Friday, April 04, 2008

I've got Social Media Block

Like a ton of other people who work in offices, I'm blocked from quite a few web sites, many of them social media-related, at work. I do public relations for a large hospital system and I understand security. I get it, we deal with a lot of sensitive information – almost none of which I have access to. I also understand when you have thousands of employees that there is potential for a lot of "lost" time if said employees are playing around on the Internet while at work.

My challenge with not having access is that I monitor media and do media relations for my system and I don't have access to the same information that the reporters do. I also have some employee relations duties and I don't have access to a lot of the sites that might tell me how our folk are feeling. If they post on Facebook, MySpace, or YouTube, I'm out of luck. I can't see what they might have said when I'm at the office. So I look when I'm home after my son's gone to sleep.

Since tracking employee feelings outside the workplace isn't my main function, it's not that big a deal to look while I'm at home. The real problem comes when a reporter asks for something related to a site that is blocked to me. Here's a recap of a recent conversation I had with a reporter:

Reporter: We've found some video on YouTube showing patients being transported by an ambulance service. Can you look at the video and tell me if it's a HIPAA violation?

Me: Um, I don't have access to YouTube and wouldn't comment on another organization; but, I'm happy to direct you to a good resource to help you understand HIPAA.

Reporter: You can't look at YouTube [I'm pretty sure I hear laughter in his voice]?

Me: No, it's a site that is blocked on our system.

Reporter: Wow. So anybody can say anything about your hospital and you won't even know it?

Me: Well, anyone can say anything about our hospital because it's their right to do that. But, no, if I wanted to check from work, I wouldn't know.

Reporter: Hey, if I ever come across anything, I'll let you know!

Me: Gosh. Thanks.

I follow a group of people on Twitter who are so incredibly smart, well informed, and sharing that I'm constantly learning from them via their Tweets. When I first came to this health system, I noticed that Twitter was one of the blocked sites. When I asked our IT guy to see if I could have it added to my "safe" list, he got back to me with this funny answer, "Sherry, Twitter is listed as a 'match making' site, so we can't okay it. I thought you were dating someone?"

Great. So not only was I blocked, the IT guy thinks I'm trying to hook up while at the office. So, now I post to Twitter through text on my personal phone and I read using my company BlackBerry (but can't post through BB because its Java function has been disabled). It's worth it to me to have access to the group I'm following – I learn something almost every day – but it's so convoluted!

If you want another take on the "Blocking" visit Shel Holtz's campaign against corporate blocking. For me, being blocked from sites is a pain but not really a huge hindrance to my work. For a lot of people though, it can be a real strain. Shel's got a great source of information about it on Stop Blocking!

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on blocking. Has blocking been a strain on your professional time? At what point can employees be trusted to not abuse the system by hours of shopping online or chatting with friends?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

It sounds like you need to educate your management on 'the new media' :-)

good luck!

Richie said...

I completely feel your pain. Just ask anyone in education (public schools in particular) and you'll get the same grumblings. I understand the need to protect students from "inappropriate" sites, but not at the expense of actual job duties. Fight the power! Well, at least grumble on!

Anonymous said...

Several years ago, when I was a graphic designer for a major health system in this city, I was "investigated" for downloading porn to my computer. Seems that some snarky little toad in IT had found pictures of women's breasts in my computer files. Horrors! Trouble is, he failed to notice they were in a folder marked "Obstetrics" with a Quark file labeled "Breastfeeding Brochure." As a woman, I was pretty ticked off that he found the photos "pornographic," but neither the IT nor the HR departments saw the gaffe -- or apologized to me. I always wondered what would have happened if the head of Gynecology had asked me to design some brochures...