Social Networking Is Hot: Users Love It and So Do Intelligence Professionals

July 14, 2008

Once I fought through the pop up ad and the request to provide information about why I am growing to hate the InfoWorld Web site, I was able to read Paul Krill’s essay “Enterprises Become the Battleground for Social Networking.” Mr. Krill explains that social networking services are gaining traction outside the consumer market.,,, and dozens of other services make it easy to connect with friends in cyberspace. Citing a number of industry authorities and thought leaders, Mr. Krill provides a useful run down of the benefits of social networking. in commercial organizations, not-for-profit outfits, and governmental agencies. interest in social networking is rising.

The most interesting portion of the essay is the comments from an individual identified as MattRhodes. Mr. MattRhodes is a supporter of Gartner Group and its report on social networking. He writes:

… businesses aren’t making the use they should do of social communication. That consumers are getting more and more used to social networking and other social tools is well known by those of us who work in the industry. The reasons are simple – they actually offer a new and different way of communicating.

This assertion is indeed true. Also true is the interest in social networking. Technologies and services that work in the consumer Web migrate into organizations as well. Social networking, therefore, is going to play an important part in the information technology mix.

Amidst this violent agreement among myself, Mr. Krill, and Mr MattRhodes, there lurk some flashing yellow warning signals. In my opinion, some issues to ponder include:

  • Social networking provides a potent monitoring tool. Employees, users, indeed, anyone using the watched system can be tracked. Intelligence can be extracted. Individuals taking actions that are counter to the organization’s interest can be identified and appropriate action taken. The essence of social networking is not collaboration; social networking generates useful user behavior data and potentially more useful metadata.
  • Organizations have secrets. Social networking systems add doors and windows through which secrets can escape or watched. Most organizations have security provisions but actual security is breachable. Automated security systems that eliminate tedious permission set up by a security professional make it possible to reduce certain costs. The flip side is that most organizations have flawed security procedures, and the information technology department does what it can with its available resources. The security for certain social networking services can be a time bomb. No one knows that problem is there until the bomb goes up. Damage, depending on the magnitude of the bomb, can be insignificant or horrific.
  • New employees, comfortable with the mores of the evolving social networking world, bring different values and behaviors to online activity. Granted, some new hires will be gung ho and sing the company song each morning. Other new hires will take an informal approach to mandates about what information to share. Are you familiar with the actual behavior of graduates of one of India’s prestigious high school? I think this approach will characterize some of the new hires’ use of social networking.

To repeat: I think social networking and its underlying technology is important. I see many benefits. My experience suggests that those who cheerlead may want to spend a bit more time in the library reading about security vulnerabilities of real time, fluid, social functions. There’s a reason undercover agents make “friends” with persons of interest. The important relationships are not focused on finding a fourth for a golf outing.

Stephen Arnold, July 14, 2008


One Response to “Social Networking Is Hot: Users Love It and So Do Intelligence Professionals”

  1. Jess Bratcher on July 15th, 2008 7:44 am

    I’ve been researching viral marketing through a well known expert in the field, and he posted this interesting article about businesses censoring social networks etc. for some of the same above reasons (and why he doesn’t approve)

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