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FDA Sued For Hacking Employee Email

January 31, 2012 by  

FDA Sued For Hacking Employee Email

A group of scientists and doctors who were employed by the Food and Drug Administration are suing the agency after it monitored their personal email.

According to The Washington Post, the FDA began monitoring the staffers when they warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that they said posed unacceptable risks to patients.

The lawsuit alleges that the information collected from the employee’s personal email beginning in January 2009 contributed to the harassment and firing of six FDA employees. The agency also scoured the employees’ computers for documents related to the communications with Congress.

Though FDA computers display a message stating that employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy when using the machines, the employees say that accessing their personal emails was a violation of Constitutional rights.

“Who would have thought that they would have the nerve to be monitoring my communications to Congress?” Robert C. Smith, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, a former radiology professor at Yale and Cornell universities and former FDA device reviewer, told the newspaper. “How dare they?”

The FDA Office of Device Evaluation said they first made internal complaints beginning in 2007 that the agency had approved or was near approving at least a dozen radiological devices, the effectiveness of which not proven, posing risks to millions of patients.

According to experts, the biggest legal issues in the case are whether the monitoring was legal and what level of monitoring on government computers is reasonable as technology increasingly blurs the lines between work and private life.

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Robert GRiswold

    FDA= Falsifying Data Always;; is now breaking the law, can you imagine that? This tyrannical organization of thugs and sycophants of Big Pharma needs to be disbanded.

    Any group of miscreants that say you can not tell people that water is good for you because it makes a health claim is obviously deluded with their own power.

    • slapjack

      If you doubt the Big Obamasoros machine you just might get a all expenses trip to GITMO. Impeach Obama Now and deport Soros back to Hungary minus his billions.

  • Robert Smith

    From the article: “According to experts, the biggest legal issues in the case are whether the monitoring was legal and what level of monitoring on government computers is reasonable as technology increasingly blurs the lines between work and private life.”

    No bluring. Real simple answer. If the computer, environment, and even the chair one is sitting in was paid for by tax (or corporate for that matter) money what goes over that computer should be accountable. The taxpayers have a right to that information. It isn’t as if there was any doubt.

    If someone wants to play with their personal email they should be doing it home or Starbucks. Again, from the article: “Though FDA computers display a message stating that employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy when using the machines,…”

    If they were disagreeing with an official view of things there are whistle blower protections that can kick in. There are proper channels for discenting opinions. It’s not as if there weren’t other options.

    I’m wondering… If the information was so sensative or embarassing to others why didn’t these folks step outside and use their personal cell phones? Texting would have offered a trail if they wanted to document their efforts.


    • Les

      The article doesn’t state that they were accessing private e-mail accounts from work so I wouldn’t make that assumption. Also, there are ZERO protections for whistleblowers. Too many get fired and then the fed drags its feet on helping the people recover from being terminated. I know this for a fact since it happened to me. The integrity of the average federal manager is ZERO. Too many things are going on all across the fed that prove my point.

      • Mary Bagnaschi

        I am a government corruption whistle blower as well, and it is true, there is no protection and no desire from the current administration for government transparency or accountability. The government will do everything it can to marginalize and demonize whistle blowers, I have been fighting my illegal termination for 6 years, against multiple government agencies and officials. They are all in collusion with each other, serving and protecting themselves and each other, not the tax payer that pays them!

    • libertytrain

      I do agree with you on this issue. But, when I worked outside my house, I never sat on the phone and I certainly wouldn’t be using my work computer for email. People have forgotten that work is work and home is home. You don’t own those computers at work, you’re getting paid to work on them, not play on them. Home, is up to you.

  • JJM

    Robert Smith expressed my comments to a T. If the computer, work space, network and internet connection are not private then no privacy should be expected.
    This goes to prove the lack of common sense exhibited by majority of people and particularly government employees.

  • Phillip in TX

    They are not personal computers. They are provided for the employes to do their work. If they are on the employers computer and on the employers time, the employer has a right to monitor it. It is the same at my work. Now, if they are like the S.E.C. surfing PORN SITES instead of doing their work, they need to be canned.

    If they are accessing their “personal” e-mail accounts from outside, using there employers computers, the employer can monitor that too.

    Keeping it simple – If you do not want your employer monitoring your “private” e-mails, don’t use your employers computers!

  • 45caliber

    This is a surprise? I would bet that many other agencies are also checking employee email. After all, you don’t want to have subordinate come out with something that might make some high offical look bad. And you certainly don’t want some high official to get into trouble for taking money from some company to push their stuff through, right?

  • CFH

    This appears to be another example of whistleblowers of a federal agency or bureau being harassed on the job and in their personal life. There are federal laws that are to protect whistleblowers. However, those laws are routinely ignored or flagrantly broken. Senator Chuck Grassley (R_IA) has long been an advocate and defender of whistleblowers.

    According to wikipedia, “the FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), veterinary products, and cosmetics.” They need to do their jobs so that we are as safe and health as possible

    Evidently these employees did go through the proper procedures to shos their concern but nothing happened. Whistleblowing to members of Congress was the only way to get others to be aware of those concerns.

  • http://personallibertydigest Gottaplenty

    Who would have ever thought while working for the govt. that you couldn’t have your mail read. Well buddy every one;s mail gets read, That electronic equipment isn’t in a pipeline, and your govt. is not immune to impropper action. And especially on a govt. owned computer…. nieeeeve….

  • Alexander Baggett

    I feel a little different on this issue than some of the comments so far that I have read. I feel that it is the FDA’s job to look out for the American health and safety. A job I feel they are purposely failing at. If a person in the FDA cares about America health and safety and protecting them from big pharma, then it IS his job to tell congress whats going on. People have said keep work separate from play, but I feel these people reporting to congress were doing their jobs, but perhaps should have found a more secure channel to do so.

  • Len J Williams

    The thought police want to know your mind!

  • Buck

    I have long expressed the notion that the American people were the LEAST of the concerns of the FDA .

  • steve

    1) it was not the employee’s computer. It is the FDAs computer provided to the employee to do their work.
    2) it was not private e-mail accounts that were looked at. The accounts were accounts the FDA provide to employees to use for FDA business and belong to the FDA.

    This was decided by the courts quite a while ago. The computer your boss provides you to do your work on belongs to who ever it is you work for and every thing on it belonging to them. The e-mail your boss pays for and provides you with to do your job also belongs to who ever you work for. This isn’t a gift given to you, it’s a tool that belongs to your employer and you are provided access to it to do your job. The computer and online access aren’t yours, you didn’t pay for them. It’s simply not your computer nor is it your e-mail address.

  • Gringo Infidel

    Ah yes the old debate over an employer watching and monitoring ‘private’ communications of its employed.

    Using company resources does NOT entitle one to privacy in the use of that resource period.

    There is no basis for this ‘case’ even though I applaud those for voicing their concerns. They have sacrificed their ‘careers’ at the FDA but then was it really worth working for an institution that is so rife with politicized decisions. One wonders how much in donations was given to politicians to get their firm’s products ‘approved’ by the FDA.


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