Businesses block social networks over legal fears


Half of UK companies block social networks, according to a report that suggested businesses are afraid of being asked to provide information from these websites as part of legal cases.

A litigation trends survey from international law firm Fulbright and Jaworski said that 52 per cent of UK and 46 per cent of US companies blocked social networking sites, while two in five UK and US businesses blocked personal social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

Even business-related networking sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo were blocked by 30 per cent of UK and US companies.

The report claimed that this was "understandable", considering 18 per cent of UK companies had been asked to provide information from these websites as part of an electronic discovery' request in legal proceedings.

"For some businesses, networking sites can provide an efficient platform for keeping up-to-date with the latest developments and maintaining a profile in their industry," said Fulbright partner Melanie Ryan in a statement.

"For those businesses that block access, such benefits are outweighed by the possible legal risks, including the inadvertent disclosure of confidential or proprietary information and the resulting claims of fines imposed by their regulators not to mention, the security threat to their IT systems."

Technology companies were the least likely to block social networks, with 56 per cent of UK and US tech companies having no restrictions on sites.

Rick Mans, a social media evangelist at Capgemini, claimed in a blog post that employees were just as likely to leak information with their internet connections at home.

He said that the best action business leaders should take was to simply talk with employees and create a set of guidelines about how they should behave online.

"You only block internet access when you are afraid to talk with your employees about their behaviour," he said. "Preventing behaviour does not solve your problems, it will prevent them just for a short period of time."