Ach! Porsche Bans Facebook

October 11, 2010
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Once upon a time -- maybe ten years ago -- employers worried about how much time employees spent shopping online. And although there was some basis for their concerns -- that's why they call it Cyber Monday, right? -- these days, employers now have something much more insidious to worry about: social media.  

A recent study found that some workers in the U.K. spend a substantial chunk of their workday on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites -- up to an hour or more. Translated into wages, the cost to British employers rings in around $22 billion per year.

But that's not why Porsche has decided to ban social media in the workplace: no, Porsche is concerned about espionage.

According to a brief article in the German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche, Porsche's Head of Group Security, Rainer Bennett, has blocked Facebook and other social sites to prevent top-secret information from leaking out. Bennett doesn't seem especially worried about info or spy shots being posted directly to Facebook; he's more concerned that outside interests will try to use social sites to gain the trust of Porsche employees, which could lead to the sharing or proprietary information. As you might recall, this is essentially the same tactic that debt collectors use, and our friends in the U.S. government assure us that similar measures are instituted in many federal offices. 

Which is fine. Any business -- particularly one as big and as costly as an automaker -- has every right to protect its plans and intellectual property. (Heck, that's why the Volvo/Geely deal took so long to negotiate, remember?) But if Porsche is really serious about a lockdown, the company is going to have to go much further than this. Employees can easily log into social networks after hours, and if they have smartphones, they can even do so from their desks via their cell network. Blocking social networks in the workplace doesn't eliminate the danger, it just displaces the danger.

If Mr. Bennett is really serious about stopping leaks, we wonder if he'll do anything about Mr. Winterkorn. Because the bombs he's dropping in interviews seem as bad as anything you could post to Facebook.


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