The Met's mea culpa

Dear Mr. Brown

Freedom of Information Request Reference No:  2009100003669

I write in connection with your request for information dated 16/10/2009 which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 16/10/2009.  I note you seek access to the following information:

1. What is your policy on staff access to social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, during work hours for a) professional reasons, b) personal reasons?
2. Do you monitor the profiles of employees or prospective employees on social networking websites?
3. What disciplinary actions have been taken against employees for the misuse of social media in the past 18 months and how many have been disciplined?
4. What, if any, guidelines do you have for employees using social networking sites?
5. How many incidents of confidential information or records being leaked via social media and the internet have occurred in the last 18 months?
6. Does your organisation make use of social media to inform the public?
7. Have any of your computer networks been compromised as a result of staff using social media?

EXTENT OF SEARCHES TO LOCATE INFORMATION

To locate the information relevant to your request searches were conducted at the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), the Directorate of Information (DOI) and the Directorate of Public Affairs (DPA).

RESULT OF SEARCHES

The searches located information relevant to your request.

DECISION

I have today decided to disclose the located information to you in full.

In respect of your request for:-
1. What is your policy on staff access to social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, during work hours for a) professional reasons b) personal reasons?
Access to social networking sites for personal reasons is not permitted during working hours to any police officer or member of police staff.  A number of staff have access to social networking sites for professional reasons having obtained the necessary permission from senior management.

In respect of your request for:-
2. Do you monitor the profiles of employees or prospective employees on social networking websites?
The MPS in conducting vetting enquiries may look at any source of information that will assist in determining whether the vetting applicant is suitable for the vetted post applied for. Any research done will be carried out within the limits of that permitted by legislation. Internet research can form part of the vetting checks.

In respect of your request for:-
3. What disciplinary actions have been taken against employees for the misuse of social media in the past 18 months and how many have been disciplined?
The information to answer this question is presented separately for Police Officers and Police Staff as the data is recorded by the Performance Analysis Unit (PAU) within DPS in respect of Police Officers and the Directorate of Human Resources holds the records for police staff.   

Police Officer Data

During the period 01/05/2008 to 31/10/2009, 28 police officers had an allegation of misuse of Social Networking Sites substantiated against them following an investigation into the circumstances which led to the allegation.  The table below shows the disciplinary action imposed on the 28 police officers.

 

Police Staff Data

During the last 18 months, 5 members of police staff were subject to disciplinary action for the misuse of social networking sites. The chart below shows the disciplinary action imposed on these individuals.
     Total
 First Written Warning    1
 Final Written Warning    1
 Formal Reprimand    2
 Dismissal    1
 Grand Total    5

All MPS police officers and police staff are expected to adhere to the MPS Information Code of Conduct which sets out the policy on the use of MPS Information and information communication and technology systems. The MPS Directorate of Information issues regular reminders to staff on the importance of ensuring they comply with this policy.

The MPS has a comprehensive discipline procedure which governs the way in which disciplinary action is to be taken against police officers and police staff. Any member of staff found to have acted improperly is subject to robust disciplinary action. To re-inforce the gravity of computer/information misuse, DPS, under the Professional Standards Support Programme, has taken responsibility for delivering training across the MPS which explains the importance of using all MPS systems in line with the Information Code of Conduct, the Data Protection Act and the Computer Misuse Act. This training will minimise the likelihood of misconduct breaches or criminal conduct being committed and therefore reduce the instances when misconduct proceedings are implemented.

In respect of your request for:-
4. What, if any, guidelines do you have for employees using social networking sites?
Police officers and police staff are provided with the following advice, relating to the use of and the posting of information onto the Internet, for either work or personal purposes.

Posting Information on the World Wide Web for Official MPS Purposes
 
Those with an official business requirement to access forums, social networking and/or certain blogging sites, (whether police officers or police staff) may put forward a business case to senior management outlining the reasons why they need Internet access and permission to access these particular types of website. Approval will be sought from the individidual’s line manager confirming the validity of the requirement.    

All MPS police officers and police staff are reminded that if accessing such sites it is expected that they will adhere to the MPS Information Code of Conduct which sets out the policy on the use of MPS Information and information communication and technology systems. The MPS Directorate of Information issues regular reminders to staff on the importance of ensuring they comply with this policy.

