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Feds on Facebook: A status update

Now that agencies have a green light to use Facebook, should they? Opinions among FCW readers vary, but many urge caution. Here is a sampling of comments received on recent Facebook articles.

Pro:

Taxpayers expect me to do the best job I can do — part of my job is to reach out to young people. If my IT system is stuck in the 20th century, I can’t do that efficiently. Social networks are where my outreach needs to be. If I can’t use them, I’m not doing my job as well or as efficiently as I should be able to! -- Interpreter

One way the feds could use Facebook is to create groups and moderate those groups for information about applying for careers; grants; and accessing and understanding public information like census reports, patent data, etc. Currently, these government sources are like a blank wall that you [can] read, but if you communicate to them, you get a generic response in return. — Anonymous

What is this?!? Fear of public speaking in Web 2.0? Poppycock. Speak your mind. And use the tool for what it is good for. But recognize you are in public when you do so. And recognize there is no rule of nonattribution for Facebook. Common sense. — Anonymous

Con:

How do we know that all of the Facebook people will protect my privacy and not leak the data? Imagine the network mapping that one insider could perform! — Anonymous

Social networking indeed. These are the types of notices we’ll get: John Doe has joined XYZ group. Jane Doe is now connected to her mother. Jack Roe has joined UVA Alumni Association. Susan Smith commented on Michael Jackson’s photo; Michael Jackson responded, and we’ll be able to see their exchange on our profiles. — Anonymous

Sorry. Social-networking information should not be incorporated into a government site or workspace. [It is] not appropriate or needed. There are no common ground rules for what is appropriate and agencies and departments should not be encouraging the use of Facebook-like spaces to do our work. That is not what the taxpayers and the Congress expect from us. — Anonymous

As someone who reluctantly has a Facebook profile to keep in touch with select longtime friends who live all over the country, I don’t want to share that profile with professional colleagues. — Anonymous

Outside of work, I have work friends who approach me on Facebook, and I politely don’t accept. If someone is so concerned about this, why not have play time on Facebook and pro time on LinkedIn – that’s what I do. The rule for me is, if you don’t want something to be public, don’t ever put it on the Internet in any form.  — Anonymous

While I can understand to a degree some value for using Facebook as a work tool, I cannot recommend it nor would I be a willing participant. I very much keep my private and professional life separate and always will. But the most important reason is that a wrong click on Facebook can open you up to hijacking, Trojans, etc. As careful and knowledgeable as I consider myself, I got grabbed by one and spent several hours cleaning it up. This, despite a firewall and an up-to-date antivirus program. If you want this kind of open sharing, use something else — create a federal “facespace” — mlmcgaffey

The middle way:

How about this: Have a Facebook account for personal use, with just your friends, and a Facebook account for public use, where your opinions will clearly be representative of the organization that you work for, or are associated with. This may not be practical or the way that Facebook works, but to me, it would solve the problem for federal workers if they had two separate forums. — Anonymous

Social Media is part of the new media. It is not a fad. It is a tool. And I will use every tool — medium — to do my job, whether that is an old-school brochure, or posting notifications on Twitter or Facebook. In fact, posting the messages on the latter is a whole lot less expensive for taxpayers than a glossy, resource-intensive brochure that ends up in the waste pile! Anyone saying it's inappropriate for government, I ask you to really examine it before you reject it outright!  — Donna Hawthorne

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