By Michael Hardy
July 20, 2006
The Energy Department finalized a rule that essentially requires all
employees and contractors to give up any expectations of privacy when
using agency computers.
DOE's rule, which will become effective Aug. 18, also specifies that
members of the public who interact with DOE computers via e-mail likewise
have no promise of privacy.
The rule is an effort to create a standard agencywide policy for access to
agency computers. It follows a proposed rule that the department published
March 17, 2005, and incorporates comments the agency received.
A main feature of the rule is that DOE employees and contractors must
acknowledge in writing that authorized investigative agencies can have
access to computers they used during the time of their employment and for
as many as three years after they leave. That provision previously was
explained only for employees of the National Nuclear Security
Administration, an organization within DOE. Because of NNSA's
recommendation, department officials determined it should apply
agencywide, according to the rule published July 18 in the Federal
The rule, which follows a proposed rule the department published March 17,
2005, also specifies that:
* Individuals seeking access to information on DOE computers must
acknowledge in writing that there is no expectation of privacy.
* Contractors are responsible for making sure that each employee or
subcontractor employee has provided the proper written acknowledgements.
A DOE contracting officer can inspect and copy contractors' files of
such acknowledgements at any time.
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