Blocking Access to Social Media is now “Against Policy” in the Government of Canada

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To the Canadian federal “govies” out there that may have missed the memo, a crucial policy instrument called PANDU took effect exactly one year ago (excluding section 6.1.3 , which kicked-in 7 months later).

What is PANDU?

PANDU stands for Policy on Acceptable Network and Device Use. It was developed by the Treasury Board Secretariat to replace the outdated Policy on The Use of Electronic Networks.

The official objective of PANDU is “to ensure acceptable and efficient use of Government of Canada electronic networks and devices to support enhanced communication and collaboration thereby improving productivity, and program and service delivery to individuals and businesses”.

Key points:

  • This is the policy that clearly informs departments that they must enable access for authorized users to external social media platforms (i.e to unblock access)
  • This is also the policy that informs authorized users as to what constitutes “acceptable use” in both their personal and professional use of social media
  • This policy only applies to the online activities of people connected to the internet through a GoC network (even if using personal devices). Online activities of individuals using personal devices connected to a non-GoC network are guided by the newly revised Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector (which applies to GoC network use as well in addition to PANDU).
  • Specific and practical recommendations surrounding the implementation of PANDU can be found in another acronym, GANDU, which is the Guideline on Acceptable Network and Device Use.

Who are Authorized Users?

The official working definition is as follows: Individuals working with the Government of Canada, including employees of the federal government as well as casuals, contractors, students and other persons who have been authorized by the deputy head to access Government of Canada electronic networks and devices.

Key points:

What are the Policy Requirements?

The Policy Requirements for PANDU are all listed in Section 6. They are as follows:

6.1 Deputy heads are responsible for ensuring that:

  • 6.1.1 Effective management and monitoring practices for the acceptable use of Government of Canada electronic networks and devices are implemented.
  • 6.1.2 Authorized individuals are informed of the following:
    • Expectations for acceptable use of Government of Canada electronic networks and devices per Appendices B and C;
    • Electronic network monitoring practices being applied by their own department and/or Shared Services Canada (SSC) per Appendix D; and
    • Consequences for unacceptable use of such networks and devices.
  • 6.1.3 Authorized individuals have open access to the Internet including Government of Canada and external Web 2.0 tools and services that enhance productivity, communication and collaboration, in accordance with the Policy on Government Security and Appendix E.
  • 6.1.4 Learning opportunities regarding the acceptable use of Government of Canada electronic networks and devices and Government of Canada and external Web 2.0 tools and services are provided to authorized individuals.

6.2 For departments that receive their network services from SSC, the Deputy Head of SSC is responsible for managing tools to support monitoring and providing reports monthly, and as required, about the use of Government of Canada electronic networks and devices to assist deputy heads in the identification, investigation and implementation of corrective action on issues that arise regarding unacceptable use.

What is the big deal about Section 6.1.3 above?

Thanks to this section, I can finally comfortably say that it is “AGAINST POLICY” to continue blocking access to social media in Government of Canada departments (with rare exceptions). This is a big deal. Ten years ago, when I started consulting government organizations, the vast majority had blocked access under the false impression that this would “prevent employees from wasting time”. Even as various “official” departmental/branch accounts were created over the years, access was often still limited to a few designated individuals in Comms. The tables are finally turned.

Now what?

Even with the above policy in place, there are still numerous public servants that don’t have access and numerous gate-keepers that could use an update on effective management of this area. If access continues to be blocked in your organization and you feel like it’s an endless battle going nowhere, simply start re-framing the question entirely as “why are we going against policy?”. Over the course of the last year I have personally witnessed this little “pivot” work brilliantly, especially at the senior levels.

Good luck!

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