compare it with an IP-Table for those well known sites - and you'll know who is on Facebook when. If your company is larger than 10 people you probably have an "IT Department" and they should know how to handle all of that.

  • For only $1 to 7$ per seat I shall give you a 'web browser'.
  • FTFA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:53PM (#31660544) Journal

    "Social Sentry draws only on publicly posted information on Facebook and Twitter;"

    Talk about a cash cow. Trolling public information that may or may not be your employee is risky (duplicate names). Perhaps this will remind folks that use social networks to set their security settings up is a good thing.

    • by grahamsz (150076)

      I'm not sure how that would work, but finding the right person seems tricky.

      I'm the #1 hit for my name on google, yet when searching with site:facebook.com i'm not on the first few pages. Even attaching various cities i've lived in doesn't make that any better. I'm not even sure how they'd do that, short of requiring the employer to provide a list of pages to monitor.

    • by Goffee71 (628501)
      Phew, my 1994-era usenet postings to alt.pave.the.earth and redhaired.reds.both.in.and.under.the.bed will remain safe.
  • I would like to know (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tist (1086039)
    As an employer, I would be quite happy to know how much time is being wasted by employees on social networking sites. Of course keeping up with current events (Suff that matters) would not be included. The comments my employees make are public and I have the same right to see them as anyone. In addition, the time and resources they spend on personal items while getting paid by me is no less than stealing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hire better people. If you have to be concerned about this you need 1) a good web filter or 2) a new job because you can't manage.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SirGarlon (845873)

      the time and resources they spend on personal items while getting paid by me is no less than stealing

      If they're assembly-line workers, then probably yes. If they fall in the "knowledge" category, then I disagree in principle. To expect a human to mentally function at top efficiency without breaks and diversions is not reasonable. So, if you are the kind of employer who has hourly-wage employees with scheduled breaks, then you have a right to complain if your workers are slacking off on the clock. If no

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >the time and resources they spend on personal items while getting paid by me is no less than stealing.

      On the other hand, you like to steal your employees' time by not paying them overtime?

  • by fprefect (14608) on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:58PM (#31660624)

    "There is a tendency to react to an off-color joke or complaint that appears online more harshly than to the same comment made in a cafeteria or company picnic"

    Of course, because such as comment isn't a one-off thing in close company, but posted for everyone to see until it is removed -- rather like a sign hung from the break-room bulletin board.

  • Set up Facebook privacy so only friends can see your stuff. Crisis averted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mlts (1038732) *

      Even better, set your defaults so only a particular group can see what you put on your wall and other things. Then add all your friends (true friends) to that group. This way, if you add someone to friends as a diplomatic move (some workplaces require being added to friends/followers as a condition of employment), by default they do not see your posts. Same with organization fan pages that one joins.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DeanFox (729620) *

      If requested MySpace/Facebook will grant employers with invisible type "friend" status to any of their employee's account. Employers can monitor their employees page without the user giving individual consent (general consent was given when accepting the user agreements) or knowing they have been friended by their employer. This is not a protection by itself. It could be for this particular service as they claim it only covers "public" information but it isn't if the employer asks directly.
    • by c_sd_m (995261)
      Until Facebook changes the privacy policy next week.
  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:59PM (#31660636)
    Prior to Facebook, social networking sites were pretty much utilized only by the "geeks" of society. Now, with Facebook, everyone and their mom and their grandma has a page. With this flood of people unaccustomed to "life on the internet", people are learning how to conduct themselves on social networking sites all over again. Not only are the non-geeks learning how all this techno-babble works - geeks are also learning how the new social networking environment works. For example, prior to Facebook, on other sites (LiveJournal, for example), my contacts understood that what I said there was to remain there. They were virtual conversations with my friends. Now, however, I'm realizing that the people I have on Facebook do not have that innate understanding of "how it works." Things I say on Facebook, just as a venue to vent, become an issue. I'm being forced to re-evaluate how a social networking site "works" because of all the people who are now using it who just don't understand how it _should_ work.

    All of this is to say that it's a very dangerous time to be active on a social networking site. _YOU_ may understand how it all works. Your _FRIENDS_ may understand that you're just venting about a shitty day at work or whatever. Can you be certain your MOM or your BOSS similarly understands these things?...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Skyshadow (508) *
      Social media has a nasty learning curve when it comes to the workplace. This has always been the case in any forum where your electronic musings are available to anyone who cares to look, or even in areas where having some jerk forward a message to the wrong person.

      I remember back when I was an intern at SGI, there was a big hullabaloo over the "bad attitude" newsgroup -- this was a newsgroup set up with the idea that people who had a forum to bitch about the company would be overall happier workers. In c

      • Of course, that being SGI around 1999/2000, the people who got canned over BA were just a few months ahead of most of the rest of the company, but you take my meaning.

        So the inference we should draw is that any company that squanders effort on such misguided snooping is mere months away from going down the crapper? Good to know, good to know...

        • by Skyshadow (508) *

          In SGI's case, I'd say it's more like "Any company that realizes they can't sell $10k IRIX workstations anymore and decides to base their new business strategy on the moronic idea that they can sell $10k WinNT workstations instead is mere months from going down the crapper".

