I can see your Facebook updates...in Outlook?

Microsoft today launched Facebook integration for Outlook via a new social plug-in. See the story a http://mashable.com/2010/07/13/outlook-facebook/. What does this mean for you?

Your personal Facebook information and activity will be more closely tied to your business network. Period.

If you are “friends” with someone on Facebook and exchange email with them in Outlook, this plug-in will show that person’s Facebook activity in the Outlook experience. Even if you don’t have this plug-in on Outlook, your information will still appear in Outlook for anyone who has the Outlook plug-in and is your Facebook friend.

I unfortunately cannot provide a screenshot of my business inbox, but I can show you how I see Facebook status updates when I am composing mail to my boss, Kristen. She I are Facebook friends, and even though she doesn’t have the plug-in, I do so I can see her Facebook updates in the New Mail Message window.

Outlook also provides similar plug-ins for MySpace and LinkedIn, but considering the nearly half-billion Facebook users and dominance of Outlook for business email, this is probably the most impactful social integration for business yet.

Of course, this isn’t all bad. You have immediate access to information about people in your business network if you choose to use the plug-in, and that could create for better working relationships. You can skip those office parties and team offsites to get to know your coworkers. You've got a Facebook plug-in for that!

On the other hand, you will want to be sure that you do not post photos, status updates or other content that you wouldn’t want your colleagues or business network to see in their inboxes. Likewise, you may want to delete unflattering messages that friends have left on your wall. They, too, will appear in front of your colleagues.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. If/when Outlook integrates more robust features like Facebook photos, movies, calendar, friends, mutual friends, location updates,  etc., then we've got a whole new privacy issue at hand, which affects businesses -- and their legal and HR departments. When Facebook and Outlook start to look the same, that'll be a tough transition for employees to figure out. Things could get ugly. At least this go around Facebook will be able to share some of the legal costs with Microsoft.

I assume that Facebook will continue to create more intelligent filters so that you can determine who in your network can see your content through a plug-in like this, but until then I would assume that anyone in your Facebook network is eligible to see your personal information and activity on Outlook.

On that note, I have some toga pictures to de-tag.