Avoiding IT

This article from Ars Technica captured my attention at “…worked out of a bathroom so that he could use Gmail.”

Obviously, I don’t support conducting classified government business on a personal e-mail account where you e-mail is scanned to provide advertising.  But I’m on the fence about this issue.

As someone who supports teachers with technology at school, I understand the need for everyone to adhere to technology policies and procedures.  Especially being in a government organization (public school), the preservation of records to comply with subpoenas and Freedom of Information Act requests is very important.  I tell teachers to make sure they only communicate using their official e-mail accounts, and to only store student information on secure district servers.

At the same time, I see the teachers who are using their personal tools to get things done, and I do it too.  I’m writing this from my personal tablet.  I use Microsoft OneDrive to store most of my work.  Other teachers use Google Drive.  I subscribe to Office 365 just to have an Exchange account that syncs my calendar with my phone (I’m careful not to put anything sensitive in my calendar).  Personal tablets are all over the school.  We use these tools because they are comfortable, familiar, and user-friendly–terms usually not associated with enterprise-class software.

In this case, I think the best solution is a compromise.  Yes, State Department employees should be using their secure-yet-open government e-mail accounts.  Including (and especially) leaders, who should be setting the example and demonstrating proper security protocols through their actions.  At the same time, if the State Department has such a big problem with high-profile employees using their own accounts, they might want to see if their systems can be improved.  If the IT is really that bad, fix it–make people want to use it, then some of this reluctance will go away on its own.

It’s tough to make people use a tool they don’t want to use.