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CPSR Electronic Communications Policy

Preamble, Purpose and Policy Provisions


1. Communications among people are the stuff of life and mortar for human interaction. For centuries face-to-face and written communications have enriched human discourse. In recent years, the variety and ubiquity of electronic communications (EC) forms - electronic mail (email), Internet and World Wide Web, group discussion lists, voice mail (vmail), facsimile, pagers, chat rooms -- have greatly increased the ability of humans to communicate across time and geographic boundaries with speeds not ever possible before. These and present and future portable information appliances and devices are referred to here as "communication facilities" or just "facilities". They have created great opportunities for rapid and direct communications and improved understanding among people with like interests. They have also become sometimes unwelcome sources of intrusion into personal time and privacy by blurring or eliminating traditional boundaries between personal and work time, geography and time zone (e.g., with pagers and cell phones) that are more easily maintained in traditional face-to-face communications. They also make it possible to react more quickly and informally, sometimes hastily ignoring common courtesies that otherwise might be respected. For better and worse, they have dramatically increased the volume of written communications. Informal or not, in many cases they constitute records of the organization responsible for the communication technologies used to create them.


2. This policy is intended to: articulate CPSR responsibility and accountability for CPSR communications; advance its organizational aims; improve effectiveness and positive aspects of group communications; remind people that they interact because they share broader common purposes that should override individual differences of opinion; establish mandatory policies and voluntary guidelines for users; reduce negative aspects of electronic communications by suggesting good, common sense and courteous practices that have been found useful by others toward this end; and provide mechanisms to monitor and implement the policy.


3. Many organizations and employees see the need for something beyond the kind of mandatory rules concerning acceptable and unacceptable communications behavior that appear in most email or EC policy statements. They wish, in addition, to promote voluntary, good communications practices and principles. Often the impetus for such guidelines comes not from organizational management but from employees and other users of organizational facilities to help them have more productive group communications. Such are known as Internet etiquette, Net etiquette or simply "netiquette". While mandatory policy and voluntary netiquette are different, they should be mutually supportive and are both contained in this policy statement. These guidelines apply to the use of all CPSR communications facilities as described above. MANDATORY POLICY PROVISIONS - Ownership of Information

4. CPSR respects the privacy of its employees and other facility users. It does not as a policy monitor the electronic communications of individuals except insofar as they take place on CPSR lists and in established CPSR groups. However, CPSR is responsible and accountable for its facilities and is the owner of all information generated on or communicated through its facilities, some of which constitute the official records of CPSR program and administrative activities, even some that may involve informal communications, if recorded. Archives, including digital archives, may be established for its group communications that are open to CPSR members. Archives will be maintained also for individual communications within the National Office and with external organizations, such as suppliers and other public interest groups, and among CPSR officers in the conduct of CPSR affairs.

5. CPSR does not warrant that communications over its facilities will remain inviolate from observation by persons not intended to receive them. It should be understood that CPSR, or agents of facilities being used by CPSR, such as system administrators, may unintentionally observe individual communications in the normal course of business, or may intentionally do so when it is necessary for purposes of software maintenance, and for personal accounts that are physically located in the National Office, upon the incapacitation, termination or death of employees and volunteers or in emergencies during their absence. Such cases will be subject to approval of CPSR's designated authority in such matters (see Attachment 2) and, where possible, the parties will be informed as soon as possible. Under extraordinary circumstances, internal investigations may be conducted when CPSR's designated authority in such matters (see Attachment 2) has determined that its facilities are suspected of being used for illicit activities by employees or others, and when approved by the Board, CPSR may cooperate with duly authorized criminal investigations, in which case monitoring of communications specifically related to such cases may be authorized without the prior consent or knowledge of the individuals involved.

Legitimate Uses of Communication Facilities

6. CPSR communications facilities are for the legitimate conduct of CPSR program activities and business. They may not be used to download, post or otherwise illegally distribute information that: is in violation of intellectual property rights laws, including copyright and trademark laws or falsifies or deletes proper author attributions; impersonates another person; advocates illegal activities; knowingly contains viruses, corrupted files or other objects that could cause damage to recipient's computers; or advertises or solicits funds or the sale of products or services other than those authorized in advance in writing by CPSR. Nor may such facilities be used to proselytize religious or political organizations.

7. CPSR communication facilities should never be used to send representations or depictions of harassing, libelous, slanderous, threatening, sexually explicit, obscene or pornographic information, or ethnic or religious slurs or images. A more detailed discussion of harassment is covered in CPSR Personnel policies. These are matters of policy and may also be matters of law. As CPSR becomes more global in its programs, membership and reach, users of CPSR facilities must be aware that the seriousness of the above acts may differ from one country and culture to the next. CPSR does not tolerate the use of its communications facilities for such behavior.


8. Users of CPSR communication facilities must avoid causing or contributing to "flaming" messages. While typical flaming messages ("flames") in the form of emotional outbursts and hurtful personal attacks on others do not ordinarily break laws, they may if they are threatening or libelous. Even when not, they may constitute unnecessary, unwarranted and unwelcome intimidation, fear, anger, distrust and discord in a group that diminishes its productivity and collegiality. They often result from hastily conceived communications using ill-considered phrasing - offensive even if unintended. When this happens, recipients should focus on common purposes to re-kindle trust and openness and make one-on-one efforts to help calm down flamers.

Use of Personally Identifiable Member Information and Privacy Policy

9. It is necessary for CPSR to collect names, addresses and other personal information of its members in and for the conduct of its business. CPSR's Privacy Policy: "CPSR does not sell, rent, or share its email lists or collect personally identifiable information at its web site except as part of its secure, web-based membership registration form. Membership and contribution information is never sold, rented, lent, exchanged, or used for any purpose other than official CPSR activity. CPSR may elect to send members mailing from other groups, but these mailings will always originate with CPSR." Only the Executive Director, Managing Director, members of the Board of Directors and established chapter leaders are authorized to make use of CPSR mailing lists, and only for the purpose of conducting CPSR business. In the case of chapter leaders, this applies only to the portion of the mailing list that covers their chapters. Other members of CPSR may request that messages be released to all or some portion of the CPSR membership. If approved as above, the Office will make the release, but the mailing list will not be sent to the requesting person. Mailing lists are used for general announcements to the membership, updating members on CPSR activities, as part of a program for which the member has registered (e.g., WG postings) and for solicitation for membership renewal. These services will provide an easy way whereby the member may unsubscribe or opt to discontinue receipt of such communications.

Violations of Policy

10. Violations of this policy, upon review by CPSR's designated authority in such matters (see Attachment 2), may result in disciplinary measures including possibly temporary or permanent removal from CPSR membership and/or use of CPSR facilities and, in the case of its employees, dismissal and termination of benefits.

Voluntary Provisions


11. This document contains a consolidation of recommended best usage, or Net etiquette, practices.

Back to CPSR Electronic Policy opening page

Created by nbrigham
Last modified April 07, 2005 01:42 PM

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