My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

No Facebook while working at the Census Bureau? No reading blogs either?

Federal News Radio presents us with the following piece about procedural changes at the Census Bureau:

By Rachel Stevens
Federal News Radio

Checking your Facebook page or browsing the Internet at work could be causing more than just procrastination. It could lead to serious security breaches.

A new policy at the Census Bureau allows managers to revoke Internet access for employees that repeatedly fail to follow security measures.

“I don’t foresee it being something that’s abused” says Tim Ruland, Chief Information Technology Security Officer at the Census Bureau. “I think it’s going to be used very cautiously because, let’s face it, it’s an Internet world. It’s an option. It’s a management option. It’s not something we’re advocating…The manager needs to determine that. It’s a risk-based decision.”

He says his office does keep records of the amount of incidents associated with a particular employee. That also means tracking in-bound and out-bound traffic and worker use patterns. He will release this data to managers to help them make decisions, Ruland says, but he insists his office is “not the police.”

Ruland says his office has to reimage 25-30 computers per month because of inappropriate surfing and use of social networking websites like Facebook. He says this creates significant productivity loss.

“When you have to reimage a PC, you’re taking staff away from the IT directorate, but more importantly you’re taking the ability of that individual to do their job,” Ruland says.

In an attempt to respond to the growing cybersecurity problem, Ruland says his office has been working on a Web surfing handbook for new employees.

“We determined that there was a need to try and give something to somebody that they could have at their desk, that we could give them when they come in. Kind of a simple: ‘You’re at the Census Bureau; this is what you should think about.’”

He says the first draft of the guide is almost complete. It will eventually be distributed to new employees at orientations along with a general IT security handbook that is already distributed.

“It’s based on things that we’re seeing: what they should worry about when they’re going on Facebook, what they should worry about when they’re going on the Web and doing their business or surfing,” Ruland says.

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15 Responses to “No Facebook while working at the Census Bureau? No reading blogs either?”

  1. fastfoodcensus.com Says:

    This doesn’t really affect enumerators in the field, but I’m glad to see that precautions are being taken given the large amount of PII going through each lco everyday.

    Many companies and government agencies ban facebook and similar sites at work, as they are absolutely a security risk.

  2. Pablo S Says:

    It is quite simple to “lock down” a computer! Easy to find applications that allow you to do it. It’s 2010 folks…take advantage of technology!

  3. bob Says:

    As a former AMT, I’m very familiar with the census policy on computer use. Like every government site, census computers are for official business use only. It says so every time you log in.

    BUT, it also says that personal use is permitted, as long as it is not done on work time (i.e. before or after work, breaks, lunch). I believe it specifically mentions email use as allowed. There are no further restrictions on the personal use other than the obvious of “NSFW” type sites. Nothing about Facebook, blogs, or anything else. I know I could get to yahoo news and many other parts of yahoo, but for some reason not yahoo mail. Many folks were told to get Gmail accounts so they could use them at work.

    Of course, the IT security handbook is also full of errors. Just about everything it says about passwords is wrong: minimum 8 characters (s/b 12), 90 day expiration (s/b 45), etc.

    But personally, I used my own laptop and the wifi signal from McD across the street rather than do my personal stuff on a government network where it could be monitored. So did others, including our Area Manager, and new hires who had to wait a month or more to even get a computer login. And of course field staff from FOS to crew leader to enumerator had no choice but to use their personal computers for official census business, since none of them even had computer access in the office.

    The census bureau used to be a leader in computer technology. I still can’t believe that email was limited to 7-10 people in an office of over a hundred. The last time I worked in an office where EVERY EMPLOYEE didn’t have EMAIL access was 1979!

    Once first shift was over, evenings and weekends might not have any one with census email access, or at most one person. This was a serious issue at times, and had significant impact on our LCOs ability to function outside regular business hours.

  4. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    @bob or anyone else: can you please send me a copy of the security handbook or let me know where it is publicly available? thanks!

  5. oldtimer at census Says:

    Census HQ just blocked this site so nobody can chat about it…I’ve worked at Census more than 26 years (IT management) what a bunch of clowns

  6. AMA Says:

    From the posted article:
    “He says the first draft of the guide is almost complete. It will eventually be distributed to new employees at orientations along with a general IT security handbook that is already distributed.”

