Social Media Monitoring: Dell's Daughter Over Shares, What Midsize Can Learn

By | Aug 20, 2012

Security teams for business executives seem to be moving beyond supplying physical security by delving more into the realm of social media monitoring, keeping tabs on what is socially shared and on the location-based data that may accompany it. This was evident when the 18-year-old daughter of Michael Dell inadvertently became the weak link in the billionaire CEO's security chain. She over shared the family's activities and whereabouts, posting on various social media sites and showing the potential security problems involving social media like Twitter and Instagram. Bloomberg Businessweek said that the young woman's Twitter account was ultimately shut down, though it isn't known if it was directly because of company security concerns. The article cited a Dell spokesperson as saying, "We don't make any comments regarding Mr. Dell's, or his family's, personal activities."

With the ease and near-instant ability to disseminate information, social media presents itself as both a unique platform to grow business contacts and customer loyalty, and, at the same time, a potentially difficult to control security hazard to the business. Even seemingly innocuous tweets about staying late to work on a proposal coupled with location-based tags could expose a company to the competition.

The takeaway for midsize business is that the notion of enterprise security extends beyond the reach of the office, but company policy often does not consider the social media activities of an employee let alone his or her family. It may seem like the solution is to simply monitor all employees' social media activities, but perhaps that is an ethical line that midsize business should not cross. The way for IT managers to handle this security issue is by way of employee education, policymaking, and transparency about any potential employee monitoring. Social media education is also not a one-time training issue but an ongoing thing; as companies continue to adopt new social technologies, IT must continue to remind employees to be wary about what is shared.

According to an article in ComputerWorld, a Gartner survey showed that less than 10 percent of companies now monitor their employee's use of social media for possible security breaches, but that 60 percent said that by 2015, they will be monitoring employee social media use. This is evident in spite of the lack of laws that offer guidance on what type of monitoring may be allowed and under what circumstances--indeed a slippery slope for business. IT can help guide the employee on how best to use social media in a safe, business-friendly way, but beyond that, the focus on social monitoring for midsize business should be about protecting the brand and monitoring for threats such as malware or malicious apps, at least until the law regarding employee social media monitoring is clear.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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