by Andrea Di Maio | September 12, 2011
The German Federal Minister for Consumer Protection Ilse Aigner warned her colleagues and government departments not to link Facebook from their web sites, due to privacy worries. This happen when the data protection authority for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein has declared business use of Facebook and Facebook “like” buttons illegal.
Over a year ago the same minister also wrote a letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg urging for applying ways to control privacy settings that are more in line with European (and German) requirements. One area of constant struggle for many Facebook users is the periodic and somewhat arbitrary changes to privacy settings, which force users to opt out, rather than opt on, and are often poorly publicized.
Not all governments can negotiate terms and conditions with Facebook like the US federal government did over two years ago. Therefore caution is in order for any government organization that decides to establish its presence on Facebook.
However privacy risks are only one of the reasons why owning its own virtual turf on Facebook may not be such a great idea. Moderation, public record policies, freedom of information policies, copyright issues, all need to be sorted out when creating some form of official page. On the other hand, how useful an institutional presence on Facebook really is? There has to be a sufficiently compelling purpose for the intended target audience: in areas like national emergencies or new policies with a significant impact on the target audience, this clearly makes sense (although for a limited time). But does this justify an exponential growth in the number of Facebook pages that agencies and departments need to monitor, maintain and evolve?
While some of the privacy worries raised from time to time by politicians may sound a bit overrated, they are very useful to make enthusiastic government officers and politicians pause and reflect about the real need for yet another page.
There are plenty of ways for governments to engage on Facebook and other social media without creating and managing loads of official page: it is time for them to change the balance.
Andrea Di Maio is a vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research, where he focuses on the public sector, with particular reference to e-government strategies, Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, the business value of IT, open-source software, green IT and the impact of technology on the future of government.
Prior to joining Gartner, Mr. Di Maio was with the European Commission, where he was responsible for part of the R&D framework program, as well as for all activities on the impact of the year 2000 problem and the IT impact of the European single currency. Before the European Commission, he held management and technical positions in the systems and software industry. He has more than 20 years of experience in IT.
This article was originally published at German Minister’s Tip Against Facebook Is Not Bad Advice. The views represented are analysts’ personal opinions and do not constitute official Gartner research.
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