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Network World - Facebook and Twitter users should probably just assume that what they post publicly is being monitored by their employer.
If your privacy settings don't limit content to friends only, anyone can search Google or the social networking sites themselves to see what you're writing. Granted, that can be a tedious process that an employer may not want to bother with - but now it's becoming easier for businesses to monitor social networking activity.
At DEMO, a company called Teneros demonstrated a new software-as-a-service product called Social Sentry that automates the process of examining employee activity on social networking sites.
The point isn't necessarily to see how much time employees are spending on Facebook and Twitter while they're supposed to be working. Rather, the software monitors all public social networking activity in case employees reveal confidential information or make statements that could be damaging to the company's brand.
"The exponential growth of social networking tools is posing new threats to businesses every day," said Bill Petro, Teneros vice president of technology. The service will be available next month.
DEMO conference chief Matt Marshall said Social Sentry might seem "kind of spooky if they're tracking this all the time, in real time."
But, the software only tracks public activity, which people could do anyway by manually searching the Web. It's logical that companies would want to monitor what employees say publicly on the Web, even if they do not try to prevent employees from joining social sites in the first place, Marshall said.
"It's fair. It's almost, like, not too creepy," Marshall said in an interview. "It's kind of doing what they could do otherwise in a non-automated fashion."
Whether it will be effective in preventing loss of confidential information is another question. Once a post is on Twitter, it could be retweeted hundreds of times within minutes.
"Once it gets out it's hard to control," venture capitalist Gordon Ritter of Emergence Capital Partners said in a panel discussion. "You really have to be on top of it in seconds."
Social Sentry helps notify businesses when employees publicly discuss events that are supposed to be private, such as impending mergers. "The information is there for anyone to see, clients, investors and competitors," Petro said.
Companies using Social Sentry can get a variety of alerts about employee activity on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace or YouTube. Alerts can be based on keywords related to products or financial results, or simply to identify foul language. "Risky employee/customer communication" is also identified, the company says.
"Social Sentry provides granular, real-time tracking and can identify and monitor employee public communication happening from any location, within the corporate network or public Internet," Teneros said in a press release. "In addition, Social Sentry offers the ability to monitor select users or the entire employee base to eliminate corporate exposure related to communication.