Väyrynen, Karin, Hekkala, Riitta, & Liias, Tuula (2013). Knowledge Protection Challenges of Social Media Encountered by Organizations. Journal of Organizational Computing and Electronic Commerce, 23(1/2), 34-55.


Although social media (SM) represents a new means of creating and sharing knowledge, it also presents new challenges for protecting confidential information and other data that companies do not want to share. However, knowledge protection and security-oriented knowledge management processes related to SM have received little attention in previous studies. This research attempts to close that gap by examining which information and knowledge protection challenges arise from employees’ use of SM, why they arise, and how organizations can address them. The main contribution of this study is a framework that integrates three types of knowledge protection challenges (information security challenges; reputation challenge; management challenges) with five special characteristics of SM (information distribution speed; blurry audience; merging of private and professional identity; easily collectible information; generation transition), which explain why these challenges arise. In addition, the framework presents eight questions that organizations should answer to help them address the three types of knowledge protection challenges. Our findings have practical implications: by answering the eight questions proposed in this study, companies can create knowledge management and protection policies for SM. Furthermore, the findings in this study open up several future research questions.


Eleven semi-structured interviews in January and February 2011 were conducted with information security experts, five from the public sector and six from companies in the private sector.

Key Findings

1)    Based on previous research and our empirical data, we identified three types of knowledge protection challenges arising from social media: Information security challenges (Identity theft, scams, phishing; Disclosure of confidential information), Reputation challenge, and Management challenges (Crossing boundaries with social media; Legitimacy of using social media at the workplace)

2)    We identified five special characteristics of social media as a new form of media which are causes for the knowledge protection challenges: The speed of information distribution, the fact that the audience of messages in social media can become blurry, the merging of private and professional identity in social media, the fact that information is easily collectible in social media, and the situation that people belonging to different “generations” (those who grew up with the internet, and those who did not) are currently working in companies.

3)    Finally, we identified a set of eight questions which, if answered by knowledge management policy makers, can help to address the identified knowledge protection challenges.

Implications for Practice

Social media can create knowledge protection challenges thanks to its speed, blurred audiences, merged professional/private identities, and its ease of collecting information. Knowledge protection challenges, such as identity theft, scams, disclosure of confidential information, can create reputational challenges as well as management challenges dealing with internal and external communication. Answering the following questions can help address these challenges:

1)    What role does social media play in the company?

2)    What kind of information can be shared in social media?

3)    Who is allowed to share information in social media?

4)    With whom is one allowed to share information in social media?

5)    As whom is one allowed to share information in social media?

6)    When is one allowed to share information in social media?

7)    Is one sharing information with whom they think they are?

8)    Who is responsible for social media in the company?

Article Location

The full article is available for purchase at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10919392.2013.748607#.UZnWXde8TNo   




Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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