For more than a decade, employers have been wrestling with the challenges posed by employee access to the Internet. Loss of productivity, excessive bandwidth use, security threats -- all are concerns that have spurred employee surveillance, acceptable use policies, and increasingly aggressive efforts to limit access to bandwidth-intensive sites.
According to a memo issued on Friday by General B.B. Bell, the U.S. Forces Korea commander, one of the federal government's largest employers -- the Department of Defense (DoD) -- is facing the same challenges. General Bell said that the Department of Defense's Joint Task Force, Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO) has noticed "a significant increase in use of DoD network resources tied up by individuals visiting certain recreational Web sites."
"This recreational ," General Bell wrote, "impacts our official DoD network and bandwidth availability, while posing a significant operational security challenge."
Julie Ziegenhorn, a spokesperson for U.S. Strategic Command, told the military's daily newspaper Stars and Stripes that the move to block access to several sites was purely a bandwidth and network management issue. "We're not passing any judgment on these sites, we're just saying you shouldn't be accessing them at work. We've got to have the networks open to do our mission. They have to be reliable, timely, and secure."
14 Sites Blocked
Bell went on to announce that beginning on or about Monday, May 14, the DoD will block network access worldwide to the following 14 Web sites: YouTube.com, 1.fm, Pandora.com, Photobucket.com, MySpace.com, Live365.com, Hi5.com, MetaCafe.com, MTV.com, iFilm.com, BlackPlanet.com, StupidVideos.com, and FileCabi.net.
The site ban will only apply to DoD computer systems and networks, and will not apply to personal computers that connect to personal ISPs through the DoD network. However, in most theaters of operation (such as Iraq and Afghanistan), DoD computers are the only ones available to service personnel.
Bell reminded memo recipients that they must remain alert to protecting classified information when using the Internet. "This benefits you, your fellow servicemembers, and civilian employees," Bell said, "but preserves our vital networks for conducting official DoD business in peace and war."
Fewer Links to Home
Subject to supervision by military censors, service personnel on duty will still be able to send and receive e-mail, and presumably will be able to attach content for relatives at home to post to the various popular social-networking sites. However, active duty personnel will no longer be able to post material themselves or view what has been put online.
Posting material from the front lines is unquestionably a popular activity. A quick search for "Iraq soldier" on YouTube turns up over 24,000 videos, many of which were apparently shot and submitted by on-duty U.S. personnel.
Ironically, as Stars and Stripes points out, the DoD itself has just begun posting more videos on YouTube to highlight the military's overseas accomplishments.