April 28, 2009

Hawaii County internet use investigation is not open-ended

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug @ 7:29 pm

Just as Aaron Stene and Tiffany Edwards Hunt have heard from Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida in response to what they wrote on their blogs, Ashida has responded to my post, too.

I wrote:

Sounds almost reasonable, until you consider that the County may never (probably will never, if they are serious about curbing abuse) stop collecting these data. Unless there is a plan to halt internet access by County employees altogether at some point, the “proper timing” argument for the release of the data is, if not a red herring altogether, going to be a real challenge. Here’s why: the portion of the investigation that “includes sites currently being visited in order to establish trends” may reveal other alleged cases of abuse, which would lead to further “ongoing” investigations preventing the release of the data, which could again reveal other potential cases of abuse, ad infinitum. Long story short: investigations of this nature are never “complete.” Following Ashida’s argument to its logical conclusion, we’ll never have access to these data.

Ashida’s response:

1. We are looking at the period from January 2008 through December 2008. Even though subsequent data may be looked at to establish trends, we are mindful of statute of limitations concerns, and that will drive us to ensure closure of the investigation in order to generate charges, if any (with a referral to the Prosecuting Attorney if appropriate). Assuming there is a noncriminal violation (i.e., no internet gambling or private business use or anything that would constitute a penal offense; we anticipate this will be the vast majority of “cases” made), then the reports will be forwarded to the offending employee’s appointing authority for appropriate disciplinary action. At that point, normal UIPA standards would apply with respect to a department head (or Council representative) determining whether the records may be made public or not.

2. More on the “trends” I mention above, I doubt we will find much more probative evidence at this point, given the media coverage generated. I would assume offending employees have since stopped visiting any illicit sites (but you never know).

3. I’m sure you’re more interested in “when” you can expect the reports to be released or when the department head may be asked to produce them. I don’t want to make a commitment we cannot keep, but I will be meeting with Data System representatives on Wednesday (i.e. April 29) to develop an internal timeline for completion. We are proceeding one department at a time, and I am recommending the first set of departments be completed by the end of May 2009.

4. Regarding the UIPA standards I mention above, I am talking about the balancing of the public’s right to know against any significant privacy interest as defined by HRS Chapter 92F. Once the investigation is completed (each department) and there no longer is a basis to withhold the information based on the UIPA’s “frustration” exception, my recommendation would be to release the records.

Let me know if you need any more information.

The only questions I have at the moment are these:

What kind of internet use data are collected? How much detail is captured in the data (and how much would be released)? i.e. Does the County capture only a list of domain names visited, an exhaustive list of full-length urls and length of visit to each individual page, or something in between those extremes? After accounting for any possibly illegal activity, I am much less interested in tying any particular website visit to any particular employee than I am interested in knowing what amounts and what websites are considered “allowable” internet use with government equipment, on a government network, on government time.

While I have your attention, Mr. Ashida, I’d also like a list of IP addresses for the County network so that, by scrutinizing my server logs, I would be able to tell whenever County employees visit and/or leave anonymous comments on my blog. Heh.


  1. Nice request on the IP addresses. But I believe that question should be geared to Hunter Bishop now.

    I wonder what type of sites are allowed and not as well. I think we all know what type of sites shouldn’t be visited no matter what.

    DOUG: I’m not expecting a list of “allowed” sites, but the information could be deduced by comparing what was visited to what visits led to disciplinary action.

    Comment by damon — April 28, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  2. This is an interesting issue. After all, it’s easy to track computer usage in this day
    and age. But back in the day when the telephone was the main mode of getting information,
    it was near impossible to know if an employee was using the phone inappropriately to make
    personal calls, etc.

    It seems inappropriate use of computers has a higher threshold than inappropriate use of
    telephones, copy machines, etc.

    Comment by charles — April 29, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  3. I just posed Mr. Ashida the question on how he will bust those using county time w/ their own wireless equipment.

    Someone could literally be doing whatever they want on County time… which seems to be an issue in this investigation… on their own set up…

    While someone else might just get busted for visiting a few other sites too much… even though it might actually be much less county time then the person with their own set-up.

    Comment by damon — April 29, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  4. I received conflicting emails from Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida and Councilman Yagong today on what does consist of internet abuse.


    DOUG: And you’re surprised? Ashida does not take orders directly from Yagong. Yagong’s entitled to his opinion, but he has no official role in the investigation, so far as I can see.

    Comment by damon — April 30, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  5. Then it’s the case of The Fox Watching the Hen House?


    DOUG: Whatever, Damon. You should consider that maybe it’s not really all about you… :)

    Comment by damon — April 30, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

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