in Houston, Texas
Facebook, Twitter off-limits at work for Taylor County employees: Abilene Reporter News
Thursday, Apr 29, 2010, 07:42PM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal

Taylor County employees will have to wait until after-hours to check out photos on Facebook, or see what topics are trending on Twitter.

That's according to the Abilene Reporter News, which says that county commissioners voted Tuesday "to ban social networking and online auction websites from most county computers."

Taxpayers may cheer the mandate from Abilene, where officials' concern over productivity mirrors that of employers in the private sector. How many widgets can Johnny make when half his attention is directed to the latest cute baby photo on Facebook?

I've pondered this myself, after seeing occasional Facebook updates by a certain government worker who's in my network. Last check, yesterday at 3:57 p.m. she was "so ready to get off work" so she could go home and tan. OK, big deal, but should she be banned from posting this at work if she's still getting the job done? And if the worker down the hall can take smoke breaks every 30 minutes, shouldn't my Facebook friend be allowed to post a communique every once in a while?

As a journalist, I have the luxury of trolling Web sites, monitoring my RSS reader and following what others are saying on Texas Watchdog's many social networks. Anytime. It's a job requirement.

Not so for everyone, and the modern urge to stay in touch at all times worries employers. Increasingly, companies can scratch that itch not just with manual human vetting --- backgrounding job candidates' online --- but also with easy-to-use and affordable software.

The New York Times Bits blog featured just such a product earlier this spring:

"The software, called Social Sentry, will automatically monitor Facebook andTwitter accounts for $2 to  $8 for each employee, depending on the size of the company and the level of activity being monitored. ...

"The American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute do an annual survey of companies on their approach to digital media, and more than 60 percent of the companies that responded in the most recent survey said they had some social media policy in place. Like e-mail, employees’ social media creates a trail that could be used in litigation, said Nancy Flynn, the executive director of the ePolicy Institute.

"'You definitely want to take advantage of your legal right to monitor,” Ms. Flynn said."

Hmmm. I think I'll get back to work.


Want to flout your employer's social-networking ban? Come on over to Texas Watchdog. You can fan our page on Facebook, join our group on MySpace, follow us on Twitter, fan us on Digg, join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also on NewsVinetumblr, FriendFeed, YouTube and UStream.

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