Government Access to our Electronic Data

by Michael Morgan


There have been some recent law enforcement moves meant to retrieve information coming from the Internet in order to prosecute people. A US law enforcement agency issued a subpoena from the prosecutor’s office to gain access to electronic communications of a person, citing sections from a 1980s law, which was created long before the Internet became popular. Law enforcers wish to show that the law still has teeth and that it can be marshaled to prosecute offenders by using any electronic communication like IP phone service as a means to put them in jail. Is government access to our electronic data without our knowledge a violation of our constitutional rights?

Subpoena Results

The subpoena was given to an electronic mail provider and to a popular social networking website who reviewed the subpoena. It takes legal action to combat legal action so they simply ignored the papers issued by the prosecutor’s office. In short, the law enforcement agency never got hold of their request because of the exercise of civil disobedience from the email provider and from the social networking website.

Wrong Documentation

They presented several reasons why they declined the request. In the first place, the affected providers pointed out that the law, which was drafted in the 1980s, doesn’t cover the current electronic communication that exists in the present. In addition to this, they pointed out that the subpoena is not a proper document that will enforce them to open their servers to the requesting department.

Ignorance Not an Excuse

The law can very tricky. When law enforcement agencies want swift action, what they do is coordinate with the justice department to issue out the necessary papers. A search warrant is a legal document issued by the judge who will enforce a receiving department or agent to open their servers for search and seizure purposes. Once the evidence that’s enumerated on it is found, it will be used against the person in a court of law. However getting a search warrant takes time and a judge makes it a point not to carelessly issue out such documentation. The police department must make a notable presentation that it’s really needed. Assumptions of an offense are not given any weight by the court. There must be strong proof that a person has electronic communications using a specific mail server or social networking website in order for a judge to issue out a warrant.

Work around the Law

Law enforcement agencies prefer to do go around this. Instead of waiting for a warrant, they would go directly to a prosecutor to request for a subpoena. The prosecutor’s office works directly with law enforcement and they are the ones responsible in issuing out subpoenas for this purpose.

Bullying Not Effective

When the affected Internet providers received the subpoena, they used the document itself as their defense. Instead, they pointed out that a subpoena isn’t enough for them to open their servers to the law and bridge the privacy of their users. As Internet providers they have a responsibility to protect the personal privacies of their clients and being issued a mere subpoena isn’t going to make them budge. Law enforcement will need to obtain a search warrant in order to gain access to the electronic data they want to review.

Respect to Personal Privacy

It is nice to note is that our Internet providers, social networking, and mail websites value our personal privacies, and would take action to protect our electronic data from unwanted searches and seizures. The practice of civil disobedience is necessary in order to prevent misuse of the law to gain access to our personal information.

The American Dream Doesn’t Exist for the Poor


Once again, the poor are being asked to help balance the budget. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been a strong supporter of the proposed school closures to assist with government budgetary shortfalls. However, he has been met with resistance every step of the way by the Chicago Public Schools Teachers Union. The Chicago Board of Education is scheduled today to vote on the proposal that will close 53 elementary schools and one high school in predominately African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods. Massive protests have erupted in the streets of Chicago in an effort for parents, teachers, and students to show solidarity in having their voices heard.

Chicago already has one of the highest murder rates for young people in the country. With all the slated school closures in lower-income neighborhoods, this will increase young students’ travel times to school as well as increase their risk of becoming a victim of gun violence. It will also present additional challenges and barriers for parents working in low-income service jobs to get their elementary age children to schools outside of their neighborhoods. Parents, who are already struggling, will have additional barriers placed on their ability to be active in school in addition to existing barriers such as lack of transportation, lack of money for public transportation, and long bus rides.

As a Child Protective Service Worker, one of the complaints that I often heard from teachers is that parent(s) weren’t involved, are often unreachable by phone, or are always late picking up their child. As a Social Worker, my job was not to judge the symptoms but rather than find out what barriers the parent(s) are facing in order to help them overcome those challenges. Chicago is supposed to be looking at how to reduce gun violence and adding more social workers to help with family support would be a step in the right direction. However, these school closures will have an equal or greater opposite effect, and it will be detrimental to the youth and families in these communities. The longer a child has to spend traveling to and from school, it dramatically increases his/her risk of pregnancy, prison, or death.

