Another pet peeve of mine is when people make a post with seemingly no other purpose than to jump on the bandwagon of an existing "hot topic".  I feel that is what ZDNet's Michael Kringsman is doing in his post entitled "Twitter is Dangerous" (oooooh)  

In it his basic thesis is...

Imagine this scenario: 20 people are in a confidential meeting, one of them using Twitter. This attendee broadcasts an off-hand “tweet” (Twitter comment) to his or her “followers” (Twitter friends). With traditional instant messaging, that message would be received by perhaps one or two others. With Twitter, that comment may be seen by 10, 100, 1000, or more followers.

No offense to Mr. Kringsman but this theory could not be more flawed.  The assumption is that either (a) users have no understanding of their tool's functionality or (b) they simply don't understand the difference between public and private conversation. 

So to give a real world example, saying someone might use Twitter instead of IM to discuss something that they know is supposed to be confidential is like saying someone might use a bullhorn rather than a phone to inform a colleague down the hall about something confidential.  It just wouldn't happen because the primary thing people consider when using a method of communication is "who specifically does this tool allow me to communicate with?"  That makes the difference between personal tools and macro tools crystal clear to every user I've ever spoken to. 

Anyway, Mr Kringsman goes on to give this advice...

  • Pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Not being one to advocate head-in-sand methods, I can’t recommend this approach.
  • Block, or monitor, Twitter, as you might do with traditional instant messaging programs, such as Yahoo or AIM. It’s a tried and true method - not the best, but it works.
  • Acknowledge the inevitable, and establish clear information sharing policies and guidelines. In the long run users, like water, will seek their own level. In other words, users will eventually adopt the tools they want, whether you want them to or not. The wise among us will recognize this certainty.

Now 1 isn't really worth discussing because the very act of bringing the topic up (or reading this post) means you are doing something.  2 is equally not worthy of discussion because people don't need their network connection to Twitter, a cell phone will do just fine.

As for 3 I have to point out that it doesn't really solve the initial scenario given above.  In that scenario the user who shared the info via Twitter knew it was confidential so they were already violating a corporate privacy policy.  So saying that another policy would solve the problem doesn't really hold water.

In the end, the best advice about Twitter or anything online is that you need to have a corporate communication policy that decides what is shared publicly and what is not.  Things like Twitter or blogging only change how easy it is for the user to make their thoughts public they don't change anything about the act of making those thoughts public in the first place so even a pre-Web 2.0 communication policy should suffice as long as it is well written.  The issue is communication not technology.

If anything, I would advise against a specific twitter policy only because it sets a precedent saying "each service will have its own privacy policy through the company" leading some employees to believe that any service that doesn't have its own policy is ok to use with impunity.  That is the worst thing you could have happen.