WorkLight has released a tool that's designed to allow companies to provide employees with access to Facebook while ensuring the social network is run from behind secure corporate firewalls.

The server-based tool, known as WorkBook, stores proprietary company data on secure servers, not on Facebook servers, WorkLight said. In addition, the tool integrates with a company's existing single sign-on tools to authenticate employees, it said.

Non-proprietary data can be viewed on the larger Facebook network, but proprietary company data, along with employee phone numbers and job roles, will be hidden behind the firewall, said David Lavenda, vice president of marketing and product strategy at Boston-based WorkLight.

While companies are increasingly looking to satisfy the needs of workers clamouring for Web 2.0 collaboration technology like the hugely popular Facebook, many also fear that using such tools would allow confidential information to be publicly posted.

"Facebook is external to the firewall, and any information that people put into Facebook is publicly available ... stored in Facebook's server," Lavenda said. "That opens up a whole can of worms as to where information is stored, who has access to it and through what different paths did that traverse.

"[WorkBook] allows the part of the information that resides on a Facebook page that is proprietary to never to go to the Facebook server. Users work within an application framework where the information is being served from the WorkBook server from behind the firewall. The users are authenticated through existing authentication and access control systems," he added.

One WorkLight customer, an unnamed bank operating globally, offered its employees a proprietary social network but found that its employees were partial to Facebook, Lavenda said. "It was extremely difficult to get people to use it," he noted. "They abandoned the project and are now doing the Facebook approach."

The WorkBook lets employees use Facebook to do the following:

-- Search colleagues by name, location, department, project and area of expertise.

-- Connect with peers.

-- View up-to-date, corporate-specific information about peers like status, department, role and location.

-- Receive general and personalised company news directly from a Facebook news feed.

WorkBook is available now in a limited release with pricing starting at $10 per user per month. The tool will be generally available in February.