Monday, October 24, 2005

Blog, Bad, Grunt

Managerial Neanderthals have a new way to torment their underlings — blocking blog access. According to a news item in Wired, the anti-blog policy has become the industry norm among the nation's 20 largest banks.

Employees are not to blog nor even to read blogs. The logic is:
Keith Crosley, director of corporate communications at censorware company Proofpoint, says there's no anti-blog conspiracy at work, but that some companies have higher security, privacy and regulatory needs that require greater diligence over what companies can and cannot do. In particular, companies worry that employees might leak sensitive material -- perhaps inadvertently -- while posting comments to blog message boards. In a survey of over 300 large businesses conducted in conjunction with Forrester, Proofpoint found 57.2 percent of respondents were concerned with employees exposing sensitive material in blogs. That's higher than the portion concerned with the risks of P2P networks.

At its coarsest level, corporate firewalls block any URL containing the string blog. Proofpoint has a product in beta that scans blog comment posts and other HTTP traffic for such material. Formally, blogs and even HTTP-based email got a free pass from Big Brother.

One bank employee, IDed with the pseudonym Robert Mason in the item, snorted at the idea that companies were about protecting intellectual propertity. "Sites are blocked more for reasons of productivity than security," he said.

This Scrooge-like behavior comes up commonly in this pending holiday period. Many companies forbid and try to block employees from shopping online. Shoulder to the wheel and all that...

Disclaimer: I used to work for a company that made both mail content management and Web filtering software. Some companies were reasonable, knowing that if they let employees goof off moderately and at lunchtime, they would not face real lost time from long trips to the mall or downtown to buy tchotchkes for their family and friends. Likewise, no sane person works 8 or 10 hours straight. A bit of blog reading is no less productive than chatting over coffee in the kitchenette.

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