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Employers grappling with social network use

Employee social network use, on and off the job, has caught companies by surprise, leaving them uncertain about implementing related policies, new survey finds.

Social networking is on the rise, both on and off the job, leaving companies uncertain how to monitor their use by employees, reports new survey.

More than 50 percent of companies questioned said they have no policy to address the use of social networking by employees outside the workplace, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and the Health Care Compliance Association.

Typically, companies shy away from restricting an employee's actions off the job. But businesses are concerned about employees who use social networking and reveal private details or post inappropriate pictures that could embarrass the company.

Some organizations, such as the U.S. Marines, have already banned their recruits from using Facebook and Twitter. But the survey found that many businesses aren't sure what to do to restrict or monitor such usage.

Of the companies questioned in the survey, 34 percent said they have a general employee policy that addresses all online activity, including the use of social networking, both on and off the job. Only 10 percent said they have a policy specifically geared toward social networks.

Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics

More than half of the individuals said their company has no active system to monitor employees using social-networking sites. Around 32 percent said their company acts only when an issue is discovered.

Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics

Of all those surveyed, 24 percent said an employee in their company had been disciplined for inappropriate behavior on a social network, while 37 percent did not know. The percentage was higher in the nonprofit sector, noted the survey, with 33 percent reporting an employee incident versus only 13 percent in the for-profit sector.

"Business clearly hasn't caught up with what its employees are doing online," said Roy Snell, CEO of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics. "The risks are twofold. First there remains the business risk of employees doing things online that may reflect badly on the company. The second is that, as business develops policies and procedures in this area, there are going to be a lot of people finding that what they have long done is no longer acceptable at work. During the adjustment period there is likely to be a great deal of friction created."

To conduct the survey in late August, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and the Health Care Compliance compiled responses from 798 people in both profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as government agencies.