What Do HHS Employees Really Think? Agency Will Pay Data Miners to Find Out


HHS wants a contractor to monitor internal social network to glean employee sentiments.

The Health and Human Services Department plans to mine data from its internal social network, including deducing employee’s emotions and sentiments, contracting documents show.

Health and Human Services began using the internal social networking site Yammer in late 2012, according to a department blog post. The Facebook-like network is open to all the department’s 75,000 employees, the post said. It’s focused on helping employees better engage with each other across divisions and informally crowdsourcing solutions to workflow issues.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ office plans to award a three-month contract to the California-based business intelligence company GoodData to sift through information posted to Yammer to determine employees’ sentiment on particular topics and to learn which topics are trending on the site. 

The secretary’s office plans to award the contract under a Federal Acquisition Regulation provision that allows agencies to forego competitive bidding in instances where there’s only one acceptable vendor for a particular good or service. The notice of intent posted Thursday is meant to give potential bidders a chance to prove they can offer a competitive monitoring service.

The document doesn’t list the value of the GoodData contract or go into details about what information the secretary’s office hopes to cull from employees’ Yammer posts.

Federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Secret Service have launched social media monitoring programs in the past, though they’re usually focused on monitoring what the public is talking about, not federal employees.

A guidance document from the Federal Chief Information Officer’s Council released in July approves of social media monitoring provided agencies disclose how and why they’re doing it to people who might be monitored. 

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