External Linking Policy

  1. Purpose - To establish policies and procedures for ensuring that all external links on the U.S. Department of Labor's (the "Department" or "DOL") public websites are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, consistent with the mission of the Department, and provide information that is accurate, timely, and appropriate.
  2. Authority - Secretary's Order 2-2005, Delegation of Authority and Assignment of Responsibility for DOL Enterprise Communications Initiative.
  3. Background - The Department of Labor's public websites link to thousands of external internet pages. Secretary's Order 2-2005 requires agencies to conduct an appropriate review of DOL websites to ensure that information is timely, accurate, and compliant with all legislative, administrative, and Departmental policies and mandates. This policy is necessary to provide specific guidance to ensure compliance with the Secretary's Order.
  4. Applicable Laws and Regulations - The following laws and regulations, in addition to the programmatic laws administered by the Department, should be considered when establishing external links:
    1. Office of Government Ethics Regulations - 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702 (may not endorse outside entities or their products or services); 5 C.F.R. § 2635.703 (may not release nonpublic information) and 5 C.F.R. § 2635.704 (may use government property only for official purposes).
    2. Privacy Act of 1974 - This law establishes fair information practices for the collection, maintenance, and use of personal information by Federal agencies. It provides a civil remedy against the Government for damages and criminal penalties against individuals for failure to comply. (5 U.S.C. § 552a)
    3. Privacy Policy on Data Collection Over Department of Labor websites - This policy establishes procedures for the collection, use, and disposition of personally identifying information collected via the Department's public website. (DLMS 9-1500)
    4. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 - This law seeks to minimize the burden on the public from the collection of information by the Federal Government by requiring that the Office of Management and Budge (OMB) review and approve proposed agency collections of information, which are defined as asking the same question of ten or more persons. It requires that agencies perform their information resources management activities in an efficient, effective, and economical manner. (44 U.S.C. § 3501-3520)
    5. Computer Security Act of 1987 - This law necessitates training for all employees responsible for the management and use of Federal computer systems that process sensitive information. (Pub. L. No. 104-106)
    6. Anti-Lobbying Act - This law prohibits the use of appropriated funds for activities that directly or indirectly are intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress to favor or oppose any legislation or appropriation by Congress. (18 U.S.C. § 1913)
    7. Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 - This law places restrictions on the collection and use of information on any website or online service directed to children (defined as an individual under the age of 13), requires parental consent before any such collection, and provides the parent with the right to see what is collected about his/her child and to restrict dissemination or use or further collection of any information about the child. (16 C.F.R. Part 312)
    8. Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act - This law prohibits Federal agencies from entering into agreements with third parties to collect information relating to an individual's access to or use of any nongovernmental internet site. (Pub, L. No. 107-67, § 639)
    9. Office of Management and Budget Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies. These guidelines provide guidance on ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated by Federal agencies. (67 Fed. Reg. 8451 (February 22, 2000))
    10. Office of Management and Budget Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies from Clay Johnson III, Deputy Director for Management, re Policies for Federal Agency Public Web sites. (M-05-04, December 17, 2004.)
    11. Rehabilitation Act - This law requires that agencies seek to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by individuals who do not have disabilities. (29 U.S.C. § 794)
  5. Definitions
    1. Deep Linking - The act of bypassing the homepage or a major entry point of a website and directly linking to a page or document within the site.
    2. DOL Public website - Any website accessible to the general public that is owned, operated, or sponsored by the Department of Labor where DOL maintains ownership of content or services of the website. Where DOL shares, in whole or in part, the content ownership of the website, this definition covers any presentation of information on such site that is clearly identified as representing the Department of Labor . For the purposes of this policy, content or services ownership is defined as DOL having the direct authority and control of the Web materials or services offered to the public through the website. It does not include websites where DOL's role is limited to monitoring and/or reviewing the contents and services of a public website for compliance with legal or administrative mandates.
    3. DOL-Sponsored Website - Any website where the Department contributes funding, resources or content but does not have full ownership of its content.
    4. Exit Page - A page informing users that they are leaving a Department of Labor public website.
    5. External Link - A hypertext link to any website, service, application, page, or document that is not a Department of Labor public website.
    6. External Page/Site - Any web service, application, page, or document that is accessible through the World Wide Web and is not a Department of Labor public website.
    7. Partnered Website - Any website so identified (i.e., co-branded) where the Department collaborates equally with one or more Federal or non-Federal entities and contributes resources or content but neither maintains control of the site nor has full ownership of its content.
  6. Scope - This policy seeks to ensure that external links from the Department of Labor's public websites are appropriate, consistent with the Department's mission, and compliant with administrative, legislative, and Departmental policies and mandates. It requires agencies to:
    1. establish links to external websites and internet services in accordance with this policy,
    2. review and monitor external links on their webpages as part of their Web Review and Clearance Procedures, and
    3. establish procedures for handling requests from entities seeking to have DOL link to their websites.
  7. Statements of Policy
    1. Agencies must ensure that external links from their webpages comply with all applicable laws and administrative mandates including, but not limited to, those described in Section 4 above.
    2. Agencies must ensure that external links from their webpages add value to their sites and provide a useful service to the public.
    3. Agencies must ensure that information contained in external links is not in conflict with the mission, programs, and policies of the Department.
    4. Evaluation Criteria: Prior to posting a link, the Department of Labor (DOL) or appropriate agency must evaluate the link to determine if it meets one of the following criteria:
