Social media has become an integral part of the way we commute and share information. In the past decade, more people use social media in their daily personal, and professional, lives. As increasing discussions arise concerning public information security and individual privacy, attention has been focused on government social media use and the implications of monitoring by the government.

Last week, published the CIO Council, Privacy Best Practices for Social Media. is the website of the U.S. Chief Information Officer and the Federal CIO Council.

The CIO Council website states, “Social media is a critical tool for agencies to use as they move toward a digital, open government. When used effectively, social media can be an incredibly powerful set of tools, precisely because they can connect agencies directly to diverse audiences and opinions.”

The document stated that social media sites, specifically Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, reach a large part of the population and that social media is an ideal platform for: “sharing information, starting conversations, and exchanging knowledge within and outside government.” The document addressed the various ways the Federal government can use social media for information sharing, situational awareness and to support agency operations. Additionally, it explains the privacy practices for establishing a social media program and policy.

Quoting from the document:

“When monitoring publicly available sites, an agency should extract only the pertinent, authorized information that is needed to fulfill business or mission need.”

And “The agency should limit its information gathering to facts surrounding the event (what is happening), rather than who is either involved or reporting the information, unless the agency has specific legal authority to collect information on individuals.”

Also included in the document was guidance aimed at government agencies and how they should interact with the public, to include:

  • Transparency regarding the type of information the agency is collecting
  • Clear indication which identifies that they are an agency affiliated with the government, using government/agency seals and name associated with the social media handle
  • Specific posting of privacy policies on social media sites and on their own websites

Those who are actively use social media, especially in the professional realm, should take the time to read and understand the implications and policies contained within the document.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.