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E-mail at work: Know when it’s authorized

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Do you send out funny forwards, that are sometimes inappropriate, to make your friends and co-workers laugh?
  2. Do you make plans for a picnic or football game for the upcoming weekend?
  3. Do you use e-mail to banter back and forth and say things that you normally wouldn't say if that person was right in front of your face?
Answering 'yes' to any of these questions constitutes a misuse of work e-mail. I'm sure all of us at some point in time have answered 'yes' to one of these questions.

Since we have become so dependent on e-mail and its misuse is a common mistake, this is your friendly reminder of authorized e-mail usage. Below are excerpts from applicable regulations for authorized e-mail usage.

The Tongue and Quill, Chapter 12

Air Force Instruction 33-119, Official Messaging, provides guidance on what constitutes official and authorized use of e-mail. Official use includes communications (including emergency communications) the Air Force determines necessary in the interest of the Federal Government. This category includes communications by deployed Air Force personnel, if approved by commanders in interest of morale and welfare.

AFI 33-119 specifically prohibits the following on government communication systems:
  • Distributing copyrighted materials without consent from the copyright owner.
  • Using e-mail for financial gain.
  • Intentionally misrepresenting your identity or affiliation.
  • Sending harassing, intimidating, abusive, or offensive material.
  • Using someone else's UserID and password without proper authority.
  • Causing congestion on the network by sending inappropriate e-mail messages (propagation of chain letters, etc.) or excessive data storage on the e-mail server.
Remember that the network, like the phone, is subject to monitoring. Your e-mail is saved on backup tapes and servers, and it can be used against you!

Though some communication guidelines are universal, e-mail is a truly unique medium. Remember the three e-mail advantages:
  1. It's fast.
  2. It can get to more people.
  3. It's paperless.

Remember the three e-mail disadvantages:
  1. It's fast ... a quickly written e-mail can fan as many fires as it extinguishes.
  2. It can get to more people ... too many copies can clog the network and can be forwarded into the wrong hands.
  3. It's paperless ... but it does leave an electronic trail and power fluctuations can make things disappear.

On another note, AFI 33-119, para. 3.9, "For military members, failure to observe the provisions in paragraphs 3.9.1., 3.9.2., and 3.9.3. constitutes a violation of Article 92, U.C.M.J. Civilian employees who fail to observe the provisions in paragraphs 3.9.1., 3.9.2., and 3.9.3., are subject to administrative disciplinary action without regard to otherwise applicable criminal or civil sanctions."

Please be mindful of what you are using your e-mail for.