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Salesforce Uses Chatter To Monitor Employees 82

Posted by timothy
from the eavesdropping-on-their-own-eaves dept.
storagedude writes "At the launch of Chatter Mobile this week, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said he has been using the Facebook-like business service to monitor employee communications and identify a 'secret network' of employees who are influential in driving the business. Asked if employees felt like they were being spied on by Big Brother, Benioff replied, 'There are certain things appropriate in a business environment. We're not talking about a tea party, we're talking about how to get things fixed.' With 20,000 companies already using the three-month-old service, it is no doubt being put to similar use elsewhere. While Salesforce's use of Chatter to monitor employees appears to be legal, the issue underscores just how much social networks can be mined for information — even for things they weren't intended for."
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Salesforce Uses Chatter To Monitor Employees

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  • I think its BS... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cybrthng (22291) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:05PM (#33553510) Journal

    Privacy shouldn't be ignored just because you work for someone. I remember when peopled used to give a shit and ask you how you were doing or actually paid attention to your job performance. Now i can socially network someone out of a job as well and these corporations still don't get it. Nice

    • I read it as being able to see who truly adds something to the company as opposed to the BS'ers and the folks who take credit for others work.

      And, I think this is wonderful for the shy folks who aren't very good at self promotion. I've seen too many times the big talkers gets ahead while the person that has the actual imagination and talent get left behind because no one noticed them - they're just not the type of people who "toot their own horn" and they're humble.

      • by SeaFox (739806)

        I've seen too many times the big talkers gets ahead while the person that has the actual imagination and talent get left behind because no one noticed them - they're just not the type of people who "toot their own horn" and they're humble.

        Aren't the type of people who BS and steal others' credit the ones that tend to end up in management positions anyway? This simply puts them in a position to be the "big brother" that monitors everyone else. I'm sure they will be looking out for threats to their own corpor

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        Do you not think that people will game this service for their own advantage?
      • Also, this is the information that traditionally communications consultants spend hours gathering through interviews and focus groups.

    • by startled (144833) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:37PM (#33553696)

      Privacy: You've got a smartphone. I've got a smartphone. Everybody's got a smartphone. Seriously, if your employer feels at all hostile or big brother, can't you do you personal email, FB, Twitter, etc. on your phone?

      Chatter: it's a corporate communication service. It's a given that your company is monitoring it. Hell, that's the half the point of using it. So the complaint here is that Salesforce is using yet another half-assed metric to evaluate employee performance? It can't be worse than a dozen other "measures" of employee performance I've seen over the years. Hell, maybe it's better.

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        Privacy: You've got a smartphone. I've got a smartphone. Everybody's got a smartphone.

        Just no? Also, smartphones are far more likely to be of company issue then normal ones. And mind you, the normal feature phones outnumber smart phones at ration of 5:1 at least, and in many countries 10:1+.

        • by Sepodati (746220)

          It's really irrelevant. The company is monitoring use of an internal collaboration tool, so there are no privacy concerns.

          John

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by WCguru42 (1268530)

        Privacy: You've got a smartphone. I've got a smartphone. Everybody's got a smartphone. Seriously, if your employer feels at all hostile or big brother, can't you do you personal email, FB, Twitter, etc. on your phone?

        This. Just this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sepodati (746220)

      There's no privacy issue here. The system in an internal collaboration tool. It shouldn't replace face time or evaluations, but like any other tool, it can be abused by employers and employees.

      John

    • Re:I think its BS... (Score:4, Informative)

      by ejdmoo (193585) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:10PM (#33554868)

      Has anyone actually looked at the product in question?

      Salesforce Chatter is like an internal Facebook. Everything is presumed to be "public" (internally public, that is). Unlike email in a company, there is no presumption of privacy here. No spying or anything.

      • by Lanboy (261506)

        THANK YOU. The tone of this article is ridiculous. Just imagine it is an internal company wiki without anonymous accounts. Would it be bad somehow to reward someone who performs his job well?

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I am a Salesforce employee, product manager in the platform area. The paranoia being displayed here is pretty amazing to me. Are you guys forgetting that we are the people who have designed and built Chatter to begin with? We use the app as a convenient way to talk to people with shared interests all across the company. I have found answers to my questions on Chatter from people I've never interacted with in the normal course of my job. I have also been able to help other people with problems who might not

      • For the record, not an anonymous coward, just a little lax about logging in. My nickname, BudVieira, is actually my real name.
  • Legal...but Creepy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:12PM (#33553534)

    It's no different than management or its agents showing up at the same theater you do or restaurant with the intent on listening to your conversations. Or maybe crashing a neighborhood party and asking your neighbors about you.

