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Should social networks be blocked at work?

One of the biggest trends in IT is how consumer products have crept into the enterprise, and the trend extends to Internet services. The ingenious thing about social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn is that these consumer-oriented sites have become key tools for professionals.

Take journalists, for example. While reporters may still pound the pavement or work the phones to find stories, now sometimes a story can present itself in LinkedIn forums or through Facebook postings. Sometimes the social networks become an extension of the reporting team, in a practice called "crowdsourcing." And the reporter who used to appear as nothing more than a byline can now enter the conversation with instant feedback on a comment about a story.

But other professions have not embraced social networks so much, and indeed have viewed them as threats to security or productivity. Would users spend their days catching up with high school friends and playing Farmville on Facebook?

Remember when many IT departments were leery about users checking their personal email accounts from work, afraid they would click on a link and take down the entire network? While that danger still exists, it has been reduced a bit through the use of spam filters and user education. The same can be said for social networks, as IT staff can still provide general tips on what can be dangerous.

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