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Navy personnel gets social media, email rules refresher

The Navy CIO reminded department personnel in a recent memo about govermentwide and service policy regarding use of personal communications accounts to conduct official business.

"Under no circumstances should non-official messaging accounts, including, but not limited to, e-mail, social media, and messaging applications be used for official business based on personal convenience or preference," Navy CIO Thomas Moldy said in the memo.

The sternly worded memo also reminded Navy civilian and military personnel that "classified information may never be transmitted over unclassified networks, including non-official messaging accounts."

There's no new law or policy being transmitted in the memo. Rather, Moldy is explaining existing federal records management law as well as specific Department of Defense and Navy policy with regard to the use of personal accounts to conduct official business.

In the Navy, that means that personal accounts can only be used for official business in "a rare circumstance" in which there is an emergency or critical business need, official communications are down or impractical and "it is in the best interest of DOD or other U.S. Government missions."

In the event that it does become necessary to use personal accounts, an official account must be copied at the time of the communication or at the latest within 20 days. This is the term required under federal records law.

It's not clear if any specific incident prompted Moldy's reminders. An email to the Navy Department seeking clarification wasn't immediately returned.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is currently engaged in a tussle with the Trump administration over its records management practices. In a July 1 letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked for a broad array of emails and other communications from the White House covering everything sent or received in violation of the federal records law and White House policy. The letter alleges that current and former administration officials have used personal accounts to conduct official business on a routine basis -- including the use of encrypted communication apps that are designed to erase messages once they are read.

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