Goldman Sachs Invests $450 Million in Facebook, but still blocks it

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According to Fast Company’s Austin Carr, Goldman Sachs has invested $450 million in Facebook, yet the social network is still blocked for Goldman employees.

Goldman isn’t alone.  A study commissioned by Robert Half Technology found only 10 percent of 1,400 CIOs interview said their companies allow employees full access to social networks during work hours.

According to Fast Company, back in 2007, one Goldman Sachs employee reportedly received the following message from the IT department:

“It has come to our attention that you have been spending a considerable amount of time on a website known as ‘The Facebook.’ This is unacceptable since firm regulations do not permit usage of social networking sites,” the warning read. “Your combined total usage time over the past six months has now exceeded 500 hours (the equivalent of over four hours daily), which we feel would normally be sufficiently high to render us duty-bound to inform your manager.”

54 percent of U.S. companies outright ban the use of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the like during working hours.  Do you think we have the right to access these tools during the day?  Isn’t it similar to when companies banned Google ten years ago?


18 responses to “Goldman Sachs Invests $450 Million in Facebook, but still blocks it

  1. To the entity that is Goldman, the facebook investment is just another small punt with their money. As bankers, the chances of them putting the two together is non existent.

  2. Hey Eric, without having read all the other comments, I think that companies need to embrace the fact that their staff are their biggest advocates and they should be encourgedto use social networking sites at work. I understand that some peoples idea of networking doesn’t even come close but if companies took the time to create a strategy that could include the use of social networking sites by staff and then made it a pre-requisite that stff included a certain amount of ‘company blurb’ in their online activities then surely the benifits, from an exposure point of veiw, far outweigh the negatives? The bigger the organisation, the more chance their content has of going viral overnight.
    If the smokers can have 12 smoke breaks a day, what’s up with banning social networking?
    I always tell companies, in South africa, who are only now starting to understand the power of social networking; “The internet is a wonderful machine… USE IT!!!”

    • Here! Here! Grant. There was actually a study that showed employees being able to use social media on their break where more productive than those that didn’t.

      Cheers, equalman

  3. I think that employers do not trust their employees to use the sites as they are supposed to. In reality, these sites are potentially a huge source of revenue. It’s just a matter of time before they realize that these sites can be used for good reasons during work hours.

    • Boris:

      Agree with your statement: “It’s just a matter of time before they realize that these sites can be used for good reasons during work hours.”

      Each employee is a potential media outlet.

      Thanks for reading and the support!


  4. @equalman – you have an excellent point.

    The crux of the matter is that people who want to slack off at work will find SOME way to do it, whether it’s wandering around with from cubicle to cubicle (and distracting others from THEIR work), or simply wasting time at their desks.

    So even with restricted access to the internet, slackers will be slackers – and many will find ways around the restrictions if they really want to access something that’s been banned. (You’d think with unemployment being so awful folks would be HIGHLY motivated to do their best at work!)

    However, unlike phone, email, and paper, which have genuine purpose at the office, there is little legitimate reason for the average worker to be on social networking sites while at work. So to me it seems prudent to restrict access to known time-wasters to help remove temptation. While one could reasonably perform a great deal of research on Google, the same cannot really be said of social media sites (outside of the marketing office).

    Speaking as a Navy veteran and former Air Force civilian, internet access is typically highly restricted, even in locations without sensitive data. The military assumption seems to be that if you allow your people unfettered internet access they’ll use it – and perhaps abuse it. But that if you limit it and they STILL abuse it, at least you’ve given them enough “rope to hang themselves.”

    So a companies look overbearing and big brother-ish if they ban or limit certain sites, but when they don’t it’s treated as tacit permission to use them. Truly a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    • Kristen:

      First and foremost thank you for serving our country, we all greatly appreciate your tireless and selfless effort.

      Thanks for also taking a look at both sides of this argument, I really like how you presented the facts and you are right this is not easy for companies right now.

      I do feel though that eventually all companies will realize they are best off allowing as much freedom as possible to their staffs. The question becomes when is that? For some progressive companies that is right now, for others it will take time.

      Thanks again and I hope you beat Army in football this year 🙂

  5. I totally understand companies that restrict Internet access… not only social media sites, but based on content type too.

    If a company is paying you to do job X, then do job X… and don’t play on the Internet all day! Friends of mine quite literally spend their entire day on Facebook, but never post anything related to their company, products or services – only personal. So that could be classified as stealing – be it bandwidth, resources or company time.

    There are stories of companies providing “public” terminals, where staff can go and access all the usually blocked material… but for limited time periods in a day. I fully support that for staff not directly related to sales or marketing…

    • Ray:

      To play devil’s advocate; isn’t that a people problem rather than a social media problem. Should we block personal phone calls from going out? Should we remove paper since someone might doodle for twenty minutes. Should we block Google because people may perform a non-work related search? To this later point many companies did use to block Google when it first came to prominence.

      I’m with you that many people do use these tools at work to waste time. My opinion is that an employee either gets the job done or they don’t. If you have to go to lengths to police, or restrict access isn’t that a symbol that you may have the wrong people in place?

      44% of people work around these restrictions anyhow (usually via mobile).

      Thanks for reading and supplying a different view point as a healthy debate always gets us to a better answer.


    • If a person is spending all day on the internet, thats an employee engagement and leadership problem, not a social media problem. And i would go as far as to sat its not even the individuals problem.

      The organisations leadership should have their arse kicked, not the employee. They are clearly failing to either engage the employees, or set adequate otput expectations around goals and output.

      But thats what you get when you measure input only. you get presenteeism and lack of commitment.

  6. My case would be the most interesting one. I have just been employed as a “Social Media Executive” in a Malaysian company, yet the only social network I can access (bypass, it’s still blocked) is Twitter.

    Their idea of “social media” is still forums and blogs. Now why would I take the pain to register for each forum, when I can have access to all brands in one registration on Facebook/Twitter?

  7. But I think the majority of companies don’t let their employees use Facebook and the security issues connected to using the social networks are definitely one of the reasons to do so.

    • Lorne: There are some security gaps…I’m trying to research just how real these are. if you come across anything let us know. Sometimes IT uses “security” and “bandwidth” as shields…other times it’s legitimate.

      Thanks for the input!

  8. Considering that I keep tabs open in the background, often all day, I can’t help but wonder how much of that 500 hours in 6 months is actual usage. My Twitter feed is running on a firefox or chrome tab 24 hours a day. Good thing I don’t work for Goldman..

    • Well said Dan “I keep tabs open in the background, often all day, I can’t help but wonder how much of that 500 hours in 6 months is actual usage.”


  9. Some companies even say that employees can’t have a private Facebook account work.

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