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How do you prevent employees from reading a story? Use some nice gobbledygook

15 Jul

You can’t make up stories like this.

The Department of Homeland Security has sent a memo to employees that they may be violating their non-disclosure agreement if they click on a link to a Washington Post article.

It’s obviously a tricky legal thing. Employees are being asked not to use their work computers (referred to as “unclassified government workstations”) since doing so will “raise the level of your unclassified workstation to the classification of the slide…” Doing so, they warn, will cause “data spillage.” It’s also sensitive, being connected to the Edward Snowden affair.

That classified slide, featured in the Post, is about the program known as PRISM, that secretly collected downstream data about people from companies such as  Facebook, Skype, Google, Apple, Microsoft etc.

But the question remains: If DHS really fears such “spillage” why did it not block access to the site from work computers, rather than send out that lame memo? It’s as useful as telling 12-year old students “do not turn to page 296 of your reader; by doing so you will be in violation of the school’s policy.”

I find this very topical for another reason. I just interviewed a company called Safetica, about a product it  markets as ‘productivity’ solution – to monitor employees’ online behavior. It will not snoop into people’s content, it says, but collect data about the paces people visit and how much time they spend there. It gets more interesting: this data, can be viewed by both supervisors and employees!

Maybe Safetica ought to send DHS one month free trail of its data leak prevention software!

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