25 October 2010

German firms blocking Facebook over security: report

Many of Germany's top companies are blocking access to Facebook and other social networking sites over fears of industrial espionage and other security concerns, according to a report released Sunday.
BERLIN (AFP) - – Many of Germany's top companies are blocking access to Facebook and other social networking sites over fears of industrial espionage and other security concerns, according to a new report .
Business weekly Wirtschaftswoche said in an advance copy of its Monday issue that many companies on the Dax-30 blue-chip index saw an unacceptable risk posed by employees using such sites at work.
"Many external social media sites are no longer available to most of our staff due to security concerns," said a representative for the second-biggest German bank, Commerzbank.
Construction materials group HeidelbergCement drew similar conclusions before outlawing Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter, and automaker Volkswagen said it had also banned "various social networks".
Beyond the risk of staff revealing trade secrets in online chats, companies fear that such sites could expose them to computer viruses transmitted by clicking on a link within someone's 'wall', according to the report.
"Before it was email that was the favourite gateway for damaging software -- today it is social networks," Christian Fuchs of anti-virus provider Kaspersky was quoted as saying.
Luxury car maker Porsche recently restricted Facebook use over industrial espionage fears, according to the report, while energy group E.ON and industrial gas giant Linde have also curbed access to Facebook and video sharing site YouTube at some of their offices.
Worries over lost productivity prompted other corporations such as Daimler to pull the plug on Facebook for some of its staff.
A study by IT security firm Clearswift indicated that 30 percent of German companies fear social networking sites will distract their employees from work if they have unlimited access.
However, a much larger group -- 56 percent -- cited security concerns as the primary reason to restrict such sites, Wirtschaftswoche said.

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09 October 2010

Facebook unveils "groups," tightens user control

Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a media event at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, October 6, 2010. 
REUTERS/Norbert von der Groeben
By Alexei Oreskovic

PALO ALTO, California - Facebook has unveiled tools to give users more control over personal information and let them set up cliques of friends, as the world's No.1 social network tries to protect its lead from a growing challenge by Google Inc.

The new "Groups" feature makes it easier for its half-billion users to interact with select circles of friends, instead of having photos and personal messages openly viewable to family, college buddies and colleagues alike.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said the change -- which analysts say is intended partly to mirror the various circles that people navigate in actual life -- should make people even more comfortable publishing personal information on the service.

"If we can do this, then we can unlock a huge amount of sharing that people want to do, but today they just can't do, because either it's too annoying, or there just aren't the right privacy settings to be able to do this at large scale," Zuckerberg told reporters at his Palo Alto, California headquarters.
Facebook, which has come under fire for inadequate privacy controls, will provide users with a special file containing all the personal data they have uploaded to the service -- upon request -- as well as a way to monitor which third-party applications have access to their data.

Its new groups feature comes a few months after a Google staffer published a white-paper identifying the inability of social networks such as Facebook to distinguish between the multiple social groups that an individual belongs to in real life.

"It's a bit of a preemptive strike against Google," said Ray Valdes, an analyst at industry research firm Gartner.

"It's addressing a real problem that had been a shortcoming in the Facebook service," said Valdes. "But it also has the effect of covering flank."


Google itself, which controls two-thirds of the world's Internet search market, has struggled to find the right touch when it comes to social networking. But the company has acquired several companies with social networking technology, including Slide.

Last month, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the company would begin introducing "layers" of social networking features into Google products this Fall.

With groups, Facebook users will be able to pool their friends in different groups or circles and send messages to, or hold mass-chats online with, those groups.

That expands a feature already available on the website, which lets users create custom friend lists. But Zuckerberg said a mere 5 percent of Facebook's users have availed themselves of that tool.
In contrast, Zuckerberg said he expected up to 80 percent of Facebook's users to eventually belong to customized groups on the site.

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