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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Aug. 3, 2023

Confidentiality: It’s your Fourth Amendment right

By Jason Allred, MyCG Web Editor

The C5I Service Center (C5ISC) is piloting the use of “sensitivity labels” within the DoD365 environment. DoD365 makes it easier than ever to collaborate on and share information across programs. The increased sharing capabilities drive the need to create new safeguards to protect sensitive information.  

The new sensitivity labels enable customers to tag documents and emails shared with clergy, medical staff and legal counsel with three unique labels to protect the sender’s Fourth Amendment constitutional rights — and one to protect the rights of the Government.   

The four labels that drive this additional layer of protection are: 

  • Clergy-Parishioner: containing discussions with or documents for a clergy member regarding spiritual or counseling matters.    
  • Doctor-Patient: containing discussions with or documents for a doctor or other member of a medical team about a medical issue.   
  • Attorney-Client (Non-Government): containing discussions with or documents for a U.S. government, personal attorney or member of a legal team involving a legal issue where the client is not the U.S. government (e.g., legal assistance counsel, defense counsel, and special victims counsel). 
  • Attorney-Client (Government): containing discussions with or documents for a U.S. government attorney or member of a legal team about a legal issue on behalf of the U.S. government.    

The four unique labels will be formatted and useable in:  

  • Word 
  • Excel 
  • PowerPoint 
  • Outlook 

These labels allow users to categorize digital content with a metadata label that notifies viewers of the content’s sensitivity level.  

Additionally, it protects correspondence as immune from review during data search processes like FOIA requests, E-Discovery and investigations. Documents can, however, be reviewed if they are believed to be mis-labeled or there is a warrant.  

  • Pilot testing should be complete within approximately 30 days. The C5ISC is testing the four sensitivity labels with a preselected group of members from the clergy, medical and legal communities. Once fully tested, additional guidance will be broadcasted explaining next steps. 

Sensitivity labels mark completion of another milestone for the Coast Guard’s compliance with federal law. Additionally, this system better supports our workforce as they navigate through the challenges of handling sensitive or private matters. 

Everyone should understand that information created on government systems is considered government property and is subject to data searches. Consent is given upon selecting “I Agree” each time we log in or access government-owned systems and applications. However, privileged communications, or work products related to personal representation or services by attorneys, medical professionals or members of the clergy is exempt from this agreement.  

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