Posted September 27, 2010 11:10 pm by with 3 comments

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Every day we talk about the large number of people who are using not just social media but other Web 2.0 applications to manage and promote their business. Online project management sites, web mail, Google docs, and online chat are all becoming part of the working norm but not everyone is comfortable with where we’re headed. According to a new report commissioned by McAfee, more than 50% of the over 1,000 decision-makers surveyed said that Web 2.0 was a dark and scary place.

You could put their fear off to technophobic paranoia, but more than 6 out of 10 have already felt the burn of a security breach with losses averaging around $2 million.

Companies’ top four perceived threats from employee use of Web 2.0 are malicious software (35 percent), viruses (15 percent), overexposure of information (11 percent) and spyware (10 percent).

Most of those issues can be dealt with provided a company puts the proper technological safeguards in place (remember, the survey was commissioned by McAfee). The biggest concern is one that even the most robust anti-virus software can’t stop – the loose-lipped employee.

60% of the companies surveyed said they were worried about loss of reputation, clients or confidence due to inappropriate use of Web 2.0 tools. One third said that they had “unplanned investments related to work arounds related to social media in the workplace.” 14% said they were involved in litigation or were dealing with legal threats as a result of an employee disclosing something they shouldn’t.

In order to prevent a problem, 13% of the businesses said they block all Web 2.0 activity. 81% said they restrict usage of at least one tool and 25% said they monitor social media usage in the workplace. As fearful as they are, only one third of the respondents said they have a social media policy in place. This is not surprising, as most companies wouldn’t even know where to begin writing up such a policy given the fast-changing nature of the tools involved.

Even with all of the issues, most of the companies agreed that the use of Web 2.0 technology helped create new revenue streams and 40% said the tools boosted productivity. Thus, the necessary evil.

Instead of blocking and monitoring, companies need to get more proactive about the use of social media and online tools. Policies need to be put in place, not only for security reasons, but so that a consistent message is being delivered across all the channels. That being said, there’s simply no way to stop an angry employee from blasting the company’s business over Twitter or uploading photos of the CEO getting friendly at the Christmas party to Facebook. We have to understand that Web 2.0 tools are just that, tools. And like a hammer or saw, they can be used for good or evil because there’s a human being wielding it and not an emotionless robot. In other words, Twitter doesn’t embarrass people, people embarrass people but you can’t let that stop you from using every tool available to make your company a success.

The McAfee “Web 2.0: A Complex Balancing Act – The First Global Study on Web 2.0 Usage, Risks and Best Practices” report is available for download at:

  • I can see why companies would be afraid of 2.0, but also remember when they were afraid of employees using credit cards? or employees using company cell phones? or cheating on breaks?

    There will always be a way that will corporations will be able monitor what is being done….just another revenue stream for a new company 🙂

  • I believe it’s inevitable and the fear will subside with time like all technology scares.

  • Like most technological development, Web 2.0 is a double-edged sword.