Social Media Risks

I’m on a panel tonight at the Ivey Business School talking about trends and opportunities in social media. I’ll be talking about legal and privacy issues.

Some of the risks that come with social media arise from its newness. There seems to be two opposing (and apparently inconsistent) factors at play whenever anything new arises. 

First, when something new comes along, people often don’t put it in the proper context, and forget all the old rules. For example, people might make a comment on a blog or facebook that reveals something confidential, even though that same person would never have revealed that in a letter or email.

Second, humans have flawed risk perceptions. We tend to underestimate the risks of things we are familiar with, and overestimate the risks of things we are not familiar with. That leads us to be concerned about risks of something new, even if those risks are similar to, or less than, things we are used to. This leads to the “lets just shut it down” reaction where employers simply block access to things.

These factors lead to some bad decisions on both ends, but also fosters debate and discussion over the issues that tend to sort things out over time.


  1. David,

    You might want to take a look at the study published by the Deloitte Forensic Center on June 16, 2010 that discusses e-discovery risks relating to social media.

    Roughly two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents surveyed who expressed an opinion say their company is concerned about e-discovery challenges posed by online social media forums.


    Toby Bishop

  2. People and the world in general is much more transparent and open than in past years, but can we say social media is the primary catalyst of this? It may make it easier to post expressions and opinions, but transparency and authenticity rule.

    I do not think it makes more risk, it’s just some institutions (gov’t, corporate, academic) are not embracing this at a quick enough rate and are more basically scared of it. Large corporations in particular, seem to be fearful of social media, but it’s on them to have some type of online reputation management, and also a social and brand voice.

  3. As an IT consultant I am fully aware that IT management is struggling with whether social media is productive or obstructive for companies and their employees. Software is being developed and policy and restrictions are being decided everyday by IT managers. The security of the networks of various organizations are at stake but the potential for innovation using social media is a large enough incentive for the discussion of how to properly utilize the medium continues. Palo Alto networks came up with a whitepaper,, which will explore the issues surrounding social media in the workplace. It is important to not only understand the immediate benefits of doing business how one lives, but the threat it presents to an organization’s greater ROI and productivity when it comes to the server’s safety and security. If your IT Department wants to block social media apps on the company network… and