    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:22PM (#33553598)

      It's no different than management or its agents showing up at the same theater you do or restaurant with the intent on listening to your conversations. Or maybe crashing a neighborhood party and asking your neighbors about you.

      Only if they also own the theater or restaurant. Many people forget that the cell phone and computer and Internet the company pay for belong to them. If you want privacy, use your own computer, phone and Internet...

      • by sycodon (149926)

        Do you expect the waiter or theater owner to stand there by your table or sit next to you, listening?

        • by Aladrin (926209)

          When I start paying my employer for the privilege of working there, that analogy will be relevant.

          Until then, my employer pays ME and using the Chattr service (a service that comes only with a service they pay for) is done on company time. Always. I expect them to monitor phones calls and Chattr that are on company time.

      • by sycodon (149926)

        OK, bad analogy. I'll just go back to my original statement.

        It may be legal, but is creepy.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What I find creepy is that people have been conditioned to accept the "check all your rights at the door as soon as you walk into work" belief.

        Last time I checked, I was still a self-aware human being and not a mindless droid, programmed by some uncaring, faceless corporation. I do a job, they pay me for that job. I'm not sure why people get all hung up about little details like who said what to whom or who checked a personal website 1 minute before lunch break. Is the job getting done? That's all that matt

      • "If you want privacy, use your own computer, phone and Internet..."

        How can this be modded insightful? While I can understand adviceable being careful about the use of corporate resources so easy to spy on I really can't see how many people is ready to be forgetful about their bosses simply ignoring the basic right to privacy.

        What about installing cameras in the WC for everybody to see you shitting away? Hey, if you want privacy you come shitted from home!

      • with blackjack and hookers?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eil (82413)

      Well, it's a little different. When you're not at work, you have a legal right to not expect your employer to trail you around town. I'm pretty sure you could press harassment or stalking charges pretty easily.

      But this Chatter thing is being billed as "Facebook for business," which implies to me that if you're using this service in an official business capacity, you have no expectation of personal privacy. (And really, the same is true for Facebook itself, but for different reasons.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tomhudson (43916)
        It's just another example of Web 2.0 Anti-social Networking.

        They don't need to monitor communications to "see who closes cases." That info is already there in the database. It's a lie, and the guy is a liar.

        • by ad0n (1171681)
          Whether this guy is a liar is irrelevant. Running semantic or linguistic analysis against business communications could reveal all kinds of valuable insights. Privacy and ethics concerns aside, of course.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          From the sound of it, they aren't using it to "see who closes cases", but rather to see "who was the most involved in helping to get cases closed". Quite often a sales force will have the top tier sales people, junior sales people and a backing of office workers who prep documents, write contracts, manage problems, make appointments, clarify details etc etc. The sales people may close the deal, but who actually did the most work in getting that deal to the point where it can be closed?
          • by tomhudson (43916)
            If you need to snoop on people to figure that out, you should be fired, because you are NOT "managing" the work. How complicated is that? There's a reason good managers do walk-arounds, have an open-door policy, and generally do what they have to to stay "in the loop".
            • So what about this does not constitute managing the work? Its just another way of managing, whether you like it or not.
              • by tomhudson (43916)
                No, it's what people do when they can't manage. When they're so crappy at it that employees naturally don't want to discuss things with them, don't trust them, and at a gut level know they (management) don't give a f*** about them.
    • by arivanov (12034) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:45PM (#33553734) Homepage

      Not quite.

      What this did is to show puppeteers. Every enterprise (and not just in the business sense of this word) has a few of those - people who will never commit to anything face to face, who always work through others and most importantly who never ever carry the responsibility for the clusterf*** they orchestrate. They always use somebody else for cannon fodder.

      I am all for flushing this lot in the open. They are very bad for company morale. If you are driving decisions in an organisation you also must be responsible for them.

      Coming back to the "second gen social apps" - more and more of these will show puppeteers as a side effect. It is a natural result of the social graph being available for analysis. Yeah, it may be creepy, however that it is to be expected - it often takes a creepy method to bring the organisational creeps out in the open.

