Social networking has generally been discouraged in the workplace, with many corporate IT departments blocking access to sites like Facebook and MySpace (s nws) due to privacy concerns. But these efforts are becoming increasingly futile as our lives continue to converge with social networks, analysts at a Gartner symposium said yesterday. Plus, social networking may even help workers “feel valued, a part of a community, and earn the respect of peers.” Privacy concerns surrounding social networks were brought up at our NewNet Bunker Series, where participants debated whether we should keep our data holed up in walled gardens or leave it open for developers to build upon. (Replay the event and read our live-blogging notes on GigaOM Pro, subscription required.)
While social networking in the office may foster community, there’s also a chance it could lead to better enterprise technology down the road. Investor Dave McClure yesterday declared that he wanted big players like Google (s goog), Microsoft (s msft) and Yahoo (s yhoo) to take his data and use it to build helpful applications. An example of this concept would be the evolution of the Twitter network. The micromessaging site opens up most of its data to developers, who in turn build applications on top of the platform that offer features not found on Twitter.com.
In the same vein, if tech companies were able to glean data on how workers interact with one another on social networks while in the office, this could spur ideas for future enterprise-focused social-networking applications that aim to facilitate communication and increase productivity and efficacy. Some enterprise social-network applications are already popping up, such as Yammer, an enterprise version of Twitter, and both Oracle (s orcl) and IBM (s ibm) have similar offerings called OraTweet and BlueTwit.
“While a job may be regarded as an economic transaction, the human brain thinks of the workplace as a social system,” Gartner analyst Carol Rozwell said yesterday.
And if corporate IT companies still aren’t convinced of the value of social-networking data, they could take a note from the CIA, which invested in a software firm that monitors social media activity on sites like Twitter and YouTube.