Wikileaks has stirred concerns about the amount of tweets, cell phone photos, posts, and everyday events of individuals lives which are floating around in the cyberspace.

Social media permeates everyday activities of a score of individuals; how prudent is it to put personal information relating to work and life out there for everybody to view and comment upon?

Wikileaks may be arguably the biggest media story for 2010 but the verdict is still out on how ethical, legal and safe is the utilization of free cyberspace to act as a vigilant against government wrong doings. The same concerns come up when personal and workplace information floats around the cyberspace .

Some Real Numbers

According to the latest Facbook statistics, there are more than 500 million active Facebook users, 50 per cent of these log on to the site everyday. People spend nearly 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook which translates into 55 minute per day by each user. More than 30 billion pieces of content like web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc are shared each month.
People with mobiles are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users and currently there are more than 200 milllion active mobile users on Facebook.

According to a survey conducted by the research firm IDC, of 4,710 US workers, 57 percent use social media for business purposes at least once a week. Another study, by Proofpoint, an Internet security firm, surveyed companies with over 1,000 employees and reported that 17 percent of the companies stated that they were having issues with employee’s use of social media. Further, 8 percent of those companies reported that they axed employees for their behavior on social networking sites.

So what are the steps that both the workplace and the individual should take to ensure that the social media network does not become a cyber nightmare.

Have a Social Media Usage Policy at Workplace

Every company should have a clear social media usage policy. Industries where information sharing is a risk like pharmaceuticals, defence, research, etc,imposing strict user policy makes sense.
On the other hand, if the business requires networking and usage of the cyberspace as a tool to enhance presence and exposure then have certain processes and procedures in place. A clear-cut policy on non-inclusion of personal information and access to the same can go a long way in curbing unwanted attention from prospective cyber stalkers.

Think before Posting or Tweeting

Online social networks are a virtual goldmine of information for hiring companies. In a survey conducted by the executive search firm ExecuNet, three quarters of respondents claimed they use the web--and social media in particular--to screen potential job applicants. So, to put pictures of yourself at parties of friends or in a group at a pub is a no-no.

The Information Is Not Deletable

When you tweet, blog, spend time on Facebook and YouTube and post comments, to whom are you giving information? Much of the data will go public virally. The information placed on these sites will be available for days or even years.

Discriminate ; Are Your Musings Vital To EVERYONE

When you post your status, thoughts and pictures it is like putting your personal diary notings on a billboard for every passerby to glance through. So pause before you hit that send button. There is something called information gluttony. Sieve, select, discard and discriminate.

Right Tool in Right Hands

Do not assign handling of social media sites to overeager youngsters who know how to reach maximum people in the shortest time, but are not discriminating about how. The classic case of Habitat, a furniture business in UK, where an over-eager intern using hashtags like #Iran and #Mousavi, added notes about its products into the stream of tweets about the Iranian struggle.

Needless to say, Twitterers weren't happy to see those ads. This breeds negative publicity. Surf the net there are hundreds of such blunders available.

Clearly the lines between professional and personal interactions are being blurred. Self policing, logic and a common sense code of conduct will go a long way in making 2011 free of cyber blunders for all.