Sunday, July 18, 2010

Social Networking and Company Policies

The above link will tell you a story like:

Infosys is likely to introduce a new social media work policy effective next month to curb the leak of confidential company data on open forums like Facebook and Twitter. This will bar employees from venting their ire on colleagues and seniors on a public forum.


The Electronic Identity

Though it says the company is "likely" to introduce a new social media policy to control (or to be precise stop) its employees from discussing (divulging) company affairs into social networks, one easily loses his nerves upon hearing/reading such news. It's not a surprise for those who work in companies which already have such regulations. There have been some incidents (off course I do not have a valid evidence to give here) of issuing warnings to employees for discussing/posting some company affair/information on social networking communities. But for those who have been enjoying unquestioned speak outs it is not less than a shock. Even those, who do not work in this company, will not be able to stop themselves restraining from the thoughts that even their company might resort to such situations.

And why it should not happen? We are used to social networking and the candid environment we have in the web, a space where anyone can, not only post his thoughts but actually himself!. In other words we started "living" in these social networks, pouring in our complete personalities and our souls, gradually forming an electronic identity of ourselves. This was easy enough to happen because people get their space here, any time without being called to do so, and they get heard or read and get responses from people who are quite alike, and that too from a wide and obviously intelligent and intuitive audience, which contribute to the topic of discussion in a constructive and objective manner, to conclude something really concrete and fruitful. This helped many people have a productive insight into themselves, to evolve into better and better personalities. Before social networking and blogging, very few blessed people used to do it, and now almost everyone (who use internet) has this "electronic identity" on the www and those who are getting used to internet recently are more keen to have a orkut/twitter/facebook profile before they even have an email id! We have started judging people by his blog or by orkut profile, by number of friends and fans he has and the way he responds to discussion topics, without having seen the person! (On a rudimentary note, many also find it more "secure", because you won't get hit by someone for what you are writing! I pray in Her Lotus Feet that may our parliament and assembly sessions be run on blogs and social networks J )

So no doubt, we have our electronic identity on these social networks already.

Company Policies

I am not going to write something condemning on the decision of Infosys. For two reasons, one because I don't go the same way as many do and second is that many have already done that. (visit the link above to witness the same and how this discussion has evolved into a "war of words" between current and past employees!)

We all know that companies are always conservative about "information". Though practically conservation of the information within the boundaries of the company is next to impossible, we all sign a "non disclosure" agreement on the day of joining. After this we always go through an induction program, where in we are told the same old policy of "Information Conservation", we are taught how to classify information and how to conserve it accordingly and more importantly how to destroy the information which is not relevant. With the advent of social networking, a slide is also induced in this presentation to let us know that we should not divulge any "confidential information" of the company in the social networks or blogs.

As I said we need to classify the information before we treat it. Each company has its own way of classifying the information depending upon the type of information it processes. One highly important type of information is Confidential Information, something which can lead to a detrimental effect on the business of the company, if leaked to public. Upon this simple definition one can easily give examples to Confidential Information, like technical know-how, business strategies, market research information and everything that is used to run the company's business. It is off course the duty of every employee to protect such information. On rudimentary note here, having defined what is "Confidential Information", some employees who have a control over others tend to diverge this definition unofficially, to include some information which should be confidential for their own good (detrimental to them, if leaked to employees).

Employees are therefore educated enough to not disclose any such confidential information on social networking. (They are smart enough to do it in their next company and again not in www) Of all my browsing experience I have never came across anyone divulging any confidential information about his company. What they discuss is the way things happen in office, how they are treated, how the manager behaves with them, etc. even in technical discussions no one divulges any information which is regarded as confidential. And guys, this kind of information, leaks out any way to public, through employees any way! If a manager shouts at an employee or awards him with an appreciation, it will be known to people outside.

Then why are companies scared of this? How can they think of stealing the rights of an "electronic identity"?

Certainly it is nothing less than atrocity to do so. Before an employee we are individuals, and as individuals we are free to speak in public and on the web. When you can't stop people discussing company information in public, why stop them from being themselves on the web? Some even work on their laptops when they travel in public transport, attend telecom in public places and speaking on confidential information in a loud voice. Then why to create a policy to say shut up to employee's electronic identity? Just because you can find who did it?

Social Networking and Blogging

Having said that we are individuals before we are the employees, and we have the right to speak, we must never forget that a right always comes after a responsibility. Whatever we speak out on the web, we must do it responsibly, not because we must be accountable, but to achieve an objective which must be aimed at evolving ourselves and the society towards an ideal. Whatever we post, discuss, or reply must have something concrete which must give something concrete to anyone who reads your words on the web. While we are responsible enough to not disclose the confidential data or information of our company, why should we lose our integrity when we discuss something else?


Dedicated to Her Feet,

Gopal B Athani,

17th July 2010


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