Big Government and Twitter

The Miners are all out. It’s hard not to be a bit tearful when you see the pictures, especially the one of the little girl clinging to her recently rescued father. It’s nice for once to have a major news event that isn’t miserable or just plain nasty. However (sigh), it’s back to reality today. So between now and the CSR announcement next week, there is something of a news vacuum. It’s going to be filled with people leaking like mad in order to try and stave off spending cuts in their area, and people remembering that there is a Commonwealth Games going on.

Searching the news today, I did rather like the fact that Greater Manchester Police have been using Twitter to give a running commentary on incidents being reported. When I say ‘like’ I mean amused – who would have thought there were so many rogue cows in the Greater Manchester area? It leads me to wonder if this was part of the Big Society/Open Government piece? One of the outputs of this is the drive to open up information to citizens on all sorts of things. Councils having to list procurements over £500 is the latest one, and again, it’s hard to argue against the ethos here.

But I am wondering how long it will be before somebody releases something they shouldn’t. What is the line between a breach and an Open Government posting? The answer isn’t damage caused (the expenses scandal grew out of an FoI response for example), but probably the intended effect of the release. And this is where we find ourselves looking at IA policy and controls relating to this new media. It’s all very well some sportsman posting an irritated rant on Twitter about being dropped (, but the percentage chance of a Public Sector employee Tweeting something inappropriate gets higher all the time. And lo, we are back to our old friend DLP technology. As the pressure on employees increase and their ability to vent their anger increases, there is a natural point where the two lines meet.

The advice is simple. One, treat your employees right (generally) or they will get the hump. Two, get your policies right and make sure your employees understand that IF they get the hump they know what the consequences are. And three, assume they will get the hump and have technology in place to back up your policy. Open Gov is a great thing, but to some it spells an opportunity for mischief. As IA professionals we need to do our best to stop the mischief (however well intentioned) causing undue harm.


About Graeme Stewart, McAfee

I work for McAfee as Director of Public Sector Strategy and Relations, UK&I
This entry was posted in CSR, Efficiency, Legal, Security. Bookmark the permalink.

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