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WITI South Florida pannel discussion on social networking in the workplace

Yesterday Niala and I had the honor of moderating a WITI event where technology gurus from local companies spoke about social networking in the workplace, and the security challenges that come when employees use social media.

The panelists included Pete Nicoletti, vice president of secure information services at Terremark; Jay Patel, senior manager of IT advisory services at KPMG; Gabriel Ruiz, director of technology at ADX Technologies; and Kevin Tracy, a senior consulting systems engineer for network security and mobile solutions at Cisco.

It wasn't easy to take notes when you're the moderator, but I did want to summarize some of the great advice the panelists shared with the group Tuesday night at Cisco's Fort Lauderdale office.

The talk jumped between companies blocking Facebook at work, to horror stories of what can come up when you Google search your name ... but all panelists always came back to the core idea of using common sense and setting a social networking guideline for employees.

Fact is, everyone has different ideas on what is acceptable social networking behavior. A millennial might not see a problem with posting party pictures on their Facebook page, because hey - that's their private life and people should understand that. And someone else might not see anything wrong with sending out public tweets about the company layoffs when they are in the middle of the private meeting. The boss might not see things the same way. So there really needs to be a workplace discussion on professional image and making sure you keep personal stuff private, and always think twice about what you post online. Because even things you delete can hang around on the Web.

Jay Patel said he "avoids social networks like the plague." He was off the grid until he broke down and got a Facebook account to get details on his high school reunion gathering. He sees the value in social media, but the biggest problem he has with it is how easy it is for you to lose control of your professional image. Social networks are evolving at a rapid rate, and the information we post about ourselves is being spread and shared in so many ways that you lose total control over what is being posted about your personal life -- and not even privacy settings can do much good. "The technology can't keep up with the technology," he explained.

Pete Nicoletti stressed to keep personal and work stuff very separate. And for personal things, he thinks it is best to not use your real name so it can't be found easily by employers. Kevin Tracy shared the same tip. In Nicoletti's work, he's seen the worst of the worst of corporate social networking disasters, and some of the nastiest problems occur when you share your password with someone and then that person posts horrible things on your profile under your identity. And damage control with a public relations team ain't a cheap or a quick fix.

Tracy mentioned that Cisco has documents for employees regarding social networking faux pas at work. I think this is a great idea.

You can have security programs and measures in place to protect company data from spilling out -- and it's smart to implement tools like that for the workplace. But Patel said at the end of the day, your biggest security flaw is people.

Does your work have a social networking guideline you have to sign? Is it detailed, or does it just stress to use good judgment? Does your human resource department have a workshop on dos and don'ts? Do you even worry about getting in trouble at work for what you do on social networks in your personal time?

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