Announcing Discontinuation of the DOL Lock-Up Facility for Participating News Media Organizations With Pre-Release Access to Statistical Information, 31810-31812 [2020-11297]

Download as PDF 31810 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES —Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, including whether the information will have practical utility; —Evaluate the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; —Evaluate whether and if so how the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected can be enhanced; and —Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses. Overview of this information collection: (1) Type of Information Collection: Reinstatement of the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) Survey, with changes, a previously approved collection for which approval has expired. (2) The Title of the Form/Collection: 2020 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics Survey. (3) The agency form number, if any, and the applicable component of the Department sponsoring the collection: The form number for the questionnaire is CJ–44. The applicable component within the Department of Justice is the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the Office of Justice Programs. (4) Affected public who will be asked or required to respond, as well as a brief abstract: Respondents will be general purpose state, county and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs), including local and county police departments, sheriff’s offices, and primary state law enforcement agencies. Since 1987, BJS has collected information about the personnel, policies, and practices of law enforcement agencies via the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey. This core survey, which has been administered every 4 to 6 years, has been used to produce nationally representative estimates on the demographic characteristics of sworn personnel, hiring practices, operations, equipment, technology, and agency policies and procedures. BJS plans to publish this information in reports and reference it when responding to queries VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 from the U.S. Congress, Executive Office of the President, the U.S. Supreme Court, state officials, international organizations, researchers, students, the media, and others interested in criminal justice statistics. (5) An estimate of the total number of respondents and the amount of time estimated for an average respondent to respond: An agency-level survey will be sent to approximately 3,500 LEA respondents. At the time of the 60-day notice, the expected burden was about 2.33 hours per respondent. Based on additional analysis of cognitive interviewing results, the expected burden placed on these respondents is about 2.5 hours. (6) An estimate of the total public burden (in hours) associated with the collection: At the time of the 60-day notice, there was an estimated 8,155 total burden hours associated with this collection. With the burden update to about 2.5 hours per respondent, there are an estimated 8,750 total burden hours associated with this collection. If additional information is required contact: Melody Braswell, Department Clearance Officer, United States Department of Justice, Justice Management Division, Policy and Planning Staff, Two Constitution Square, 145 N Street NE, 3E.405A, Washington, DC 20530. Dated: May 21, 2020. Melody Braswell, Department Clearance Officer for PRA, U.S. Department of Justice. [FR Doc. 2020–11319 Filed 5–26–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4410–18–P DEPARTMENT OF LABOR Bureau of Labor Statistics Announcing Discontinuation of the DOL Lock-Up Facility for Participating News Media Organizations With PreRelease Access to Statistical Information Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The Department of Labor (DOL) plans to discontinue use of the lock-up facility currently available for participating news media organizations to access statistical information prior to official release time. This Federal Register Notice supersedes the previous Notice issued on February 7, 2020, which announced the DOL’s intent to eliminate use of electronic devices in the lock-up room. As a result of the COVID–19 pandemic, use of the lock-up SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00075 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 facility has been indefinitely suspended since March 20, 2020, and timely and orderly distribution of DOL statistical information has been accomplished at official release time through DOL websites, social media channels, and email subscription lists. This notification announces the permanent discontinuation of the DOL lock-up facility effective June 3, 2020, regardless of whether the current restrictions in place as a result of the COVID–19 pandemic remain necessary as of that date. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Trupo, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC; 202–693– 4676; trupo.michael@dol.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is responsible for the development and oversight of Government-wide policies, principles, standards, and guidelines concerning statistical information presentation and dissemination, as well as the timely release of statistical data. OMB has issued a series of Statistical Policy Directives (SPDs) to guide agencies in their dissemination of statistical products to ensure timely and equitable distribution of data to the public. Each of these SPDs describes the fundamental statistical-system principle of equitable and timely dissemination of statistical information to the public. See, e.g., SPD No. 1, Fundamental Responsibilities of Federal Statistical Agencies and Recognized Statistical Units (Dec. 2, 2014) (‘‘The objectivity of the information released to the public is maximized by making information available on an equitable, policyneutral, transparent, timely, and punctual basis’’); SPD No. 3, Compilation, Release, and Evaluation of Principal Federal Economic Indicators (Sept. 25, 1985) (emphasizing the importance of releasing Principal Federal Economic Indicators (PFEIs) to the public in a fair and orderly manner); SPD No. 4, Release and