Monday, 4 April 2011

Advice for Keeping Judges (and the rest of us) Safe Online

An interview of Stacia A. Hylton, Director of the U.S. Marshals Service in the March, 2011 edition of the U.S. Federal Court's Third Branch Newsletter contained some advice for judge's online safety.

"The explosion of the use of social media on the Internet has created a number of security challenges for the judiciary. Social media, along with the availability of personal information and public records on the Internet, create an environment of additional security risks. One such risk is the potential for the release of sensitive information. This could be as simple as a family member inadvertently posting information about the family’s home. These items can jeopardize the security of a federal judge.

Public information continues to pose challenges to the court family. For many years, the Marshals Service has advised the people we protect to have unlisted phone numbers and use the courthouse address instead of the home address whenever possible. Technology has provided greater access to information. Through computers, individuals can plug a little information into a public record search engine and receive a lot of information. For that reason, we strongly urge judges and other officials to complete “opt-out” forms for individual information providers. We have coordinated with the Administrative Office so that the opt-out information is available for judges to follow. Judges also need to be very conscious about who they give information to, and even where purchases are made. This is because data aggregators are constantly compiling and selling updated personal information to public record sites, for example, matching credit card numbers with home mailing addresses.

We have also recently begun briefing judicial officers and staff on the risk posed by “geo-tagging” of photographs posted to the Internet. GPS-enabled cameras, as well as iPhones, embed the longitude and latitude of the location a picture was taken. If, for example, a photo of a judge and his or her family is posted on certain Internet sites, someone can grab the geo-tag and identify the location of a private residence.

Just as with e-mail or phone calls, if a judge becomes aware of a threat or inappropriate communication on the Web, he or she should immediately notify the Marshals."

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