As companies welcome summer interns, some bloggers offer a word of caution about extra-curricular blogging. And, an ACLU board proposal has riled up civil libertarian bloggers. Plus, some bloggers say new court documents are a smoking gun in the National Security Agency eavesdropping case. Find out why.
Better Read That Intern Manual
As many companies begin to welcome in this class of summer interns, the New York Times offers a word of caution. Don't blog. Or don't let anyone find out about it, at least.
The Times notes that when a Comedy Central intern last year decided to broadcast the ins-and-outs of his internship on his aptly named blog, "I'm A Comedy Central Intern," (which was also popularized by Gawker) the company asked him to change the name. He now blogs at "I'm an Intern in New York."
Perhaps because he wasn't fired, he thanked his summer employers at the time. "I want to thank my supervisor Julie, and everyone else at Comedy Central, for being so cool. It's a great place to work, and I learned a great deal about writing and humor there," he blogged on his site. I'm sure Comedy Central noted that.
Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, now has an explicit policy. In a section on confidentiality, it states that the employee is "discouraged from publicly discussing work-related matters, whether constituting confidential information or not, outside of appropriate work channels, including online in chat rooms or 'blogs.'"
But many companies don't have such policies. As the Times reports, the Society for Human Resource Management found last year that only 8 percent of the 404 human resource professionals it polled had blogging policies, while 85 percent did not.
As Stranger at Blah3 summarizes, "if you're an intern, don't start a blog because your employers will make you promise not to write about work on your blog. Or they won't because most employers don't have a policy about bloggers. And if you're an employee, don't start a blog because it might lead to a book deal or a better job."
James Richards, whose blog tracks workplace blogs, says he finds it interesting young people are said to be increasingly, "comfortable with broadcasting nearly every aspect of their lives on the Web" and that it could be interesting to study blogging "in terms of viewing it as something you've picked up post-formative years, or, as something that is second nature." Perhaps that's why interns should be especially careful of what they post.
Other bloggers question whether employees fear what is being written about them online. "I just wonder if bloggers have curtailed employer behavior and attitudes knowing that with one click of the keyboard, the truth could be revealed and hit a theater near you," R. Enochs writes.
And Matt Sokoloff, who says he's an intern at ABC, thinks companies have it backwards. "My thought is that media organizations, especially those that target a younger audience, should encourage interns to blog and post those blogs on the organizations site," Sokoloff writes. "Oversight might be needed on some blogs, but for the most part it could provide for a very entertaining and real look at what it is like to work behind the scenes at a that organization."
Let's hope for Michael's sake that ABC sees it that way.
ACLU Reconsidering Civil Liberties?
Word that the American Civil Liberties Union is considering a policy that would prevent its board members from publicly criticizing the organization had bloggers rushing to their keyboards in protest.
As the New York Times reports, under the new board proposal, a "director may publicly disagree with an A.C.L.U. policy position, but may not criticize the A.C.L.U. board or staff." In addition, as the Times notes, the committee on standards, which wrote the proposal also states: "Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising."
Long-time ACLU critics gushed at the irony. "How many times have we heard the ACLU ask the government for transparency?" asks Jay at Stop the ACLU. "Most people that believe in true free speech and the right to dissent expect the ACLU to hold itself to the same ideological standards that it asks of others."
Ed at Captain's Quarters also sees hypocrisy. "This comes from the organization that would file a blizzard of lawsuits if any other corporation attempted to enact such a policy. Can anyone imagine the ACLU defending a similar policy at Enron, Global Crossings, or the NSA," he questions.
Matt Rosenberg also laments the organization's possible turn. "If the good of the republic depends in part on upholding the free speech rights embodied in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, how can it make sense for the leading U.S. advocate of those rights to abrogate same with respect to its own proceedings?," he writes at Rosenblog. "Now that's Orwellian."
Some more practical bloggers consider the proposal a poor business move if nothing else. "It's just plain dumb from a brand marketing perspective – the organization that seeks to protect the civil rights of all individuals must not form an organization where dissent is diminished," a blogger at TotalConfusion writes.
A blogger at Moralhealth.com is especially annoyed the proposal was the result of the "Monetarily-Expedient ACLU's" drive for money. "...Its restraint on freedom of speech comes, not from a fundamental moral principle, but from none other than the concern to enhance monetary support," Moralhealth.com writes.
And Zwerlst, blogging at DailyKos, says if the ACLU is so concerned with money, they should know that they'll be losing his. "One member said that of course board members have a right to disagree, but when doing so they should take into account their fiduciary duty to the ACLU. Translation--such public airings of internal differences will have an effect on the ACLU's ability to raise money," Zwerlst blogs. "It will. Because as soon as I post this I'll be burning my membership card."
A Smoking Gun?
Wired.com published the full text of the AT&T NSA wiretap documents, which could support accusations by a former AT&T employee that the company has helped the government monitor huge amounts of private Internet traffic. Or not, depending on your interpretation.
Despite all the talk about the NSA's alleged eavesdropping program, and USA Today's report that the phone companies collected call data, the publication of the full documents attracted little attention from the mainstream media. But it was all over the blogosphere.
The 29-page online file published by Wired is said to be the complete statement given by former AT&T technician Mark Klein, a witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class-action lawsuit against AT&T. The statement, using technical descriptions, warns about AT&T's alleged collaboration with the NSA and describes what Klein says is a special room at AT&T open only to employees cleared by the NSA, in which the carrier tapped into fiber-optic lines used for Internet service.
It should be noted that AT&T issued a response to Wired's publication:
"If and when AT&T is asked by government agencies for help, we do so strictly within the law and under the most stringent conditions. Beyond that, we can't comment on matters of national security. This is a national security issue and needs to be addressed on a national level."
Wired said it wanted to present the full documents so people could decide for themselves about AT&T's actions. And, not surprisingly, bloggers who oppose claims of alleged government eavesdropping believe the documents support the wiretapping claim. Debbie calls it the "most disturbing news story this week." And Leftwing Nutjob says "Wired.com displayed more journalism hutzpa than all of the network and cable news organizations combined."
"It would appear that the information provided by whistle-blower Mark Klein is authentic and that the NSA has been conducting surveillance on American citizens, in direct violation of their charter," Cryptoresnyc writes.
Other bloggers fear big brother. "So not only are they watching what I'm writing here, they're watching who reads it. Every email sent, every photo or program downloaded, every chat discussion, everything. And if I'm not mistaken all phone calls, whether they are VOIP or not, route through the internet at some point," Phfeenikz writes.
But other bloggers were fine with the alleged practice if it proves to be effecting at curbing terrorism. "Personally, if the NSA, CIA, FBI or any other government agency, believes a terrorist organization is potentially using a segment of the internet and they want install fiber splitter to be able to filter and report on who they are talking to and what data they are passing, I, for one, am fully in favor of it," Ekimminau, a blogger at Slashdot writes.
Another Slashdot blogger, Anonymous Coward, agrees. "C'mon yea hypocrites! It's everywhere... If you are doing something illegal/immoral/nasty/dumb/stupid maybe the NSA's monitoring system will make you think twice about doing it. If you are still intent, then perhaps you should find even sneakier ways of doing it instead of using a public system."
By Melissa McNamara