SBA rule aims to protect employee e-mail

Managers at the Small Business Administration now must have several levels of approval before accessing an employee’s e-mail inbox.

On Dec. 21, SBA officials approved the rules regarding when managers can look at SBA employee e-mail messages after a report from the agency’s inspector general showed SBA had no clear policy about accessing e-mail messages without authorization. Now managers must have written authorization from the chief information security officer before looking at e-mail messages, the notice said.

They must give written justification to a senior official explaining why access is necessary. Managers may have legitimate reasons for looking at or monitoring messages. For example, they may need to keep e-mails from an employee who has left SBA or get e-mails when conducting a fact-finding inquiry.

Then the senior official and the CISO must review and approve the request. Finally, the CISO has to get clearance from the general counsel and the chief human capital officer.

Once approved, the CISO will decide who will have access, for how long and how much, the notice said.

The policy expires in December, but SBA said it would be incorporated into permanent policy before then.

The notice comes after a report from SBA’s inspector general, which was released in October. The IG said managers looked at an employee’s e-mail inbox after that employee gave testimony anonymously to the IG and the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurial Committee. It also said there were instances of accessing employees’ e-mail. In response, one manager said no rules were broke because there were no rules covering the situation.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the committee’s chairman, in a letter sent to SBA last week, said when the managers looked at the employee's e-mail they may have hindered oversight. He said whistleblowers won’t talk to IGs and congressional committees about misconduct if they have doubts about their confidentiality.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Featured

  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.