GAO warns of social media risks

Agencies are using Facebook and Twitter to get their message out, but their policies are not keeping up with their use, according to a report that the Government Accountability Office released July 28.

Agencies have not dealt with challenges that social media brings to managing and identifying records, protecting personal information, and ensuring the security of federal information and system, the report stated.

The 23 major agencies that GAO examined have made mixed progress in setting policies.

Twelve of the agencies have issued guidance outlining how to manage records by their use of social media, as well as recordkeeping duties.

Twelve of them updated privacy policies, and eight assessed risks to privacy and the likelihood of personal information going out unintentionally to the public through the new media.

Seven agencies have documented security risks, such as the potential for a hacker to launch attacks against the federal information system, and ways to alleviate controls associated with social media.

GAO recommended that agencies need to consider protecting themselves to avoid hacking and also keeping good records.

Although policies may not be needed in all cases, “social media technologies present unique challenges and risks,” GAO reported. Listen to a podcast from GAO.

About the Author

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

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Reader comments

Fri, Jul 29, 2011 Jack

Bravo GAO! Thanks for looking at this and saying "this isn't anything new, these are IT systems and services which happen to be free for the agency but still fall under existing laws and rules." So many initatives have started outside the CIO's shop in violation of clinger-cohen under the flag of "new media" without any concern of privacy, security or records retention. Lets not re-invent the wheel or get hit by the axles of the early 2000's. Great work GAO! Keep it up!

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