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Why Aren't Government Staffers More Net Savvy?

Congress has been briefed that highly-sensitive government and personal info was leaked into the public domain by unthinking use of file-sharing software. That's terrible. But why the hell aren't Governmental employees more net savvy?

The particular events the congressional panel was told about yesterday relate to the leaks of FBI surveillance footage of a Mafia hit man actively under investigation, lists of citizens who are HIV positive—including identification data—and both motorcade routes and safe-house locations for Laura Bush. These last pieces of information were apparently leaked after they were relevant, but it's still possible that useful tactical information could be gleaned from them.

The leaks all occurred through file-sharing software, according to one person involved in the briefing, Robert Boback, CEO of Tiversa—a company that routinely scours the Internet for leaked data. Boback highlighted the espionage angle by noting that "Other countries know how to access this information and they are accessing this information." And, of course, the fact that sensitive medical data leaked out in a similar way may have catastrophic social consequences for the unfortunate people involved.

It all sounds bad. So bad, that the chairman on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Edolphus Towns, is introducing a bill to ban filesharing software from all government computers. But there's a bigger question here: Why the heck aren't the people working inside the country's power structure way more Internet savvy? Surely, in today's 21st Century networked world it's as important a skill to have as the three Rs?

Let's look at some facts:

  • President Obama has promised a science and Web-savvy administration
  • Internet penetration in the U.S. is already skyrocketing
  • The economic stimulus plan includes a huge boost for rural broadband
  • iTunes—an online shopping vehicle—is the number one music retailer
  • TVs now come with Web-enabled widgets
  • Internet phenomena like Facebook and Twitter are gaining millions of users
  • The government itself has an agenda to place more info online

And yet some officials are so careless with filesharing software like the popular LimeWire service—and, presumably, careless to the extent that they linked the software directly to sensitive data and clicked "share"—that it needs to be banned. Hmmm. Government employees that un-savvy about the wonderful World Wide Web makes me wonder exactly what other net-related mistakes are going on in the corridors of power. Perhaps Edolphus Town's efforts would be better redirected towards making sure every government employee, national or local, is as educated and aware to the power and pitfalls of the 'net as the average teenager is nowadays?

[via Washington Post]

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