How Facebook mucks up office life

Managing a workforce is already a challenging job; now Facebook and other social networks raise a host of sticky new situations.

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Given that uncertainty, managers are best off not "friending" current work colleagues, and definitely not subordinates, says Lynette Fallon, Executive VP HR/Legal at Axcelis Technologies, Inc. "You should tell your co-workers that it's nothing personal, it's just your policy not to mix friends on Facebook," she advises.

Beyond that, managers with active Facebook subordinates should at the very least encourage them to keep co-workers and outside friends on two different Friend Lists.

Facebook's apps and photos can leave you vulnerable

Even if you and your employees are careful not to share sensitive information in wall posts and status updates, it's still easy to inadvertently spill the beans. The Internet is chock-a-block with applications that bring data into Facebook from outside sources -- again, often without the user's realization.

As just one example, "There's a way to capture Delicious bookmarks to Facebook so that everything you bookmark gets posted to your feed," says Selvas.

If your research team is using Delicious to bookmark source pages and haven't checked their privacy settings, their work may be getting propagated on Facebook, giving friends and potentially competitors alike a pretty good idea of what your company's next big idea is going to be.

That goes for individuals too -- if you bookmarked several articles about becoming an IT consultant, that information should be for your eyes only, not all your work colleagues on Facebook.

Other applications display the books you're reading, the movies you just bought tickets to, and the stations you just set up on Pandora.

All this information is time-stamped when it's displayed. Even if you don't mind your boss knowing you bought tickets to I Love You, Man, do you really want her knowing you bought them while you were on the clock? If you're working on a non-company project on company time, same problem. Unless you -- or your co-workers -- know to turn on the controls, all your Facebook friends can see what you were really doing during that endless conference call.

Another concern, Selvas says, is the Facebook tool for tagging people who appear in posted photographs: what if someone tags your photo among the attendees at a conference, he asks, where your presence implies something about ventures your company might be considering or jobs you might personally be angling for? You can remove the tag yourself, but only after he fact. While you can protect yourself beforehand by using Facebook's privacy settings to restrict who gets to see photos you're tagged in, even an untagged photo of you can still cause problems if your face is recognizable.

Facebook warning screen
Be wary of Facebook applications, which can gain access to your profile information, photos, friends' information and other data.

A further issue is the fact Facebook applications gain access to -- as the warning screen tells you -- "your profile information, photos, your friends' info, and other content that it requires to work," whether they need it or not.

In 2007, Adrienne Porter Felt, then a computer science student at the University of Virginia and now a student at U.C. Berkeley, and David Evans, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Virginia, did a survey of the top 150 Facebook applications and found that "90.7% of applications are being given more privileges than they need" to perform their intended functions.

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