The private sector follows the Marines into the “cone of silence” by banning social media at work.

According to the latest survey of more than 1,400 U.S. companies, more than half (54 percent) said they prohibit employees from visiting sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace while on the clock. The survey, by Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology staffing services, was based on telephone interviews with U.S. companies of 100 or more employees.
Another recent survey delivered even graver news for the social media world. According to an August survey by ScanSafe, a Web security provider, 76 percent of companies are now choosing to block employees’ use of social networking — up 20 percent from February — which is now a more popular category of sites to block than those involving shopping, weapons, sports or alcohol.
. . . .Law firms have also joined in the trend. Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg has blocked all access to Facebook. Twitter is still available, however. Gunster Yoakley & Stewart of West Palm Beach, Fla., blocks Facebook and Twitter for all its support staff, including secretaries and legal assistants, but lets lawyers use the social media tools. London’s Allen & Overy tried to ban Facebook in 2007, but then lifted the ban after associate backlash.
Lawyers say the bans are due to a number of factors, including loss of productivity, data theft fears, liability risks if online comments turn up in lawsuits and corporate image concerns.
“I think what’s happening is social media is starting to simmer, and the lawyers and the PR teams, the HR teams and marketing teams are realizing there are all these problems,” said Gaida Zirkelbach, an associate at Gunster who focuses on technology and the Internet.
But Zirkelbach herself is skeptical of the bans. “I don’t know if that’s going to work ultimately,” she said, suggesting that employees will likely ignore the rules. “It’s better to have a policy, just like with everything else,” she said.

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