[Internet Privacy] Privacy vs. Professional Social Networking


Social networks are ever more appealing to Internet users and privacy has become an important issue to be taken under serious scrutiny. Whether they’re strictly about socialization or business-oriented, it is easy to note that social networks are highly appreciated and popular. Tens of millions of members from countries all over the world connect using these platforms on the account of their career, schooling, and hobbies.

On a positive note, while people would hesitate to approach unknown persons in the real world, these social networks make it extremely easy for them to socialize with individuals all around the globe. They exchange thoughts, beliefs, interests, photos on a regular basis and are able to stay informed about the others’ activities and daily routines at a click.

Apart from personal benefits, a business-oriented social network can also be used in marketing campaigns with a positive impact. Employees’ personal blogs, tweets, social accounts and their network friends’ reactions may boost brand awareness on the Internet. This is significant in as much as the respective employees keep their “followers” constantly informed about the developments in the company’s products or services. Consequently, social networks can be extremely efficient and proactive marketing tools.  

But on a negative note, it is important for social network members not to be too generous while sharing details about their personal life and to set a boundary in their curiosity for others’ private matters. It is not completely harmless for social network members to share too much of their personal life and routine, since they cannot completely control where all of this data ends up. Once posted, the information becomes public – within anyone’s reach and ill-willing individuals will not hesitate to take advantage of these treasures.

For instance, members of a professional social network could find themselves approached by different unknown individuals asking to be added on their contact list. In doing that, professional network users need to be aware that their own contacts’ information might be exploited by the “new unknown friend”. Once secured, the victim’s contact list might become as a data pool for recruitment purposes, or a set of spam/phishing /impersonation targets.

Employers should also see the warning signs. Most of the social networks available out there have at least one field dedicated to the user’s career and employment history, so every single action of the user might also impact on the employer. Most companies build their success and respect on moral standards – the very moral standards the social networking user / employee couldn’t care less. By various associations (such as pictures of the employee in inappropriate stances publicly posted), employer could get their core values diminished.

Things can get worse if we take career-related social networks under scrutiny. Imagine the following scenario: one of the employees who have a solid base of contacts within the company might voluntarily or not open the door to, say, a HR recruiting agency by simply accepting a friendship request. Subsequently, the HR agency will be able to browse all of the user’s contacts and look for suitable (or key) personnel to be recruited from the current employer.

So always keep in mind to only add to your list the people you know and are colleagues and friends with as well as to permit access to your list of contacts only to the persons on that list.  If you are contacted by an unknown person who wants access to your personal account, please don’t immediately assume that this is a friend to be and in all good faith add him or her to your contact list. A good idea would be to take a moment and investigate the “applicant” and ask for details. It only takes an e-mail and it may save you a lot of trouble later on.

About the author


A blend of teacher and technical journalist with a pinch of e-threat analysis, Loredana Botezatu writes mostly about malware and spam. She believes that most errors happen between the keyboard and the chair. Loredana has been writing about the IT world and e-security for well over five years and has made a personal goal out of educating computer users about the ins and outs of the cybercrime ecosystem.