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Federal employee Internet Bill of Rights

My last post here on GovLoop stirred up quite a hornets nest and attracted all sorts of attention. Many folks
offered their own horror stories while other provided excellent
suggestions (like stop using IT policy as HR policy) or provided links
to tools to help discuss social networking to our bosses.

I work in marketing and public relations. Arguably I have a need to
access these tools at work. I use Facebook, Twitter, and some other url
shorteners to conduct business. That isn’t the case for most Federal

Simply ranting about my experience and shouting “I’m mad as hell!”
doesn’t help change the situation. I recently finished reading the
Cluetrain Manifesto and believe many of these same points easily
translate to the Federal workforce. Steve Radick summed up a
similar Cluetrain type list last year and I have taken
his idea and expanded on it.

I believe Federal workers should have an Internet Bill of Rights. If we
are trusted with our nations secrets and money why can’t we be trusted
on our nation’s information superhighway?

So, here is my stab at it-

The Federal employees Internet Bill of Rights

  1. I am a responsible Federal employee and deserve to be treated as such.
  2. I work in a time when my co-workers, customers, and yes- my family and
    friends, are using the internet to collaborate and communicate- even at
  3. I use social, and other web based tools, to share information with my co-workers, even if the tools seem trendy or have weird names.
  4. By becoming proficient with social networking tools I will become a more efficient productive employee during a time of critical need.
  5. The Federal government will provide ONE social media policy, scalable for various levels of security, that all agencies will adopt and follow.
  6. My agency will not punish the whole, for bad deeds of the few.
  7. I will learn how to use social networking tools responsibly and will incorporate them in my daily duties.
  8. I will not criticize my colleagues who do not understand these emerging tools but will help them learn how to use them.
  9. I will adhere to my Federal organizations public relations policy understanding that social media is a broadcast medium.
  10. I will hold myself to a higher standard when engaging in online activities, both on and off duty.

What do you think?

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John Bordeaux

11. I shall be held accountable for my actions online as I am offline.
12. I am expected to reach out beyond my organization, and shall be held accountable for hoarding information for which I am a steward.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Great stuff, Ben – this post and the last! How about:

– I will take a cyber-security training course so that I can ensure that my activities do not compromise the mission of my organization.
– I will map my social media use back to mission achievement and seek to use it in ways that streamline processes.

Thinking all citizens need that cyber-security, actually, not just govies.

Benjamin Strong

@Doug- I thougth that noise were the nay sayers preparing for the end of my career.

@Andrew- Thanks for the additions!

@Darren- guidance and trainging is important, but so is sharing why we can’t access, or alternatives to access for collaboration. I prefer to be presumed innocent before I am guilting of violating some IT rule. We seem to live in a world of presumption of guilt.

Anyway, thank all of you for contributing… 🙂

Stephen Buckley

I’d like to comment on this one:

6. My agency will not punish the whole, for bad deeds of the few.

Gee, wouldn’t that be nice. I’ve been trying, for years, to point out our human tendency to seek scapegoats before before determining whether it was the existing system of procedures that had caused the problem (i.e., an employee is “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” or “between a rock and a hard place”?)

But the change in federal agencies (i.e., away from scapegoating) will not happen unless the White House and their agency leadership stop their scapegoating first!

Scapegoating Example #1: Gulf oil spill scapegoat: the head of MMS “resigns” even tho only 9 months on the job.

Scapegoating Example #2: USDA Secretary fires employee for “racism” after edited video appears on Internet. President and USDA secretary later acknowledged she was firing without first asking questions.

If everyone, including the public, continues to expect every failure to result in someone’s head on a platter, then very few of the lower and middle-managers are going to start acting crazy by encouraging experiments that have any chance (>1%) of failure.


Benjamin Strong

Wow @Stephen, I feel your pain. I don’t know what we can do about the macro level blame game going on in Washington, I just want to focus on my slice of things. Thankfully I’m not a high enough level employee to ever face the ax for something catastrophic. I would, however, like to upload our public relations search and rescue photos to our Flickr page (which I can’t)


Dan Munz

In general, what’s laudable about this is how many of your bullets begin with “I will…” A key to good gov socmed policy is that it should be about embracing and defining responsibility, not evading it—a common misperception. You’ve captured that nicely.


@Ben it’s about presumption of ignorance. Everyone knows that you can’t just walk a classified document out of a building but not everyone knows what steps are taken to walk that document out of a building. The same goes for web2.0, everyone knows how to be social but with out the proper training it can be ineffective an insecure.

Marco Morales

With regard to setting the tone for our “rights” we all should closely focus on operational security and observe essential elements of friendly information or, EEFIs (questions likely to be asked by adversary and intelligence officials about specific friendly intentions, capabilities and activities so they can obtain answers critical to our operational effectiveness). Here, these EEFI’s are offered as guidance: 1. what are we doing or planning to do?; 2. what is our readiness posture/situation?; 3. what are our limitations, constraints or vulnerabilities?; 4. what are our Force Protection capabilities or vulnerabilities?; and 5. what are our continuity of operation plans or procedures? Our enemies just need pieces of small puzzles to figure out our next strategic moves.

Tom Melancon

I really like number five. It would be refreshing if the Federal Governmetn got out ahead of this trend adn established one comprehensible policy for all Federal Employees.

Benjamin Strong

@Marco- EEFI issues are already be divulged by naive troops now. They are disclosing troop movements, changes in plans, what equipment is broken, etc on Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. Only a change in the culture “Loose lips sink ships” will bring about change, not blocking sites outright. Until OPSEC is more than collateral duty we may never bridge this gap. Young people today will Tweet or blog anything… it’s their culture… getting back to a more secure thought process will take time and education, and it won’t be accomplished by blocking sites.

Marco Morales

I agree, Benjamin. With age and experience comes virtues like wisdom, patience and insight – none of which certain younger people seem to acquire with any amount of advice or packaged, digital environment sound bytes … Notice I did say “certain younger people” so that no one gets offended.

Dan L. Cain, Sr.

I feel that the Federal Employees Bill of Rights makes a great deal of sense particularly when we view the internet in both pro and con terms. As employees of the government(at any level and mine is local) we should hold ourselves to a higher standard and a greater degree of accountability.

Dan Cain, Sr.