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

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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Can you really block my voice?

Q: What  might Tehran and Southwest Airlines have in common?

(No, it’s not another ‘peanuts’ joke.)

A: An intolerance with passengers text-chatting online.

Dan York, a tech strategist, author and blogger discovered to his dismay that while Southwest had begun a WiFi Zone on board some of its flights, (and is big on, and well known for using Twitter,) it cut out Skype chat.

But blocking speech at 30,000 feet is the least of our worries in a world that is increasingly intolerant of dissenting voices. It took on a new dimension in Iran this week, in the aftermath of the highly contested elections.  The Associated Press reports that the government has stepped up its Internet filtering and Iranians are unable to send text messages from their phones. The Guardian had this to say:

“Mobile phone text messages were jammed, and news and social networking websites – including the Guardian, the BBC and Facebook – as well as pro-Mousavi websites were blocked or difficult to access.”

But can a government really ‘block’ people’s voices in this age of leaky media. While Twitter  is being blocked in Iran, some tweets that get through publish the addresses of proxy servers that can be accessed undetected.

Someone uploaded —to Flickr! — this screen capture (left) of tweets found using the hash tag #iranelection.

And then the opposition candidate MirHossein Mousavi has been tweeting, as we know.

Despite all this other forms of technology –including jamming –are being used to circumvent the government clampdown.

Even Arab satellite TV news station Al-Arabiya was shut down.

I don’t think we will see an end to governments trying to curb dissent using intimidation and technology, but these events are unwittingly providing those who favor democratic processes good examples of how best to adapt to the next clampdown, the next autocrat, the next crisis.

 

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Image is everything –until you tick off the media

This is the flip side of my last post on image management –the futility of trying to control things.

The British journalist removed from the scene of a protest in Beijing on Wednesday can undo much of gains China has been making in the first few days of the Olympics.

The hand-covering-camera-lens tactic worked in times gone by. Today there are too many cameras that don’t look like cameras. There’s audio. There’s Twitter. And as we have seen only too well, reporters don’t have to be credentialed to cover a story. Images like this will gain more currency when mainstream people are ticked off.

As I more or less predicted last month, media rights mean nothing if someone has a story to tell and an audience.

Addendum:

This comment from David Wolf, on a post on Digital Watch, a blog out of Ogilvy China sums it up well:

“the IOC has yet to come to terms with the Internet and what it means to the way people enjoy – or at least “consume” – the Games.”

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2008 in Communications, Media

 

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