Porsche, fearing industrial espionage, has banned their 13,000 employees worldwide from accessing Facebook and other social networks while at work. That's just stupid.
Rainer Bennett, Porsche's head of group security, told German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche the automaker has a longstanding policy of banning social media networks at work, but not because they found them to be a huge waste of time or a distraction. They're afraid employees will share corporate information and allow access to important company financial data or details on upcoming models and strategies. Although, when asked, a Porsche spokesperson told us there's never been a specific case of that happening.
This isn't just an example of how strict and amusingly German Porsche is, it's also proof of how little their corporate security team understands these social networks. Here's why:
The Ban Only Extends To Corporate Workstations In Europe
The company is unable, though not necessarily unwilling, to ban the use of Facebook or other social networks at home. This means any of Porsche's 13,000 employees (according to the company, approximately 3,250 Porsche employees are currently Facebook users) can still spill their secret corporate data as soon as they leave the office.
They're also able to access Facebook, Twitter, car forums and other social media networks from their phones, just like 150 million active users already do. So really, they can also do it while they're sitting at their desk.
They're Targeting The Wrong Porsche Employees
When the Porsche Speedster information leaked early, it wasn't from someone inside at Porsche, it was from a dealership employee. That person was promptly fired.
How do we know this? A Porsche insider who spoke with us over dinner (not over Facebook).
Also, Porsche doesn't appear to be worried about embargoed product information leaking out, they're worried about serious corporate espionage that details plans for products five years away from the eyes of the public, not five days away. It's likely that employees with this information probably aren't even on Facebook.
Neither Porsche's CEO Matthais Muller, nor designer Walter de'Silva (who says he'll have a hand in the new Cajun design) have active (or any) Facebook profiles. Who does? Communications staff not seriously in the loop like Dirk Erat, who told Bloomberg "These services imply a certain threat potential." Of course, he's only got one friend (which is a sad commentary in itself).
Porsche Cars North America spokesman Gary Fong has a Facebook page with 39 friends. And who is listed on his interests? None other than automotive spy photographer and corporate espionage expert Brenda Priddy. Does this mean he's leaking secrets to her? No. He's paid not to give away secrets and most of Priddy's friends are people in the industry who, unlike Porsche AG, seem to think they can trust themselves not to blab.
Secrets are shared over Heineken, not over eBay.
Porsche Is Cutting Themselves Off From Their Fans
This spirit of this ban separates the people making the decisions about Porsche cars from the people who care about Porsche most: the current and potential customers.
The moment automakers create a "forbidden fruit" is the same moment people look to take a bite out of it. Companies like Porsche should be embracing the internet and social media, not running scared from it.