Customs blocks blogs despite Gov2.0 promises

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Fears network security risks.

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has blocked employee access to blogs, for fear of what security threats such sites could pose to its network.

The agency was questioned last week by Open Australia Foundation founder Matthew Landauer, who believed his site to have been mistakenly blocked.

Landauer was advised that both the parliamentary reference site and blog were classified by the agency's third-party filtering software as "blogs".

"The Australian Customs and Border Protection does not allow general access to websites classified as 'blogs' at the present time, due to the threat websites within this category can pose to the security of the Australian Customs and Border Protection network," the agency reportedly advised.

"It is important to note that the filter list is provided by a third party and the Australian Customs and Border Protection service simply consumes this list. We do not make decisions on what category a website should be placed in."

An agency spokesman told iTnews that its blacklist was devised by a contracted service provider, and staff could access filtered websites on request, as long as they had a business requirement to do so.

The spokesman did not disclose which security vendor or product was used.

Blogs and Gov2.0

Earlier this year, Australian Government Information Management Office CIO Ann Steward said the Government would encourage public servants to engage online.

The Federal Government's 'Declaration of Open Government' promised "a culture of engagement, built on better access to and use of government held information, and sustained by the innovative use of technology".

Agencies were directed to "reduce barriers to online engagement, undertake social networking, crowd sourcing and online collaboration projects and support online engagement by employees, in accordance with the Australian Public Service Commission Guidelines".

Steward expected agencies to develop their own Gov2.0 and social media strategies by May 2011.

AGIMO, the Department of Innovation, Australian Public Service Commission and Labor Party have introduced blogs on their websites.

The Customs and Border Protection spokesman said it was in the process of developing a Social Networking policy "to identify and address social networking requirements".

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