Dissemination of Statistical Products Produced by Federal Statistical Agencies (Mar. 7, 2008) (‘‘Statistical agencies must ensure that all users have equitable and timely access to data that are disseminated to the public.’’). In short, equitable and timely dissemination of statistical information is a core principle of Federal statistical policy. Since the mid-1980s, consistent with these SPDs, DOL agencies have provided pre-release data access to news E:\FR\FM\27MYN1.SGM 27MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES organizations, as a courtesy, under strict embargoes (known as ‘‘lock-ups’’) for PFEIs. PFEIs are a set of designated economic data series (e.g., the Employment Situation or Consumer Price Index) that have significant commercial value and may affect the movement of commodity and financial markets upon release. DOL, in its discretion, has employed lock-ups for the release of limited non-PFEI data (i.e., Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims). Although not required to do so, DOL in 1988 constructed a special lockup facility to provide pre-release access to news media organizations. DOL took steps to enhance the security of the lock-up facility, including in 1992 and again in 2011–2012. These lock-ups have provided participating media organizations a period of time (typically 30 minutes) to review data prior to the official release time. At the official release time, DOL has opened the communication lines within the facility, allowing the press to transmit their articles or tables of data to the public. For many years, dissemination through the lock-up process served as one of several effective methods to assist the government in getting information to the public. But today, with increased communication and technology capabilities utilized by the government, the media, and the general public, this particular method is no longer necessary and discontinuation of the lock-up best ensures the equitable and timely dissemination of statistical information consistent with OMB’s guidance. Continuing security, resource, and equity concerns also outweigh any benefits of the current process. DOL’s Inspector General has noted concerns with the current press lock-up process, including in reports dated January 2, 2014 (17–14–001–03–315) and March 25, 2016 (17–16–001–01– 001) and in every subsequent SemiAnnual OIG Report to Congress. Specifically, DOL Inspector General Report 17–14–001–03–315 states that the lock-up ‘‘unintentionally creates an unfair competitive advantage for certain news organizations and their clients’’: Pre-release access of DOL-generated economic data is intended to serve the general public by ensuring that news reports about the data are accurate. To that end, the media are given access to the data in advance of the public release to facilitate their ability to analyze and ask questions about the data as they prepare their news stories. However, the intended purpose of ensuring accurate news reports must be weighed against the inequitable trading advantage that a lock-up can potentially create. Several news organizations that participate in the DOL press lock-up are able to profit from their presence in the lock-up by selling, to traders, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 high speed data feeds of economic data formatted for computerized algorithmic trading. Because these news organizations have pre-release access, they are able to preload the data . . . allowing their clients to get this information faster than the general public, which has to wait to download the data after it gets posted to the Department of Labor websites. The aforementioned report further recommends that BLS and ETA ‘‘. . . implement a strategy designed to eliminate any competitive advantage that news organizations present in the lock-up and/or their clients may have; or, absent a viable solution, consider discontinuing the use of the press lockup that provides news organizations pre-release access.’’ Some media lockup attendees continue to post online advertisements claiming that their clients are advantaged by their lock-up attendance.1 To protect the integrity of our data releases and to ensure dissemination of key economic data in an equitable, timely, secure, and cost-effective manner, as of June 3, 2020, DOL will permanently discontinue use of the lock-up facility, regardless of whether the restrictions that are currently in place as a result of the COVID–19 pandemic remain necessary as of that date. Discontinuing use of the lock-up facility eliminates the risk of premature disclosure of the data by the press or as a result of the lock-up embargo process, and eliminates the risk of providing an unfair competitive advantage to lock-up participants and their clients compared to the rest of the public due to the preparation time provided by the media’s early access to the data. BLS and ETA will continue to make their data available to the general public immediately upon their 8:30AM Eastern Time release through the Web and other sources. II. Action As a result of the COVID–19 pandemic, the DOL lock-up facility is currently closed, and will remain closed at least through June 3, 2020. In an effort to protect the integrity of our data and 1 For example, as recently as May 12, 2020, the Associated Press advertised on their event-driven data page that users can ‘‘[g]et the lowest-latency delivery of economic release from Washington DC lock-ups’’ and that their ‘‘low-latency delivery of economic releases, coupled with [their] machinereadable format of [their] entire text news output, gives firms the data they need to make informed, split-second decisions.’’ See Associated Press, Microseconds Matter, https://www.ap.org/discover/ event-driven-data (last visited May 12, 2020). See also Dow Jones, Calendar Live, https:// professional.dowjones.com/newswires/calendarlive/ (last visited May 12, 2020) (advertising that they can provide ‘‘[s]ub-second updates on actual data from government lockups, banks, industry, and trade groups’’). PO 00000 Frm 00076 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 31811 ensure fairness in the dissemination of statistical information, DOL plans to permanently discontinue use of the DOL lock-up facility starting on June 3, 2020. After that date, regardless of any restrictions that may remain in place as a result of the COVID–19 pandemic, DOL will no longer provide credentialed press early access to the economic data under embargo conditions in a lock-up. Instead, data will be released to the general public all at once, through online publication. The purpose of this action is to ‘‘ensure that all users have equitable and timely access to data that are disseminated to the public,’’ as noted in OMB SPD No. 4. The previously proposed policy change to suspend the use of electronic devices in the lock-up room (see 85 FR 7333), was designed to retain the media’s ability to publish accurate and informed stories shortly after the embargo was lifted. During the suspension of the media lock-up room for the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic, however, the media demonstrated their ability to produce informed and accurate articles within minutes of the electronic release to the BLS website despite not having early access to the data at all. Furthermore, DOL invests significant personnel and financial resources to administer and staff the lock-up facility, ensure that data products are created and transported to the lock-up facility, and secure the lock-up facility. Discontinuing lock-ups, as opposed to merely eliminating use of electronic devices, will enable DOL to cease these expenditures while also eliminating entirely any possibility of a breach from the lock-up room. As explained in more detail below, the recent COVID–19 experience demonstrates that DOL can eliminate the overhead and risk of lockup rooms altogether without degrading the quality or timeliness of media coverage. At the appropriate scheduled times, BLS and ETA will provide access to official news releases on the agency websites. In addition, the agencies will issue releases through social media and to email subscribers. Agencies will continue to respond to questions about the data from the public, including the media, following the releases. III. Necessity of Action When DOL first used embargoed data releases in the mid-1980s, media dissemination was an equitable and timely method to get data to the public. Today, technology and the internet permit the public and interested data users to obtain releases for themselves. However, unlike media organizations in E:\FR\FM\27MYN1.SGM 27MYN1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 31812 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 102 / Wednesday, May 27, 2020 / Notices the lock-up facility, internet users are not allowed to digest data 30 minutes before the official release time. Internet users are also disadvantaged relative to lock-up participants to the extent that internet postings may lag slightly behind lock-up transmissions. Developments in high-speed algorithmic trading technology have also raised concerns about the possible impact of unequal access to sensitive economic data. As discussed above, DOL’s Inspector General has issued multiple reports with findings that the current press lock-up ‘‘creates an unfair competitive advantage for certain news organizations and their clients.’’ It was never the intent of DOL in establishing the lock-up facility to provide a financial windfall to paying clients of credentialed media organizations, or to allow credentialed media organizations to profit off of the privilege of early access to government data. DOL does not wish to facilitate those practices. Although DOL understands that certain high-frequency trading firms may retain some advantage in faster ingestion and downloading of government data even after the lock-up process is discontinued, DOL itself will no longer have any role in facilitating such an advantage. It is no longer necessary to use the credentialed news media to help the Department disseminate DOL’s statistical data widely because the internet permits the public and interested users to obtain releases for themselves. Discontinuing the lock-up will not disadvantage the lock-up participants; it will merely remove the advantage they currently enjoy. In the time since the OIG recommendations were issued, BLS and ETA have devoted significant resources to introducing improved technologies to ensure data are posted and accessible on their websites immediately following the official release time. When the COVID– 19 pandemic required the closure of the media lock-up in March of 2020, these improved technologies allowed BLS and ETA to disseminate the data immediately and widely to the public without incident and without providing early access to lock-up participants. Specifically, the March Employment Situation report, released on April 3, 2020 without a lock-up, demonstrates that the BLS website can serve all interested users in the seconds after release time with little or no degradation in response time and a negligible error rate. The same holds true for the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Reports issued since March 20, 2020. Stories in the press covering the March data were available VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 May 26, 2020 Jkt 250001 to the public only slightly later—and, in at least one case, actually earlier—than they were a month earlier when a lockup was held. Given this success over the past two months, DOL now believes it can continue to disseminate the data to the public, including the media, in a timely manner. DOL will therefore discontinue the use of the lock-up facility to allow all parties, including the media, commercial entities, and the public, equitable and timely access to our most important statistical data. IV. Result By permanently discontinuing the lock-up facility as of June 3, 2020, DOL intends to protect the integrity of its data and enable dissemination of news releases in an equitable, secure, and cost-effective manner so that all information is available to the public and the media at the official release time. