Magazine article Government Finance Review

Internet Policies: State and Local Government Guidelines

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Internet Policies: State and Local Government Guidelines

Article excerpt

Editor's note: The following is adapted from an article that appeared in Maine Townsman, January 1998, published by the Maine Municipal Association (MMA).

Before municipal officials connect to the Internet and make e-mail capability available, there should be policies in effect to protect the municipality and to make clear the rights and responsibilities of employees using the system. The Center for Technology in Government conducted a two-year study of government use of the Internet. As part of this study they looked at Internet policies around the nation. They concluded that there were various styles of policies; however, three main areas were included in most government Internet policies:

* Uses of the Internet: reasons to connect and an examination of the pluses and minuses;

* Security: protection of documents and assigned responsibility; and

* Employee rights/responsibilities: behavioral guidelines for employees.

The necessary policies can be written separately or can be combined into one Internet policy. For the purposes of discussion here, they will be divided into the three separate policy issues: Internet Acceptable Use Policy; E-mail Policy; and Policy for Retention of E-mail. This article will deal with the Internet Policy.

Internet acceptable use policies contain the elements described below.

Statement of Purpose

A purpose statement explains why the Internet policy is being written. Some sample language:

"Electronic mail, Internet, and telecommunication access are resources made available to city employees to communicate with each other, other governmental entities, companies and individuals for the benefit of the city." - City of Portland, Maine

"To ensure that use of the Internet among employees of the City of Seattle is consistent with City policies, all applicable laws, and the individual user's job responsibilities. To establish basic guidelines for appropriate use." - City of Seattle, Washington

"The agency connection to the global Internet exists to facilitate the official work of -----. The Internet facilities and services will contribute broadly to the missions of -----. The Internet connection and services are provided for employees and persons legitimately affiliated with ----- for the efficient exchange of information and the completion of assigned responsibilities consistent with the ----- statutory purposes. The use of the Internet facilities by any employee or other person authorized must be consistent with this Acceptable Use Policy and security policies."

- State of New York

Acceptable/Unacceptable Use

The next section should be the policy statements that would include acceptable and unacceptable activities. These statements should

* indicate appropriate use and/or prohibit anything but work-related activities;

* prohibit downloading and/or distributing copyrighted materials or software;

* prohibit unlawful activities or solicitations; and

* reserve the right to monitor transactions. Software is available to track sites visited and the amount of time spent at each site. Some sample language:

"The system is city property and intended for city business. The system is not to be used for employee personal gain or to support or to advocate for non-city-related business or purposes." - City of Portland, Maine

"All use of the Internet must be in compliance with all applicable laws and policies (federal, state and local, in addition to city policies); for example sexual harassment. Internet access via city resources, therefore, must not be used for illegal purposes." - City of Seattle, Washington

"Principles of Acceptable Use.

Users are required:

* To respect the privacy of other users; for example, users shall not intentionally seek information on, obtain copies of, or modify files or data, belonging to other users, unless explicit permission to do so has been obtained. …

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