    I suspect this applies more to permanent Census staff, as activities are winding down for the Decennial, and most offices will be closed long before this guide is finished and distributed. And although managers have more internet access, I remember from my clerk days that we were extremely limited on which web sites we could access – for a while, the main “census.gov” site was blocked.

    @bob – have to agree with the comments on lack of e-mail. Except for the managers, only the AA and OOST had e-mail access. That is hard to believe in this day and age – it makes it difficult to disseminate information and hampered effective communications across departments and different shifts. And although we use a web-based version of Outlook, it is not accessible unless you are logged in through a Census server, so managers are unable to send or receive e-mail when out of the office.

  7. OOSX X Says:

    We recently had to have 2 computers at our office re-imaged…Strange both were used by an OOST nicknamed by the clerks “Queen of Facebook”…

  8. LCOmadness Says:

    how about making sure DAPPS,PBOCS, and MARC s working correctly instead of pissing around with this easy stuff??? Census IT is a JOKE!

  9. PM Says:

    Not near the manual right now (I think it’s in the D-59xes- at least I encountered it while training), there is an admonition against receipt of personal-account (ie non-bureau) email with the system for its potential threat to infect, along with connection of external drives or other storage to Bureau machines for the same reason, which makes sense.

    What makes less sense is an area manager getting bent over someone’s sending from a personal acct into the system after she herself answered general public inquiries via the same process, and replied to them… (hint to Census: try really hard to be consistent. As it’s a challenge for you to do it on adjacent pages of books- even on the same page- I know it’s uphill, but try.). If Census doesn’t want facebook interaction, maybe they should consider the message that this page sends:

    http://www.facebook.com/uscensusbureau

    And if they don’t want to receive outsider emails, they might want to look at this:

    http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/main/email.cgi

    or this:

    Denver.Regional.Office@census.gov

    I’m all for 1) friendliness and 2) security; it’s just a little awkward to reconcile the two when a message as mixed as this is sent out generally. I once heard “Be careful of what you ask for; you might get it!”

  10. Maiasaura Says:

    At VDC training our LCOM made a special trip to tell us that we are forbidden to post anything anywhere on the internet that has anything to do with Census 2010–no blogs, Facebook, Twitter, personal web pages. We would be fired on the spot “and if anyone thinks they can’t be identified because they have their cute little username, well, they can find you by your IP number and other special tools. This is being investigated at the highest level.”

    Gulp. Oh, that’s right–I’m already fired, er ‘laid off’, or ‘let go for lack of work’ or something. Come and get me, pointy-headed bureaucrats!

  11. uber-blogger Says:

    Blogging about work from work, how stupid, and you wonder why/how you get caught! Sure you have a right to your own opinion, be smart don’t do it from work. And don’t tell anyone, lest they tell others.

    The government has to protect itself and our information; if they don’t we’ll complain; if they do we complain (can’t play games, socialize, leak sensitive/private/classified information).

    Your tax $$ at work, government employees and contractors getting paid to while they surf social media sites, shouldn’t they be working? Just think how much we could save if they actually did work. How much does that cost across the government?

  12. Admin OOS Says:

    As I commented on an earlier “article” you posted…
    1. For each LCO there are only a handful of email accounts. 7 at this LCO. ONLY people with email accounts even HAVE internet access. Without internet access employees only have access to DAPPS, PBOCS and Census Websites.

    2. You have never been allowed to use Facebook on any Census computer, this is nothing new. You cannot use any site with a built in messaging system. This would compromise PII stored on said computers.

    3. You don’t have to “reimage” a computer to remove access to said sites. RCC can sever access remotely on an account by account basis.

    You try to make it sounds like this is some huge problem when it is actually a non-factor and has been restricted from the beginning.

  13. uber-blogger Says:

    Social Media sites aren’t blocked, just discuouraged while on the clock. In fact employee’s were encouraged to visit the Census Facebook site and others where Census has a presence. not paid to surf, paid to work.

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