          Any company over a certain size will contain the useless sorts of twits who have nothing better to do then spend their time concentrating on what employees are posting on the internet -- it's a function of CYA mixed with boredom, stupidi

    • You have a skewed idea of how things are "supposed" to work. In _your_ mind, it may be supposed to work one way. But the whole idea of "social networking" is that it is PUBLIC. It is supposed to work however each user uses it. This also includes REPEATING what is read on one site on other sites.

      I'm sorry if it doesn't work the way _you_ intended to use it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      You seem to have forgotten MySpace.

      Lucky bastard!

  • by russotto (537200) on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:03PM (#31660702) Journal

    If we know which companies subscribe to the service, we have new additions to the list of companies to avoid working for.

  • Smart Employers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tpstigers (1075021) on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:09PM (#31660800)
    Smart employers don't give a crap whether their employees go to Facebook or MySpace or whatever, so long as the work gets done. Nitpicking over every minute is an idiot's response to an unproductive workplace.
  • you know, just like unix... very user friendly, but particular about its friends.

  • Sorry but by monitoring my face book account (I personally don't have any social site accounts) while I'm off work hours is nothing more the stalking me which last time I checked is against the law. Whats next you gonna pay someone to watch what I do in public off work hours to see if it violates your companies rules or your own beliefs? Now if its on work hours and your wasting a time on face boom then you got no one but yourself to blame for the consequences.
  • If your profile is public you deserve what you get.

    If the software includes falsifying information to 'friend' an employee, that should be a violation of Facebook's terms of use.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:29PM (#31661076)

    This is not just happening in the workplace. Some employers are actively watching their employee's social networking pages when they are outside the work environment!

    My girlfriend was recently given a series of "guidelines" in which was outlined, procedures for proper social network use. Amongst those outlined, the guidelines state she cannot speak negatively of her employer, and may not even speak of public information such as stock price of the company. It also goes so far as to say she cannot make politically or religiously opinionated posts, and she may not post such content anonymously,

    At the end of this document composed of "guidelines" (their term) is a signature and date field, followed by the threat of termination of these guidelines are not followed. Guidelines my ass, it's a contract to limit her free speech outside the work place.

    We're at a lost as to what to do. Thus far she's refused to sign the document, and has attempted to contact the ACLU and several other organizations. Nothing yet so far.

    • Wouldn't firing someone for a religiously-themed comment run the company into all sorts of problems? Let alone shutting down their expression in that arena. What if you belong to a church that believes in evangelism? You are essentially firing someone for their beliefs, not just expressing them.

      What you've described is highly problematic.

      Would you really want to fire someone for a political opinion on their own time?

      • Re:Firing Reason (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Phrogman (80473)

        What is to prevent them from merely listing the reason as "inadequate performance" or some other description?
        When you have a job, your employer has you by the short and curlies and can more or less dictate whatever the fuck they want - in one way or another - if you want to keep the job. Its not fair or right in any sense, but it is Capitalism in action. Only in cases of outright discrimination, or where the employer has been remarkably stupid, do you end up with any legal recourse if they violated the law.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday March 29, 2010 @05:13PM (#31662374) Journal
      If she is already employed, follow these steps:

      * Ignore it. If people ask her, tell them, "oh yeah, I'll get right on that." Often in large bureaucracies weird requirements come up, but no one actually cares about them so they go away if you ignore them.
      * Incidental to that, don't be emotional. If you passionately object, suddenly people will start to take a personal interest in you, and then it gets harder to ignore. Bureaucratic nonsense is never worth getting emotional about.
      * If that doesn't work, and someone comes to you and insists that you do it, give them a task to distract them. Say, "Have you checked with the legal department about it? Can you do so please and tell me what they say?" If you are lucky, it will seem like too much work for them and they will give up.
      * If that doesn't work, try amending the contract with a pen. Cross out every part you don't agree to. Or, my preference, add a line that says, "I don't actually agree to this." Write it in cursive and if you are lucky, the corporate drone will decide, "good enough" because in reality, they are just trying to fulfill the stupid requirements someone gave them.
      * If that doesn't work, try to talk to a supervisor. Try to escalate it to the person who actually created the policy (since they are the ones who understand the reasoning behind the policy). Once again, don't be emotional, and be respectful. Try to understand their position. You can also try escalating to the person above them.
      * If that doesn't work, just refuse. In this case, they can't really fire you, because it's illegal. Once again, try not to be emotional, and be respectful, because otherwise it will be easy for them to make your job annoying in other ways. It's harder if you are respectful.
      * It's extreme, but there is always the option to quit.

      THAT is how you deal with bureaucracies.
  • by hey (83763)

    Use your laptop at work and an ssh tunnel to your home sever. Then browse the net.

    • by comm2k (961394)
      Er... and hope your employee thinks that at 9am you were at home posting to Facebook and not sitting at your desk?!?
  • 1) Why would you use your Real Life name on an Internet social forum?

    2) Why in the Nine Hells would you tell your boss your Internet nickname on said social forum??

    • 1) Why would you use your Real Life name on an Internet social forum?

      Because part of the idea of that social network is so those people you knew 30 years ago can find you.

  • Hey, can I get this company to hire a private detective to follow my employees around all day? How much would that cost?

    I just want to know what they're saying about my company in their off time, and find out whether anyone is sharing sensitive company information. There's no problem with that, right?

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