Social media policies: strict, loose or in-between?

Agencies run the gamut

Does your agency block your access to streaming video or social networking?

After a discussion emerged on GovLoop about at least one component of the Defense Department blocking access to LinkedIn – an all-business networking site with none of the timewasting games and activities that services such as Facebook provide -- FCW decided to ask several agencies to describe their current policies.

In an earlier survey, 46 percent of senior government employees said they are now allowed to use Facebook and other sites at work. But while the trend appears to be toward relaxing restrictions, that’s not universal.

At the Social Security Administration, for example, “We currently block access to streaming media and social networking sites for most users, including remote access,” said spokeswoman Kia Green. “Only those with a business need to use streaming media or social networking sites have such access.”

At the Homeland Security department, “[S]ocial media sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, My Space, etc., are blocked at the department’s Trusted Internet Connection,” said Larry Orluskie, a spokesman. “Exceptions are granted on a case-by-case basis for individual users and, in some cases, larger communities of interest, when business needs dictate.”

The Justice Department, however, does not block the sites, according to spokeswoman Tracy Russo, and the Veterans Affairs department blocks streaming media but not social networking sites, said spokeswoman Josephine Schuda.

Some agencies have simply folded social media into other policies government personal use of agency resources and time. At the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, there is no special rule. Employees are allowed to use the services – EPA has a presence on many of them – and are expected to not abuse the privilege, according to a spokesman there.

EPA does block streaming music sites, the spokesman said, but only for the sake of conserving bandwidth.

Many agencies frequently change the rules, to try to keep up with changing technologies. At the Small Business Administration, “These policies have evolved in the past year to account for ongoing changes to the web world. and will continue to evolve as online tools continue to change the online landscape,” said Joe Zepecki, deputy assistant administrator.

Tell us your agency's policy. Specifically, does your agency allow access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and other social media sites? What about streaming contect such as YouTube or Pandora? Does the policy seem set, or is it open to change?

About the Authors

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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Reader comments

Thu, Apr 28, 2011

DOD Agency: We have selective blocking. They opened access to FB after the Agency created a presence on it. So I can FB w/ my friends all day (I don't but can), but I can't download Go To Meeting to conduct business or access streaming webinars related to my work. I think EPA is right to open the doors. Yes, some irresponsible employees will abuse the privilege but that is true of everything. Stop tying the hands of employees who want to use technology to accomplish work.

Thu, Apr 28, 2011

FAA: "Counsels" users trying access FB, YT, and other such sites. They block streaming media because it's a bandwidth hog. They completely block ALL access to places like Netflix (even the text administration portions) because it was rumored that some few employees were streaming movies... REALLY? (I was surprised to hear this too since it seems blatantly obvious that it's inappropriate.) This is all done at the portal.

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