      • by Sepodati (746220) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:58PM (#33553788) Homepage

        This will just move the puppets to those that can exploit a social networking environment.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mickwd (196449)

        That's a very, very cynical point of view.

        There's also a lot of people who do a good job, but just don't shout about it. The kind of person everyone else goes to for advice. The kind of person who never makes a fuss, just get on with it. Maybe they don't have the wherewithall, or even the desire, to push themselves forward and say "hey, look what I did" all the time.

        Puppeteers?

        Not saying it never happens, but I think there are more deserving targets for your cynicism.

      • by klui (457783)
        While I don't have any direct experience, I have heard about someone like this from middle management. Maybe this Chatter will provide the stats to prove those individuals do that. People already know who they are but they are allowed to continue doing that because they have the ear of someone else who is higher up in the food chain.
      • First of all, as other people have put, they may be looking for the bad ones or the nice ones.

        Also, from my experience, if they find the "people who will never commit to anything face to face, who always work through others and most importantly who never ever carry the responsibility for the clusterf*** they orchestrate" then they will be immediately promoted to upper management. At least from what I see in my workplace.

    • by Zerth (26112)

      It's more like checking out who hangs together at the water cooler, and who seems to direct the flow of conversation.

    • by Teun (17872)
      Although the guy seems to use the data gained as a valuable metric for company decisions it is in all likelihood not auditable and thus suspect.

      And in case his is an internationally operating enterprise he better checks out what other jurisdictions feel about this type of information hoarding because most places are more careful protecting personal privacy than the USA.

    • by Lanboy (261506)

      Yes except the restaurant is paid for the company, an it is called "Place to talk about work and make suggestions and brainstorm publicly." And when they hear the conversations they give you a big raise.

  • by Alcoholist (160427) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:27PM (#33553640) Homepage

    Just saying. When did it become hip to spy on people when you can simply ask for their opinion? Isn't communication is what leadership is all about?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spazntwich (208070)

      Who says anyone's still interested in leadership? Why, leadership comes with responsibilities. Nowadays it's all about getting the privilege and avoiding responsibility at all costs.

    • by Sepodati (746220)

      This tool doesn't have to replace everything else. An adjustable wrench doesn't replace regular wrench sets in a mechanic's toolbox. Like any other tool, it can be abused by those that don't know how to use it though.

      John

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Its been around as long as there have been businesses.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Just saying. When did it become hip to spy on people when you can simply ask for their opinion? Isn't communication is what leadership is all about?

      Yes, that method is almost foolproof, because if you ask 100 salesmen who does the most work and contributes the most to the team, you're not going to get 100 different answers at all.

    • This is the point of the application. Holy crap, where does the spying come in. Posting on Chatter is like sending an email to everyone in the company, and everyone KNOWS this.

  • by baomike (143457) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:34PM (#33553674)

    http://www.economist.com/node/16910031?story_id=16910031 [economist.com]
    Mining social networks
    Untangling the social web
    Software: From retailing to counterterrorism, the ability to analyse social connections is proving increasingly useful

    It's still and interesting article.

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:35PM (#33553686)

    There's a shocker...a company monitoring employee use of one of its own products.

    Sure, it's a little creepy, but why would any of those employees NOT expect a company like Salesforce (remember, they're in the data mining business) to be looking at employee use of one of their own tools?

    Must be a slow news week.

    • by MadUndergrad (950779) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:39PM (#33555752)

      We use salesforce all day long and yet none of us at work use "chatter". It's almost as if it's a clunky, superfluous facebook-alike shoehorned into what's otherwise a good CRM system.

      Does anyone here on /. actually use chatter?

      • by slash.dt (701002)

        We use salesforce all day long and yet none of us at work use "chatter". It's almost as if it's a clunky, superfluous facebook-alike shoehorned into what's otherwise a good CRM system.

        Does anyone here on /. actually use chatter?

        First thing I did when it was enabled on my account was to find the settings to turn it off - have no desire to use it.

      • by nametaken (610866) *

        Chatter is lame. I couldn't convince a single one of our users to make use of it even if I wanted to.

