The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was established in 1947 for the purpose of establishing common standards among manufacturers around the world. A nongovernmental organization, it nevertheless interacts on a routine basis with national governments in in its 163 member countries to ensure that governmental policies are consistent with the international standards agreed to by ISO’s members. With the proliferation of computers and computer networks operating across national borders, the need arose for a system of common measurements and operating principles for the numerous countries connecting to the internet for business, personal, informational and governmental activities. ISO was the natural repository for that function.
ISO’s Code of Ethics includes a requirement for members – all of whom participate on a voluntary basis, and the U.S. representative to which is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – to operate in as cooperative and transparent manner as is possible, and to abide by the principle of conforming to the agreed upon standards in whichever business sector is at issue.
As the issue here involves social networking, which expanded at exponential speed, and which crosses international boundaries on a daily basis, the need to establish “rules of the road” to which organizations in all member countries could agree became increasingly urgent. ISO, consequently, found a role to play in facilitating standardization of operating principles for the various social networking sites. The specific code that would apply for social networking is ISO 9001, which includes a series of expectations for how the company in question should establish guiding principles and requirements for how it will operate. These principles include the production of a quality management system and manual specifying proper procedures; a commitment to focus on the requirements of the customers; and continuously maintain information on customer satisfaction with the service. Member organizations must meet certain standards to attain certification from ISO, most of which fall under the “quality control” category, and are fairly standard across most industries.
As noted, the U.S. member of the ISO is the American National Standards Institute, which works on information technology standardization in the U.S., using ISO’s guidelines as its own. As ANSI’s website states, the ISO Joint Technical Committee on Information Technology has made major advances in establishing standards “in the fields of multimedia, MPEG, security, programming languages, and character sets, to name a few. Then, in the 2000s, development really too off in new and expanding areas such as security and authentication, bandwidth/connection management, storage and data management, software systems engineering, portable computing devices, and societal aspects (suh as data protection and cultural and linguistic adaptability).”
Because social networking appeared so quickly and expanded so exponentially, organizations have had to scurry to keep up with the requirements at ensuring social media lends itself to the kind of “best practices” principles for which ISO exists. How that relationship between ISO and social media evolves will be worth watching, but the freewheeling nature of social media sites makes standardization of practices very difficult.