Posts Tagged ‘blogging’
In a memo sent last week to all of its employees, the Census Bureau took a huge swipe at the first amendment of the US Constitution, the right to freedom of speech. The contents of the letter were as follows:
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDER
Social Networking and Census Employment
As personal blogging, tweeting, social network sites have become more common and popular, it is not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and their employer in a public forum. Please be aware that you cannot disclose any nonpublic information that is protected by statute. You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs or operations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee. In addition, you must be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of the Bureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government, when you are writing in your personal capacity.
These rules apply to all employees, as well as those who are professional writers and reporters, so please keep these considerations in mind before writing and publishing or posting an article or other writing about the census or your work as a Census Bureau employee.
As a Federal employee and a hard-working member of the Census Bureau, you have important responsibilities and obligations to the public which impose some limits on you that do not apply to persons in the private sector. Please be mindful of these responsibilities, even when engaging in personal activities such as blogging and posting on web sites.
These restrictions on writings and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took to uphold the confidentiality of census information. Any wrongful disclosure of confidential census information subjects you to a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment up to 5 years, or both.
*The last part of the letter was underlined, not put in bold, but I put it in bold to illustrate a point.
Just like other government officials and people who work in the private sector, Census Bureau employees are subject to confidentiality laws. However, this does not mean that the government has the right to threaten employees, particularly whistleblowers, as they have in this situation. The Census Bureau must make clear what workers’ legal obligations are and what are simply the goals of the Census Bureau’s management and public relations team who benefit greatly from problems being kept quiet and unreported.
It’s funny how it is implied that criticizing and talking to outsiders about the incompetence of the census machinery and brass is punishable with jail and fines, when in reality, it only applies to title 13 of USC in regard to respondent information and personally identifiable information. The census own manuals have a section devoted to the rights and protections afforded to whistleblowers. They also imply that because we are paid government employees, that it is unethical for us to publicly humiliate and or expose the ineptness of our employers. Nice try. There is no law preventing anyone from writing in their personal capacity, but it is implied that it is wrong, unethical, and just not cool.
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDERSocial Networking and Census EmploymentAs personal blogging, tweeting, social networking sites have become more common and popular, itis not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and theiremployer in a public forum. Please be aware you cannot disclose any nonpublic information thatis protected by statute. You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs oroperations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee. In addition, youmust be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of theBureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government when youare writing in your personal capacity.[...]These restrictions on writing and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took touphold the confidentiality of census information. Any wrongful disclosure of confidential censusinformation subjects you to a fine up to $250,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both.