The American Dream is no longer the rule for the poor in this country. It’s an anomaly or a lottery for someone who is lucky enough to escape their income class. Instead of the “home for the free”, it’s the land of for profit prisons. It is my belief that a lot of social policies and increased burdens placed on the poor are intentionally instituted in an effort to increase instability and poverty in minority communities which leads to increased teen pregnancies, drug addiction, and violent crimes. Since slavery is no longer legal, there is a culture and a group of people who wants a slave class because it is profitable. This country was built on slavery and economic challenges of minorities because without income disparities we move closer to a society of equality.

Currently, corporations are making work agreements with for profit prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, and detention centers for free labor. The for profit prisons are getting paid by the government and corporations to abuse an inmate population that is predominantly minority with the added bonus of having no voice and no right to vote. There is no department of labor or laws to protect them from being abused and taking away their humanity. Slavery has successfully been privatized. Now, these prisons and those who profit from them want to use our communities to groom future inmates for their prisons.

In 2011, two judges were sentenced for selling and trading children to for profit prisons. Here is an excerpt from the Huffington Post:

Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes. The judge remained defiant after his arrest, insisting the payments were legal and denying he incarcerated youths for money.

As long as for profits prisons exist, those who profit will lobby against protective factors such as education, family planning, wage increases, and more social workers because these factors have proven successful in preventing children from the prison pipeline. Public School closures in minority neighborhoods are not just happening in Chicago. It’s happening all over the country. For those who actually make it to their 18th birthday, the second wave of attacks to insure the poor can’t get ahead is making a college education unaffordable.

The third wave, if you are fortunate enough to obtain a degree, is the extremely high interest rates for students loans given to financial need students and the debt you will incur for the bulk of your adult life. The finally attack happens in the employment arena where Right to Work laws and criminal histories being used against you forever contribute to the high unemployment rates and discriminatory practices against minorities. The policies being implemented are not designed to create graduates. They are designed to produce inmates. The American Dream does not exist for the poor.

What happens in the school board meeting today will affect those children”s life for the rest of their lives. Let’s fast forward 20 years in the future to see what these children’s lives may look like.

Social Work and Technology: Fails in Teaching Technology to Students

Social work and technology received a failing grade as a result of a National Institute of Health (NIH) study. The study makes a strong argument in a 2011 journal article which suggests that it’s a violation of the social work code of ethics for social workers who fail to institute evidence based technologies within their practice.

The article also points out how social work professional and educational bodies have not incorporated technology based learning to prepare social workers beyond the use of email communications.

In order for social workers to be competitive in the marketplace, social work and technology must be incorporated into social work education. Nonprofits, public services, and other grassroots organizations are increasingly relying on analytics software, constituent management systems, and social media in order to be more efficient in providing services and information.

The bachelors level or graduate level social work programs do not offer any courses specific to social work and technology. Some academics would argue that social work students are resistant when professors try to include new technologies in existing social work courses. Additionally, academics who want to conduct research on social work and technology are discouraged because published studies tend to be more clinical in nature.

Do you have a passion for social work and technology, and how it can be better used to enhance social work practice? Are you interested in testing theories and experimenting with new technologies to help identify tools for enhancement learning and practice?  Then, let us start an open dialogue. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on whether social work and technology should be a higher priority within the profession.

Here is an excerpt from the NIH study exposing areas for improvement within the profession:

Despite this interest in technology, the attention that the field of social work has given to ICTs (Information and Communications Technology) in research, education, and practice does not match the efforts of other national and international organizations that view ICTs as critical to improving the lives of disadvantaged and disenfranchised persons, and necessary for all forms of civil engagement. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) calls for the integration of computer technology into social work education, but there are no explicit standards for integration or student learning (CSWE, 2008; see also Beaulaurier & Radisch, 2005). Asking other social workers, social work students, and social work educators can easily reveal that many are unaware of the NASW technology standards. A review of syllabi of social work courses will also show that ICTs, beyond e-mail communication, are generally not present in the educational environment. Consequently, social work students are not being adequately prepared in the use of ICTs, which are integral in the workforce today and will become even more important over time (Parrot & Madoc-Jones, 2008).

