Nextgov – a popular online news source that covers the latest in technology, politics, and how the two interact – recently published an article that featured Attorney Debra D’Agostino of the Federal Practice Group. The article discussed a recent scandal in which the Department of Homeland Security demanded Twitter surrender private information about an anonymous user that openly critiqued the Trump Administration. In particular, the DHS wanted @ALT_USCIS’s name, password, login information, phone number, physical address, and IP address.
As D’Agostino notes in the article, the federal government has never tried to extract private information from a social media account before without there being real concern that the account was linked to dangerous criminal acts. She also made it clear that protective laws would work for any social media user, even if they were completely transparent and worked as a federal employee. There are no laws or rules that state a federal employee cannot disagree with how a Presidential administration, or even its own company, is conducting business. Only when sensitive information is disseminated does it become an issue. @ALT_USCIS has not been linked to any data leaks.
Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security knew it was in the wrong all along, as it immediately retracted its summons when Twitter filed a claim against it. By the time representatives of the social media app were ready to officially file the lawsuit, the Department of Justice was just as ready to inform them that the summons had been erased.
Within the article, D’Agostino also noted that federal employees are using anonymous accounts because they are afraid of backlash for speaking out. As the DHS summons indicates, those fears might be well-founded. However, it is crucial for all federal employees to hold onto their legal protections and stand up for their rights whenever necessary. Even agents in highly secretive fields of work still have employment protections and whistleblower rights. In fact, some of the most important work a federal employee can do is tell others of agency abuse and funding misuse.
(Click here to read the full Nextgov article.)
If you are encountering trouble at the workplace as a federal employee, let the Federal Practice Group and our federal employment law attorneys know what happened. With our assistance, you may be able to protect your job, better serve your country, and find compensation when necessary. Contact us today for more information.