Wired Workplace Wired WorkplaceWired Workplace
How information technology is changing the landscape for federal employees.

Facebook Faux Pas

Agencies need to do a better job of explaining to employees how to use social media sites without compromising personal information or data associated with their jobs, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

While the report focused on how agencies are leveraging Twitter, Facebook and similar platforms to improve operations and transparency as President Obama urged them to do in January 2009, it also offers some warnings for employees.

Social media has the potential to better include citizens in the governing process and improve agency missions, but "use of these services may also pose risks that government records and sensitive information, including personally identifiable information, is not properly managed or protected," GAO wrote.

Noting that government computers have been targeted by "persistent, pervasive, and aggressive threats and that, as a result, personal and agency information needs to be safeguarded from security threats," auditors concluded that agencies should provide employees with guidance on how to use social media websites properly and how to handle information in the context of social media.

"The rapid development of social media technologies makes it challenging to keep up with the constantly evolving threats deployed against them and raises the risks associated with government participation in such technologies" GAO reported.

Auditors also are concerned about maintaining accurate federal records as required by law. They referenced a 2010 report by the National Archives and Records Administration that found agency managers were not only overwhelmed by the speed at which employees were adopting social media technologies, but also by the fact that employees were ignoring or ignorant of records management concerns.

"Until agencies ensure that records management processes and policies and recordkeeping roles and responsibilities are articulated within social media policies, officials responsible for creating and administering content on agency social media sites may not be making appropriate determinations about social media records," GAO said.

Wired Workplace is a daily look at issues facing the federal information technology workforce. It is published on Nextgov.com. Click here to read the latest entries.


Katherine is deputy editor of Government Executive Media Group, a division of Atlantic Media, where she oversees editorial coverage for GovExec.com and Government Executive magazine. She previously was executive editor of Nextgov.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.