      1. The link is to an official U.S. Federal Government website. DOL may post links to any government website that is publicly available unless directed not to by the agency that owns the site. Federal Government-owned or sponsored websites will generally have .gov, .mil, or .us domains; however, some may occasionally end in .com, .org or .net. DOL may also link to websites created by public or private sector partnerships with the Federal Government, and state and local government websites. In rare instances, DOL websites will contain links to non-government owned or sponsored websites, provided these sites provide government information and/or services in a way that is not available on an official government website. DOL websites provide these links as a public service to allow internet visitors to obtain information or services related to the site they are visiting. The U.S. Government, including the Department of Labor, neither endorses nor guarantees in any way the external organizations, services, advice, or products included in these website links. Furthermore, the U.S. Government neither controls nor guarantees the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of the information contained in non-government website links. (See Appendix A)
      2. The link is to a website that provides official U.S. Government information or services.
      3. The link is to a website with content that complements existing information, products, and services on the DOL site where it is posted.
      4. In addition, all links on DOL websites must meet all of the following criteria:
        1. The website being linked has content that is relevant, useful, and authoritative for citizens, businesses, and/or government officials.
        2. The website being linked has information that appears to be accurate and current.
        3. The website being linked has a posted privacy policy that clearly describes the organization's information handling practices.
        4. The website being linked is "user-friendly."
    5. Agencies will make a good faith effort to ensure that they do not link to webpages that:
      1. contain information that is obviously inaccurate;
      2. lobby for a political party or position;
      3. exhibit pornography, hate, or bias;
      4. promote union services, activities, or positions;
      5. promote a religion, unless the content and/or services contained is clearly and directly representing DOL or Administration initiatives (e.g. the Administration's faith-based initiative);
      6. have the primary purpose of advertising commercial products or services, except:
        1. pages representing Federally-approved commercial products or services (e.g., GSA Schedule Services and Section 508 approved product lists);
        2. pages representing commercial training opportunities, conferences, or other events which are sponsored or co-sponsored by Federal organizations, DOL personnel are active participants, or the activity clearly and directly represents DOL or Administration initiatives;
        3. pages specifically approved by the Office of the Public Affairs (OPA); or
        4. pages that provide additional software necessary to view website content (e.g., Adobe Acrobat Reader).
      7. charge fees to access the information or services on that page;
      8. collect personally identifiable information from the public, unless the collection is voluntary and the website clearly advertises its privacy policy explaining how the information will be used;
      9. knowingly collect information from children under the age of 13;
      10. contain obvious barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities (e.g. flickering screens, images that have no alternate text descriptors, and pages that use color to differentiate content); or
      11. contain other inappropriate material.
    6. In determining whether to link to an external webpage, agencies must also consider the host website and/or the organization it represents to ensure a link to that site supports the mission and functions of the Department of Labor and is in the best interest of the Department's constituents. DOL agencies will not establish links to any website, page, or organization that promotes hate or bias, expresses or promotes political agendas, or contains biased or misleading representations of administration policies or initiatives, regardless of whether the specific page or pages being linked otherwise comply with the provisions of this policy .
    7. Agencies will conduct periodic reviews of external links on their webpages to ensure compliance with this policy as part of their Web Review and Clearance Procedures.
    8. Agencies will review and abide by the linking policies of the external website, if such policies are posted clearly on the website.
    9. Deep linking to external webpages is permitted unless the external website specifically forbids this practice.
    10. Agencies will establish procedures for handling requests from entities seeking to have the Department link to their websites. Agencies must develop fair and impartial criteria for accepting or refusing external link requests. In the case where links to similar entities are already linked on DOL public websites, that justification must include a description of why the existing link is appropriate and the requesting entity site is not. If the DOL agency is unable to justify a refusal to link to the similar website, it must add the new link or delete the similar link that resides on its website to avoid the appearance that it is favoring one organization over another.
    11. Agencies must let users know that an external link will take them off of the DOL website. There are two possible ways to do this:
      1. associate an exit page with each external link pursuant to the instructions in Appendix A. The exit page will be displayed immediately upon a user clicking on an external link on a DOL public website page; or
      2. add the appropriate disclaimer statement preceding the group of links stating that the links will take the user to an external site.
    12. Agencies will link to original sources of information rather than third parties.
    13. The Department and/or responsible agency, in its sole discretion, will determine whether the external website meets the purpose of the DOL or agency website.
    14. Hyperlinks to external websites and pages may be removed or replaced at the sole discretion of the Department or responsible agency, at any time without notice.
    15. Exceptions to this policy can be made in certain cases. Agencies must submit requests for exceptions to the Office of Public Affairs (OPA).
  8. Responsibilities
    1. The Office of Public Affairs, in accordance with Secretary's Order 2-2005, will:
      1. manage and coordinate the implementation of this policy in DOL, and
      2. monitor agency compliance with this policy.
    2. DOL Agency Heads will:
      1. establish criteria and assign roles and responsibilities for reviewing, approving, and monitoring external links on their webpages in compliance with this policy as part of their Web Review and Clearance Procedures, and
      2. establish procedures for handling requests from entities seeking to have DOL link to their websites.
    3. The Office of the Solicitor will provide legal interpretation and guidance on external linking issues.

