More than half of the workers in the United States and the United Kingdom responding to a recent survey acknowledged using social networking sites while at work. Moreover, more than three-fourths of the workers in both countries believe they should be allowed to use the sites for personal activities.

The infatuation with these sites appears to extend across different age groups. Many, of course, are on these sites for business related purposes, as social networking and streaming media have become increasingly important to sales and marketing. However, business analysts caution that there are security risks associated with such use. Employees need to be educated about the organization’s Internet use policy and risks with its use.

The survey also revealed that almost two-thirds of those responding also handled personal e-mails at work, which affects productivity and also is a security concern. During a major news or sporting event, more than half of the workers reported looking online for information about the events.

Although more than half of those who responded to the survey said that their companies had a policy for Internet use, not many said they had any instruction on the company guidelines.

Almost all employees in both countries were satisfied that the amount of time they spent on the Internet at work was not inappropriate.  About one-third of workers in both countries spent at least an hour on the Internet daily at work doing personal business.

Most businesses know that employees use the Internet at work for personal use and that this costs them in lost productivity, but they may not be as knowledgeable about the security risks they may be running as well.  Security risks include things such as spyware, malicious coding and other types of malware invading company computer networks, and employees going to sites that are not appropriate, leading to the possibility of liability issues.

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