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NIH Record

Internet Snacks

The Internet Diet: Appropriate Use

By Robert Lagas

Trying to decide what email and Internet services to use is like trying to decide what food to eat at a buffet dinner. The Internet offers a wide array of goodies, and it may be tempting to use these capabilities for personal use because they are at our fingertips and the cost of using them is not always obvious to the average user. You probably know that the DHHS Standards of Conduct state that: "An employee has a duty to protect and conserve government property and shall not use such property, or allow its use, for other than authorized purposes." The question is "What are 'authorized purposes' for email and the Internet?" Doing anything that is illegal using these services is obviously not authorized, and conducting job-related business is obviously authorized. However, there are a lot of activities between those two extremes that are not as obviously appropriate or inappropriate, so how do you decide? Not to worry, this is the government and we have a policy that explains everything. The policy is located at the OIRM Web site, http://wwwoirm.nih.gov/policy/e-mail&i.html.

Some unauthorized activities are: using computer games (unless used as a training tool), sending or forwarding chain letters, visiting Web sites containing sexually explicit or pornographic material, and using email or the Web for commercial purposes. Using email and the Internet is quite similar to using the telephone, the facsimile machine or the copier (all government resources). The question is "Where do you draw the line?" If you have questions about appropriate use, ask your supervisor; inappropriate use of email and Internet services is a serious matter and could lead to disciplinary action.

Email and the Web open up whole new worlds of information and possibilities for doing our work faster and more effectively. Use them wisely and they will nourish you in wonderful ways.


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