Posting Information on the World Wide Web for Personal Purposes

All users are reminded that the use of MPS ICT to access the World Wide Web for personal purposes remains prohibited. This includes the activity known as ‘Blogging’ and the use of forums, video sharing and social networking sites, such as Facebook.com and Myspace.com.
 
The MPS recognises that some users wish to engage in these activities in their own time, using their own equipment. Whilst there is no intention to restrict any proper and sensible exercise of the individual’s rights and freedoms, it is expected that staff will conduct themselves in such a way as to avoid bringing the MPS into disrepute or compromising its effectiveness or the security of its operations and assets.
 
All police officers and police staff, including the extended police family and those working voluntarily or under contract to the MPA, must take account of the following before posting to the Internet, including engaging in blogging or the use of forums, video sharing or social networking sites;
 
1) Whilst it is a personal decision, for security reasons, it is suggested that staff do not disclose their position as an MPS employee or officer. Whatever the decision one should avoid disclosing personal details which may be used for identity theft, or to identify one’s home address or other sensitive details.  Do ensure that the privacy settings available on social networking sites are used.
 
2) Irrespective of whether you disclose your position, you must do nothing which risks bringing the MPS into disrepute or compromising its effectivenes s or the security of its operations or assets. To do otherwise might lead to disciplinary and/or legal action, with potentially serious consequences.
 
3) If disclosing your association with the MPS, staff must consider whether it is appropriate to discuss their role within the MPS as any information that may compromise police operations or investigations or which breaches the Official Secrets or Data Protection Actsmust not be divulged.
 
4) Staff must not divulge any official MPS information, including information obtained through your work for the MPS, nor expand upon MPS information already available in the public domain.

5) If staff disclose that they work for the MPS, then it must be made it absolutely clear that any views expressed do not represent the official position of the MPS but are the views of the individual.
 
6) Staff must not use any MPS logo or other copyrighted material.
 
7) Staff may accept payment for their own material produced away from their MPS employment, provided that this has been officially registered and sanctioned as a business interest, and providing the material does not in any way relate to policing. Failure to register and obtain a sanction for a business interest may result in formal disciplinary action being taken.
 
8) Under no circumstances must staff bring the reputation of the MPS into disrepute by making derogatory comments regarding MPS policies/procedures/operations or any other activities.
 
9) In accordance with the MPS Equality Policy and SOP, staff must not display offensive images or make offensive comments, or in any way harass, intimidate, bully, victimize or discriminate against others.
 
All MPS police  officers and police staff are expected to adhere to the MPS Information Code of Conduct which sets out the policy on the use of MPS information and  information communication and technology systems.  The MPS Directorate of Information issues regular reminders to staff on the importance of ensuring they comply with this policy plus all other relevant legislation such as the Data Protection Act.

In respect of your request for:-
5. How many incidents of confidential information or records being leaked via social media and the internet have occurred in the last 18 months?
There are no recorded instances of confidential information or records being leaked via any social networking sites.

In respect of your request for:-
6. Does your organisation make use of social media to inform the public?
The Metropolitan Police launched channels on the websites YouTube and Flickr in July 2009 as part of a 6 month pilot programme exploring the use of social media.
The programme, which is being run by the Directorate of Public Affairs, is intended to help find the best ways of using social media channels to communicate with the public.
A Met Twitter site was also set up by the CO11 unit during Climate Camp in August 2009, to provide operational updates for participants of Climate Camp.  As this was used for a specific purpose this is not currently being used at the moment.
We are also looking into ways the MPS can use Facebook pages on a local level.

The MPS YouTube site can be found at:

www.youtube.com/metpoliceservice  

The MPS Flickr site can be found at:

www.flickr.com/photos/metropolitanpolice

In respect of your request for:-
7. Have any of your computer networks been compromised as a result of staff using social media?
There are no recorded instances of any of the MPS communications systems being compromised as a result of staff use of social media.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet which details your right of complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please write or contact Carol Conway on telephone number 0207 230 5192 quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely

Carol Conway
Case Manager 

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