In this paper, we argue that ICTs are of critical importance to advancing the field of social work. Specifically, they provide efficient and effective ways for organizing people and ideas, offers greater access to knowledge and education, and increases the efficiency and collaboration of our work. This paper takes the position that many aspects of the NASW Code of Ethics (1999) can be advanced through careful and thoughtful application of ICTs. Thus, competencies with ICTs and ICT literacy should be required learning outcomes in social work education and continuing education. This includes having the knowledge and skills to understand and use ICTs to acheive a specific purpose (i.e., competencies), in addition to knowing the major concepts and language associated with ICT (i.e., literacy). Within this framework, this paper identifies specific aspects of the Code of Ethics (1999), showing how ICTs play a critical role in achieving the desired values and principles. Recommendations on how ICTs can be more strategically incorporated in the classroom, along with potential pitfalls, are discussed.

View Full Journal Article below:

Educating the Social Workers as Consultant (8th and Final in Series)

The standard social work education curriculum has 5 areas of inquiry: Practice Methods, Policy, Ethics, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and Social Research.  The social worker as consultant may organize these into two categories: Systems of Practice with Human Behavior and Social Mechanisms.

“Systems of Practice with Human Behavior” describes the systems level the social worker as consultant is hired to impact. The systems level can be individual, family, group, organization, or community. Often, the social worker as consultant is tasked with assessment of one or more systems and observation, intervention or evaluation of one or more systems.  The traditional social work education practice methods informed by human behavior in the social environment can be enhanced with coursework that specifically applies these concepts to behavior change, culture change, leadership, innovation, and mobilization.

“Social Mechanisms” describes the structures that may be used to engage systems at any level. The social worker as consultant utilizes social mechanisms to intentionally support change. Traditional research training can be enhanced with specific techniques for information gathering and sharing. Advanced research can draw on in-depth interviewing, demography, and crowd sourcing.  Traditional policy can be expanded to include skill practice in outlining cultural mechanism, comparative analysis, and case construction. Traditional ethics can be augmented to emphasize economic justice, financial capability, and collective promotion of social good.


Toward jump starting the inclusion of content that would prepare the social worker as consultant, I propose a group of competencies. Each competency organizes modules having both skills suitable for classroom practice and connected abilities to be demonstrated in the field. Successful completion of skill challenges, demonstration of the abilities, and articulation of professional ethics would comprise a portfolio of competence.

Social Entrepreneurship

This group of modules explores the concept of social good as a business strategy. It includes concepts of social development, social capital, and social economics. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Articulate the process of value creation in 4 different business models: Sole proprietorship, B-Corp, C-Corp, and Non-Profit
  • Outline a successful supply chain model complete with holons, nodes, partners, third parties and logistics.
  • Calculate the expected return on investments in market development that includes support for financial capability and asset building of potential customers.
  • Compose a plan for sustainable growth with attention to the long-term health and well-being of human resources.
  • Define mechanisms of venture capital and crowd funding.

Leadership & Culture Change

This group of modules explores the power of a leader to cast a vision, build supportive structures, train staff, inform stakeholders, and manage organizational culture. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Define leadership for intentional goal achievement in interpersonal, organizational and community contexts.
  • Identify key stakeholders in a change process along with methods to engage each stakeholder group.
  • Outline a competency-based approach to training and education including certification and continuing education.
  • Analyze the compile the learning orientations and change facilitating factors present within an organization.
  • Articulate a process for creating and maintaining a social change movement within a community.

Behavior Change & Influence

This group of modules explores the unique ability of social workers to engage in interpersonal relationships, promote dignity and worth of the person, influence self-sufficiency, and support sustainable behavioral health choices. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Define complex adaptive systems in the context of emergence, human nature, and the concept of individual will.
  • Operationally define human interaction as a control system.
  • Identify the biological, social, psychological, spiritual, and perception parameters representing individual inputs into Sociocybernetic systems.
  • Model institutional systems utilizing agent-based model techniques.
  • Identify institutional structures that promote, stabilize, and constrain human choice behavior.


Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) policy, state licensure requirements, and typical university operating procedures provide supportive mechanisms for the education of the social worker as consultant. The competency-based structure of the aforementioned modules is in line with CSWE’s own competency-based approach. In addition, CSWE has adopted the concept of “Field as Signature Pedagogy.” This means that field work is the important opportunity to demonstrate skill and assess ability.

State licensure boards require continuing education almost without exception. This mechanism provides an opportunity for social work programs to continue to educate their graduates beyond the confines of their traditional curricula. Content on the social worker as consultant and other specialized competencies can headline continuing education content.

Universities maintain connection with their alumni as a matter of sustainability, but also as a matter of service. As a long-standing institution, universities have unique reciprocal offerings for students. Offerings such as credibility, personal introduction, event hosting, grants management, and others can benefit all alumni including the social worker as consultant.

Field Work

Students are a built-in opportunity for collaboration and capacity recognition when they are connected to the school and practicing in agencies. Enhance campus-community partnerships. Construct a continuum of service learning from volunteerism through project-based learning, to field practicum. Identify and strengthen all collaborating agencies by training them on competency-based education tenets and practices. Track student service contributions including class assignments, service learning, and student government activities. Provide an individualized learning plan for each student—a plan that recognizes the individual career and competence goals of the student. Connect students in purposeful advising with faculty and field instructors.

I propose that schools of social work engage students early, from the sophomore year for undergraduates, first semester for graduates. Identify projects based on the expected skill level of students. For example:

  • First Year: Customer Support, Office Rapport and Data Entry
  • Second Year: Knowledge Management, Training Support, and Client Assistance (Navigation through Service System)
  • Third Year: Compliance Evaluation, Quality Assurance, and Staff Training
  • Fourth Year:  Caseload Management, Policy Drafting, Group Engagement
  • Graduate/Continuing Ed: Supervision, Consulting, Grant Writing

Organize the field supervision model as a consultancy involving field liaisons as consultants to advance the mission of the agencies with which they liaison. Graduate students who are already employed in an agency can refocus on innovation and leadership in order to keep their jobs while growing educationally and adhering to the requirements of CSWE.

Continuing Education

Many schools of social work recognize the opportunity and service represented in continuing education programs. Many collaborate with on-site centers or community organizations to provide the information that alumni desire. Many also provide certification programs or other credentialing. Still others provide courses or supports for licensure examinations.

An innovation would find schools developing centralized training data stores, compiling the information reported from the field, and informing new service opportunities. The repository can be enhanced through agency collaboration creating a knowledge base and training platform for social work practice. Association partners can provide certification and credentialing along with a pool of diverse members. Agencies provide the practice environments for evaluation and available clients for research. The school of social work provides capacity in the form of student and expertise in the form of faculty.

The result for staff and faculty is continuing practice experience, continuing education, and increased relevance in the classroom. The result for students is educational innovation, certification, and a solid ability to contribute to their alma mater as well as the social work profession. For agencies, the return includes increased capacity, research & evaluation services, and continuing education for staff. For associations, the benefit is in the form of increased membership and collaborative research opportunities.

Alumni Services

With little experience, you need connections. Schools of social work often leverage their alumni connections, credibility, and reputation for the benefit of graduates. An innovation would find institutions partnering with associations to provide applied education & practice, networking, and demography symposia that bring together current and former students, agencies, and funders to discuss approaches to community development. Similar to what a chamber of commerce does for local businesses, schools of social work can act as “chambers of social good.” The result is an intentional impact on the community and a boost for students attempting to engage in their communities of practice. Schools can engage with agency boards and offer student representation from among current students or graduates. This maintains relationships between schools of social work and community agencies, but it can also be a model for engaged service to the community.

Schools of social work can engage consistently with local and state governments to outline a clear path for social workers to enter politics and engage the larger political discussion. School-sponsored visits to Capitol Hill, local congressional offices, and city council meetings can provide students with context for what they are learning. School-sponsored “suppers with the state representative” or other such events can engage alumni and current students in important issues and reveal politics as less intimidating.

Top 5 Best Mobile Apps for Social Work Students


I will be sharing with you the top 5 best mobile apps that will hopefully make your life easier as a social work student. Why not start off the semester with a better system to help keep you organized? I have identified 5 mobile apps that will serve you well in the classroom and later in practice.