        I sincerely doubt this "20,000 companies are using it" statement. That sounds like typical Benioff (he's a big mouth). Ok, so there are 20,000 companies with Chatter enabled. That doesn't mean people are actually using it. Maybe in some of those, one user logged in and tinkered with it for 5 minutes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by BruceCage (882117)

          A few years ago I was working for a consultancy agency where the employees were on the road a lot and I set-up a local private StatusNet installation (then Laconica) to enable them to more easily share "stuff" with each other (mostly sharing news and general thoughts). It was and still is a big hit. So, I can certainly believe people would be using Chatter.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          I sincerely doubt this "20,000 companies are using it" statement. That sounds like typical Benioff (he's a big mouth). Ok, so there are 20,000 companies with Chatter enabled. That doesn't mean people are actually using it. Maybe in some of those, one user logged in and tinkered with it for 5 minutes.

          Maybe you could share you valuable research in this field with salesforce.com, as I'm sure they've otherwise got no way of knowing what their customers are doing.

      • But it takes a certain number of people to start making it useful.

  • Now that you've identified them, how about rewarding them commensurate to the improvement that they've driven your business to?
  • This sounds no different than any ticketing/communication tracking software I have had to labor under in my time. The falicy of this type of system is that they can't make the data worth something in an automated fashion as the system does not have the smarts to actualy assign value to the communications. Any of these systems that rely on someone to read the messages and figure out what is actualy going on is doomed to failure either because of coruption or because those who will monitor the messages can no
  • Bollocks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ian.Waring (591380) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:45PM (#33554668) Homepage
    I was at Cloudforce 2010 London when Marc Benioff said this. You can hear the comment yourself - videos of the presentations are on YouTube. It was a comment that he could see some of the interactions solving customer problems, and he could see some patterns at who were consistently the people who sorted customer problems out well and often. No sophisticated analytics. No big brother. Just a CEO who gained the ability to know what is really happening in his company and who's doing good work. Kudos to him. He and his company seem to be doing a spectularly good job, and Chatter (a sorta Facebook UI for business use) will keep it ahead. Ian W.
    • While I admit there is a slippery slope here, this PARTICULAR instance of monitoring would be quite welcome by me. Where I work there is a core group of people who solve problems and act as a "safety net" for many others who collect paychecks and shuttle as much work as possible to that core group.

      I imagine every organization suffers the same malady. The ones who produce get ridden hard and put-way wet, earning neither recognition nor wage increases. Others attend meetings, send emails, and generally go t

  • by Nyder (754090) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:26PM (#33555606) Journal

    It's pretty simple.

    Consider everything that your company has you use, to be monitored.

    Your computer, your phone, your cubicle/office.
    Software they say you have to use.

    Sure, that's maybe a bit paranoid, but if you assume it, your less likely to do stupid crap on their equipment that can be trouble for you later.

    • No shit. If you don't assume that everything you do on company equipment is monitored, you're an ID10T. Hell, I'm in IT and I bring my own laptop and entartube connection for personal email/banking/chat even though I know we don't actively monitor any of that. The fact that we don't monitor it today doesn't mean we won't start tomorrow.

  • by cstacy (534252) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:18PM (#33557634)

    "underscores just how much social networks can be mined for information — even for things they weren't intended for."

    Just what did you think they were intended for?!?

  • Chatter is all about "company communication" anyway, its yet another "new" dog and pony product for managers and directors to push on employees so they can look progressive. In the meantime employees know well in advance that its just another "company" chore so they likely ignore it, half-ass it if forced to use it or make a bunch of shill posts if they are the company suck ups. Its no different than the suggestion box, intranet, etc....Nothing to get up in arms about, its near useless, but it makes middl

  • If you are the CEO of a company and there is an inner circle of influential employees driving your business and you do not know about them you are not doing your job as CEO.

    It is completely reasonable and often a good idea to have an inner circle of high-ability influential employees to drive your business (see, for example, Good to Great, J Collins [amazon.co.uk]). It is entirely incompetent of the CEO to not know who they are and not to be using them to build a successful enterprise.

  • So I was perusing this comment section because we use Salesforce at work. There are a lot of assumptions about what the service does and does not do. At a glance, Chatter is just: 1- Allowing users to post 'working thoughts', like commentary, against any Salesforce object. For example, in a 24/7 tech support operation leaving comments there to alert future tech reps working on this issue. This is totally redundant because there a usually private/public commentary section defined in the object. This servic
  • Are they spying on me if they read it and make judgments about my intelligence thereby?

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