Thursday, May 3, 2007

Government Bans Facebook … but MySpace is still okay

Employees with the Ontario government who tried to log in to their Facebook accounts this morning were met with an “access denied” message. Even most members of parliament and cabinet ministers have been blocked from Facebook, which joins a list along with online gambling and porn sites. The ban took everyone by surprise, including Public Infrastructure Minister David Caplan, one of the few cabinet ministers with a Facebook page.

The rationale for the ban was rather vague:

"The staff determined it's not as directly related to the workplace as we'd like it to be so we're restricting access to it," Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips told the Toronto Star.

"Our IT (information technology) people are pretty broadly familiar with the marketplace and they said, `Here's a website that's going to be increasingly more popular for the OPS (Ontario public service). Is this an appropriate website to be spending time on?'" he said.

"It's the ministry making these decisions on trying to ... restrict access to ones that are inappropriate and then to anticipate where one may grow in popularity and we may end up with a lot of OPS time being taken (up) on it."

When even the Canadian Prime Minister has a page on Facebook, it obviously is considered an important way for politicians to get their message out. Any employer has the right to restrict the sites that employees access from employer networks and governments are accountable to taxpayers for ensuring that employees are productive on the job. Most public sector employers have policies in place which outline appropriate use of the Internet, and in many cases, employees are required to sign a document that goes into their permanent record.

The vague rationale for this ban and the fact that other social networking sites, including MySpace, are still accessible to government employees and ministers does raise questions. One has to wonder if the Ontario government was really concerned about the amount of time that employees and elected officials were spending on Facebook or if they were actually more concerned about what information might be shared on a popular public forum.

Either way, it seems that it will become increasingly difficult for employers to stay on top of the many ways that employees can become distracted by online activities from the work they’re paid to do. In the meantime, I suspect many employees will move along to MySpace or other social networking sites … until the Ontario government denies access to those as well.


Myself said...

Sharon -- I ran across this site that I thought you might be intereted in getting listed in -- it's a site just for BC bloggers:

Just thought I'd pass it along!

DiamondVVV1 from BlogCatalog and myself from Blogger

Myself said...

Sharon -- I ran acorss this site I thought you might want to check out:
It's a site just for BC Bloggers.