It’s official: Internet, social media restricted for govt staff at work

Social media, norms, government employees - The Federal
The Union Home Ministry under Amit Shah has for the first time formalised its policy on social media and Internet norms for government employees.

Sixty-four days after the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power for its second term, the Union Home Ministry under Amit Shah has for the first time formalised its policy on social media and Internet norms for government employees.

In a 24-page note accessed by The Federal, the ministry has cautioned employees against accessing social media on official devices. It has also directed officials not to carry out classified work on computers connected to the Internet.

“All classified work should be strictly carried out only in a standalone computer which is not connected to the Internet,” the note titled, ‘Information Security Best Practices,’ advises.

The note also added that no classified information is to be stored on cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud etc. It also warned that those doing will be liable for penal action. It has also banned officials from taking USB device out of offices unless authorised.

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A list of best practices has also been provided by the home ministry for government officials in case they are using their home Wi-Fi networks for official work.

“Consider using the Media Access Control or ‘MAC’ address in your wireless router. Every device that can connect to a Wi-Fi network has a unique ID called the physical address or MAC address. Wireless routers can screen the MAC addresses of all devices that connect to them, and users can set their wireless network to accept connection only from devices with MAC addresses that router will recognise.” it says.

The note is part of the government’s focus on securing Indian data and systems with as many as 30 attempts being made by foreign entities to extract such information.

The note also explains how to clear history from Internet browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer.

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While the government has said that these are precautions to be taken to ensure security of classified information, observers see this as a move to tighten information outflow from ministries.

Soon after the budget, journalists were denied entry into the finance ministry, without any reason. Later, the ministry said restriction was imposed on journalists who did not take prior appointment. Earlier, there was no need for appointment for Press Information Bureau (PIB) accredited journalists.

The Editors’ Guild of India had condemned the decision in strong terms, calling it “arbitrary” and saying, “Journalists do not go to government offices to enjoy the comforts and hospitality of visitor’s rooms. They go to perform their challenging job of news gathering.”