OPINON: Counting the broader cost of Facebook’s data dilemma
Article by Barracuda International senior vice president Chris Ross
As the news agenda continues to be dominated by the fallout from claims that millions of Facebook profiles were apparently exploited for political purposes, we wanted to see whether this story was changing the way that businesses thought about how their staff used technology. At the recent Cloud Expo Europe show in London, we conducted a survey of more than 350 attendees to find out.
We started by trying to understand whether the news had prompted members of the IT industry to change their relationship with Facebook. It was no surprise to hear that 55 percent of respondents trusted Facebook less as a result. This lack of trust was shown in the fact that 12 percent had deleted their account since the news broke and another 29 percent had taken measures to amend their security and sharing settings. On a personal level, people had definitely had their eyes opened to data privacy, sharing and security issues.
So what does this mean for businesses?
Of those that allow access to Facebook through the corporate network, almost half (46 percent) said that they were planning to educate staff on how they can protect themselves and their data. Some, around 8 percent, said that they were taking more drastic steps and blacklisting the social network altogether, whilst 7 percent were going to more tightly control which staff had access.
Whilst it's perhaps no surprise to learn that use of Facebook both inside and outside the workplace would be affected, this story certainly appears to have had a broader impact. Almost two thirds of respondents (62 percent) said that this news had led them to review their corporate policy for allowing user access to non-business related sites and apps - whether that was with a view to providing new guidance or restricting access. Only 20 percent planned to maintain a policy to allow free access to non-business sites and apps.
Will this make any difference?
While restricting access to non-business apps from the workplace can improve productivity, it may not impact Facebook's ability to collect and share the personal information of users.
However, these privacy concerns have raised some strong feelings in the business community around Facebook's viability as a business tool. Our recommendation is that organisations that continue to leverage Facebook as a business platform should review some basic controls such as:
- Consider who is allowed to share data. For example, create policies so only certain authorised groups can post to the corporate Facebook account.
- Be aware of attempts to leverage information that is available in your company's social profile. For example, spear phishing to target execs, exfiltrate data, steal credentials.
- Train your users to recognise such attempts and take appropriate action.
While the longer-term effect on Facebook's reputation remains to be seen, we expect to see organisations making decisions about whether the platform poses a security risk and how to minimise the threat on those occasions where an alternative option just doesn't exist.