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Yelp redux, NSA's balancing act, new cyber paradigms and more

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GSA: Yelp is swell, but certainly not mandatory

A top social media adviser at the General Services Administration is trying to dispel some of the myths that have sprung up about how federal agencies can use social media apps to serve the public.

In an Aug. 29 blog post, Justin Herman, GSA's social media manager, explained the details of the agency's terms-of-service agreement with Yelp, the customer-satisfaction rating and recommendation platform that is best known for restaurant reviews. Federal agencies can now use Yelp to allow the public to review federal services, sites and operations.

Herman said Yelp is one of 80 third-party social media apps that GSA has made available to agencies. Other options for citizen feedback include UserVoice, SurveyMonkey, IdeaScale and Quora. Federal agencies can use such services through amended terms-of-service agreements as outlined in a 2013 Office of Management and Budget memo.

There has been an "outpouring of interest ... in response to Yelp's decision to amend their terms of service for official government use," Herman wrote. He stressed, however, that the development does not require agencies to use Yelp, or that GSA has endorsed it. "GSA pursued amended terms of service for Yelp based on expressed interest from some agencies, starting with an app from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration designed to save lives and prevent drunk driving over the holidays," Herman wrote -- adding that the process of negotiating such agreements is "wonky even by government standards."

Two years after Snowden, NSA still working on privacy-security balance

More than two years after former contractor Edward Snowden revealed the scope of the National Security Agency's collection of bulk metadata, the NSA is still wresting with how to balance privacy with its security mission, according to Chief Risk Officer Anne Neuberger. The agency has "been breaking down and trying to glean the principles from all those post-Snowden articles to understand how the American people think about their privacy," Neuberger said in an interview published by Homeland Security Today. "It is particularly challenging within the current threat environment, since many transnational threats -- counterterrorism, counter proliferation -- are using the same communications technologies that the average American is using."

She also described the agency as having a strong "culture of compliance, which you might not expect from reading the press over the last couple of years."

NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers created the chief risk officer position about a year ago to assess the agency's risks across various missions.

Carter says DOD cybersecurity must improve

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has called for marked improvement in the Pentagon's cybersecurity after the hack of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's unclassified email network, Defense One reported.

"That is evidence that we're not doing as good as we need to do in job one in cyber, which is defending our own networks," Carter said. "Our military is empowered by and also dependent upon networks for its effective operations. So we have to be good, and I would say we have to be better at network defense than we are now."

Carter is traveling to Silicon Valley this week, where he will host a roundtable discussion at the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the Pentagon's new outreach office in Mountain View, Calif.

Cardon continues pitch for new cyber paradigm

At a conference in Augusta, Ga., this week, Army Cyber Command Commander Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon continued his pitch for a new paradigm for cybersecurity that eschews military hierarchy.

"Our previous constructs [targeting cyber] have failed," Cardon said Aug. 25, according to C4ISR & Networks. "It's an Army problem, a joint problem, a national security problem."

The Augusta Chronicle quoted Cardon as saying, "As far as we have come over the past decade, I still think we are near the beginning of what is truly possible. However, the window to accomplishing our potential in a proactive manner is closing."

Cardon has been outspoken about shaking up the military's cyber structure. In an interview with FCW earlier this year, he elaborated on his idea of applying the concept of "fusion cells" -- similar to the small teams of Special Forces and intelligence officers dispatched to Iraq in 2008 -- to cyberspace.

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