These apps are available for download in both Google Play or iTunes depending upon your mobile operating system. As a future social worker, your ability to be mobile and organized will be the key to your success. So, lets start incorporating these fabulous tools in your student life now.

Dropbox– Don’t get caught without your usb drive or say I mistakenly left my assignment on my home computer. There is no excuse for not being able to access important documents, projects, or information with the dropbox mobile app at your disposal. Dropbox is an online cloud storage system that allows you to access music, photos, documents, and/or power points from any computer. Most importantly, you have the ability to authorize certain computers to sync and save documents across all your devices. Let’s say, you are working on a document from the library and you save it in your dropbox folder online. If you authorize your home computer as an authorized device, your work is now saved in the dropbox folder on your home computer’s hard drive as well as your mobile phone.

Evernote-Looking for that research or reference that you can’t seem to find? You need Evernote to help keep you organized. Evernote is like an electronic accordion file stored in the clouds for easy access. Evernote provides an extension for your internet web browser that will allow you to save web pages, photos, research, and other articles as you surf the internet. The Evernote mobile app will then allow you to access your electronic files/notebooks where ever you are and whenever you need them.

Mindmeister-As social workers, we really need to move away from lugging around large flip charts or random scraps of notebook paper when working on group projects to organize and gather data. A popular tool used by many project managers to organize group thinking is mind mapping. Mind maps are visual organizations of gathered data which have proven to be effective for all learning styles. The added bonus of using mind mapping technology is that it will also organize data in traditional outlines for more linear thinkers.

Google Voice- When working at your field placement or even in your personal activities, do you really want to share your personal cell phone number? With Google Voice, you no longer have to make that choice. Google Voice will add a second phone line to any mobile phone with a free phone number from the zip code of your choice. Google Voice will allow you to screen and block annoying callers, send and receive text, archive call logs, and much more. It also provides an options for low-cost international calling.

SWHelper- Have you ever considered talking with social work students from other schools of social work or in other countries to discuss social policy, social justice issues, or human rights? Well, now you can with ease without compromising privacy and security. Collaborate, share ideas, give and receive support to another fellow social work student while staying current on social issues both domestically and abroad. Download on Android or iTunes.

LGBTQ Youth in Schools


No one should be afraid to be gay or an LGBTQ individual at school.

Just recently, another bullying effect was captured by the media in the UK. In the suburbs of York, in one of the public schools in the area, an 11 year old boy was bullied because of his intention not to hide who he is.

Over a short discussion with his parents, the boy has been terrified by his peers and threatened to be beaten and someday even dead, because of his unwillingness to change who he is. He does not wish to return to his school life currently as he is emotionally and psychosocial terrified of the people surrounding him. I know the picture on the right is intimidating, but that is how reality is for all the children that are bullied in schools because of their sexual orientation.

The boy suffered emotional, psychological, and physical abuse. he was called several names, including a disgrace for his parents. He was kicked to the ground and a chair was broken on his back. His backpack was thrown in the fields while some of his peers tried to humiliate him by stealing his clothes.

What I want from this post, is to raise your thoughts on the issue. If we all try to think what consequences such an event will have on the boy’s life in the future and while growing up.

No one should ever be afraid to be him or herself in the school environment. There are many different issues arising from this instance. Bullying has expanded drastically due to the unintended rage of the youth, which may be based on social reasoning.

How could anyone “blame” their peers for such a behavior? A behaviour that has been copied from the social world kids know of. 11 year old children, almost teenagers, have been through socialization that promotes and enhances such behaviors, as opposed to “shut them down”.

Then again, what about social policies, programs, and services that the schools have to offer? What about the teachers and the staff who are there on a daily basis and experience the institutional culture of the school? What about the parents who receive messages from their children that something is wrong, or that they cause wrong ((in the case of a bully)? What about the decision makers, especially in the UK at this time, when the strands of Equality and Diversity have been revised and enhanced more?

Creating hate for who we are is not accepted by a certain number of people or populations or cultures, and should be unacceptable in the contemporary world where development and evolution take place. The science of social work should see through these occasions and grasp the challenges that arise, take a step forward, create policies, raise awareness, and network and/or link people and organizations. It is crucial for social workers to understand to distinguish what the professional values are and promote those to the systems that request assistance.

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