Appendix A - Exit Pages

There are two types of disclaimers that agencies can use to let users know that an external link will take them off the DOL website.

  1. For external links to DOL-sponsored websites and all Federal Government websites, including congressional, Federal judicial and military websites, the exit page or the statement above a group of links must contain the following text (see policy for the definition of a "DOL-sponsored website"): "You are exiting the Department of Labor's Web Server. Thank you for visiting our site. Please click on the link below to continue."
  2. For all other external links, the exit page or the statement above a group of links must contain the following text: "You are exiting the Department of Labor's Web server. The Department of Labor does not endorse, takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the linked organization or its views, or contents, nor does it vouch for the accuracy or accessibility of the information contained on the destination server. The Department of Labor also cannot authorize the use of copyrighted materials contained in linked websites. Users must request such authorization from the sponsor of the linked website. Thank you for visiting our site. Please click on the link below to continue."

Appendix B - External Linking Best Practices

The following are best practices that agencies can use when selecting and reviewing external links for inclusion on their websites:

  1. Assign specific program personnel to take responsibility for selecting and reviewing external links to information for which they have programmatic expertise.
  2. Review external links every six months to ensure that they remain up-to-date, accurate, and appropriate.
  3. Ask the external website and/or the organization it represents whether it is the original source of information on its webpages.
  4. Avoid linking to pages that require users to obtain a password to access the information.
  5. Search external websites for policies on linking to their webpages.