June 21, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
In a unanimous decision last week, the US Supreme Court rejected the privacy claims of an employee who was texting using employer-provided equipment. According to the Washington Times,
"The ruling essentially maintains the status quo of allowing employers to implement policies preventing employees from using company communication equipment for personal use.
But Bart Lazar, an intellectual-property lawyer whose expertise includes privacy and security involving electronic communications, said the narrowness of the ruling leaves open scenarios in which employees could keep private communications made on company equipment."
The ruling was widely covered by both newspapers and technology magazines. Here are a few examples:
Southern CA Public Radio - No sexting on the job!: Supreme Court upholds search of text messages at work in City of Ontario v. Quon
USA Today - Justices uphold search of officer's texts
For other similar topics and stories, you can visit the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
So what does this Supreme Court ruling mean for government technology executives today? In my view, this ruling is very important, since it reconfirms the status quo in a unanimous decision - which is pretty unusual for the Supreme Court. This (admittedly narrow) ruling is unlikely to be overturned anytime soon. So here are a few suggestions:
1) Go back and check your acceptable use policy. Do you specifically declare that state and/or local employees and contractors have no presumption of privacy when working on government networks (with government - issued technology)?
2) Is the policy clearly explained and available to all employees? What training is in place?
3) Do you use a splash screen which lists the policy as employees are logging onto the network?
In Michigan, we are currently updating many of our policies for social networking and other new online situations. However, our acceptable use policy has contained these three basic elements (listed above) since at least 2003. But while we have further to go over the next year in modifying our policies and training, it seems to me that every state and local government needs to reaffirm these basics policy elements right now. The federal government should do the same as well.
What are your thoughts on this new ruling - which reaffirms the status quo on workplace privacy?
June 13, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
Imagine this: " A motorist still at the office can use a cell phone to remotely start his car or truck, adjust the temperature, confirm the vehicle is locked, detect an intruder, check the fuel level and make sure the tires are properly inflated.
Later, if the gas tank is running low, a couple of taps on the phone's screen locates a gas station and downloads directions, so the navigation system is programmed and ready when the driver reaches the car parked blocks away."
This is the vision articulated by Delphi Holdings LLP and described in this recent Detroit News article entitled: Key fob morphs into high-tech wonder. The idea: turn that device on your key chain that unlocks your car into a conduit between your smart phone and your car.
While Bluetooth technology is popular today, consumers want even more integration in the future - allowing internet access and exchange of data to mobile apps.
While expensive cars have similar (or even more advanced) features available now, this new technology may be made available for less expensive cars at a much lower price.
So what does all of this have to do with government technology? Check out this article on some of the latest advances in RFID asset tracking with key fobs . Here's an excerpt: "This active key fob RFID tag which is well suited for personnel tracking and access control application, vehicle identification, or for use in applications where keys need to be tracked, such as in prisons, hospitals and government offices."
It will certainly be interesting to see how this market develops. What is not in doubt is the power of mobile devices when they interface with smart phones and more. The Bill Gates prediction a few years back, in which everything in the home and work is connected to a network which communicates with our car and more, certainly seems to be coming true.
The question that government technology professionals need to ask is not whether we will be integrating our government apps with key fobs and smart phones, but how will we do it. We need to watching these trends and not building new stovepipe solutions that will be unique islands that won't work with commercial off-the-shelf devices.
So how many government apps will we eventually connect to your personal key fob? I'm not sure yet, but I suspect we'll find our sooner rather than later.
What are your thoughts on smart key fobs?
June 1, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
Move over Second Life , a new virtual world is being created for the federal government called vGov. According to Government Computer News: "The vGov virtual world environment is now being built and is expected to go online starting in July. It will be used for employee education, continuity of operations training, cybersecurity education and disaster response..."
vGov is a joint federal effort with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Homeland Security, Air Force and National Defense University iCollege joining forces to create the vGov virtual world behind a secure firewalls that require authentication to enter. The virtual world will initially be limited to federal employees.
One thing for sure, the technology used to create these virtual worlds is not just a game. Virtual World News described the USDA contract and the technology which is pretty cutting edge. Here's an excerpt:
"... Like many enterprise-class virtual worlds, Teleplace's is designed for use in training, collaboration, and project management. What sets Teleplace's solution apart is that it allows application sharing across platforms, even through firewalls or cloud computing systems. Another key component of Teleplace's solution is vPresence, a communications suite that combines VOIP, text chat, and video conferencing features within a single virtual conferencing center...."
I can easily see this virtual world interface taking off, not just in the federal government, but also in the state and local government spaces. I anticipate virtual worlds for training and interaction in a business environment, which is currently limited in popular virtual worlds like Second Life. In my opinion, virtual worlds are currently viewed as games by most professionals, but I see that changing in the coming few years. Here's a good article describing the evolution of virtual worlds and training in global businesses.
I also see this trend becoming more widespread in the next few years, and we'll all have avatars within less than a decade in my opinion. In the meantime, bleeding edge adopters of fun workplace training will be busy creating virtual worlds for governments and businesses with appropriate controls, dress and acceptable use provisions. I'm not sure if Second Life will be the ultimate leader or not, but vGoc points the way for all of us.
To learn more about vGov, you can watch this video which describes vGov in detail.
Any thoughts on virtual worlds being used for training? Do you have an avatar?
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From federal stimulus projects to enterprise architectures to cloud computing, Dan Lohrmann will discuss what's hot and what's not in the world of technology infrastructure.