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Veterans’ Affairs institutes rights management software

The Veterans’ Affairs Administration has recently instituted Microsoft’s Rights Management Services (RMS) (AKA DRM) to “manage” security of internal documents, email, handheld traffic. This sounds to me like a REALLY bad idea on so many levels, especially for a government that plays loose with emails, has a problem with classification and transparency. This seems to me a nuclear solution to a manageable social problem (duh! don’t put home records of more than 26 millions veterans on a laptop PC that can be stolen!!), and one that will have far-reaching affect on open and transparent government.

“VA gets its rights: Department specifies how people can use — or not use — documents employees create.” By Joab Jackson. Government Computer News, 3/3/08.

Perhaps not surprisingly, VA has become one of the earliest adopters — and thus far, the largest — of rights management software with its use of Microsoft’s Rights Management Services (RMS).

VA expected that by press time all employees would be able to set restrictions on what can be done with the documents they create.

When Word, PowerPoint or Excel files, or Outlook e-mail messages are sent to others, the authors can set permissions on what the recipients can do with those documents.

The creator of the document can decide whether it can be printed, forwarded or edited by other people. It’s the employee’s or the agency’s call.

Moreover, the documents are encrypted, so anyone without the appropriate permissions cannot see the contents.

“This ability provides our agency and users the assurance that only the author of the content or someone that has been given full-control permission to the content can remove the persistent protection from the e-mails and documents,” De Sanno said.

“For instance, say I send you an e-mail and RMS that message,” De Sanno said. “I can actually say you cannot print this [document], or that you cannot forward this. Or, it can evaporate in 30 days.”

Among employees, contractors and other people, more than 250,000 individuals will shortly begin using this feature, the agency said.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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