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. Census Bureau are also committed to the secure, timely, and equitable release of all data. As such, for the reasons stated in this notice, both Bureaus will also discontinue embargoed media lock-ups at the Department of Labor’s facility and will continue to release their data securely through their websites. http://www.msha.gov/regsinfo.htm or http://www.regulations.gov [Docket Number: MSHA–2018–0015]. Email Notification: To subscribe to receive email notification when MSHA publishes rulemaking documents in the Federal Register, go to https:// www.msha.gov/subscriptions. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Roslyn B. Fontaine, Acting Director, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, at fontaine.roslyn@ dol.gov (email), 202–693–9440 (voice), or 202–693–9441 (fax). These are not toll-free numbers. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Cancellation of Program Policy Letter Signed at Washington, DC, this 19th day of May 2020. William W. Beach, Commissioner of Labor Statistics. On July 29, 2019, MSHA published in the Federal Register a PPL to clarify requirements in 30 CFR 57.11050, Escapeways and Refuges, together with a request for public comment (84 FR 36623). The PPL was intended to assist MNM mine operators with guidance on the placement of escapeways and refuges that underground miners need to use in emergency situations. On October 10, 2019, MSHA also held a public stakeholder meeting to ensure that the public would have additional opportunities to provide feedback. After reviewing all the comments received during both the public comment period and the stakeholder meeting, MSHA has now determined that the clarification in this PPL is not needed. Therefore, MSHA cancels the PPL. [FR Doc. 2020–11297 Filed 5–26–20; 8:45 am] (Authority: 30 U.S.C. 811) BILLING CODE 4510–24–P David G. Zatezalo, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Administration. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR [FR Doc. 2020–11300 Filed 5–26–20; 8:45 am] Mine Safety and Health Administration BILLING CODE 4520–43–P [Docket No. MSHA–2018–0015] Escapeways and Refuges in Underground Metal and Nonmetal Mines Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor. ACTION: Notice of cancellation; Program Policy Letter. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR Occupational Safety and Health Administration AGENCY: The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) cancels a Program Policy Letter (PPL) that was issued on July 29, 2019 to provide guidance on escapeways and refuges used by underground metal and nonmetal miners in emergency situations. SUMMARY: Cancellation as of May 27, 2020. ADDRESSES: Federal Register Publications: Access rulemaking documents electronically at DATES: PO 00000 Frm 00077 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 [Docket No. OSHA–2009–0035] The Ethylene Oxide (EtO) Standard; Extension of the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Approval of Information Collection (Paperwork) Requirements Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Labor. ACTION: Request for public comments. AGENCY: OSHA solicits public comments concerning the proposal to extend the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) approval of the information collection requirements SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\27MYN1.SGM 27MYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 102 (Wednesday, May 27, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 31810-31812]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-11297]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Bureau of Labor Statistics


Announcing Discontinuation of the DOL Lock-Up Facility for 
Participating News Media Organizations With Pre-Release Access to 
Statistical Information

AGENCY: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.

ACTION: Notice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Department of Labor (DOL) plans to discontinue use of the 
lock-up facility currently available for participating news media 
organizations to access statistical information prior to official 
release time. This Federal Register Notice supersedes the previous 
Notice issued on February 7, 2020, which announced the DOL's intent to 
eliminate use of electronic devices in the lock-up room. As a result of 
the COVID-19 pandemic, use of the lock-up facility has been 
indefinitely suspended since March 20, 2020, and timely and orderly 
distribution of DOL statistical information has been accomplished at 
official release time through DOL websites, social media channels, and 
email subscription lists. This notification announces the permanent 
discontinuation of the DOL lock-up facility effective June 3, 2020, 
regardless of whether the current restrictions in place as a result of 
the COVID-19 pandemic remain necessary as of that date.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Trupo, Deputy Assistant 
Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 
Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC; 202-693-4676; 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is responsible for the 
development and oversight of Government-wide policies, principles, 
standards, and guidelines concerning statistical information 
presentation and dissemination, as well as the timely release of 
statistical data. OMB has issued a series of Statistical Policy 
Directives (SPDs) to guide agencies in their dissemination of 
statistical products to ensure timely and equitable distribution of 
data to the public. Each of these SPDs describes the fundamental 
statistical-system principle of equitable and timely dissemination of 
statistical information to the public. See, e.g., SPD No. 1, 
Fundamental Responsibilities of Federal Statistical Agencies and 
Recognized Statistical Units (Dec. 2, 2014) (``The objectivity of the 
information released to the public is maximized by making information 
available on an equitable, policy-neutral, transparent, timely, and 
punctual basis''); SPD No. 3, Compilation, Release, and Evaluation of 
Principal Federal Economic Indicators (Sept. 25, 1985) (emphasizing the 
importance of releasing Principal Federal Economic Indicators (PFEIs) 
to the public in a fair and orderly manner); SPD No. 4, Release and 
Dissemination of Statistical Products Produced by Federal Statistical 
Agencies (Mar. 7, 2008) (``Statistical agencies must ensure that all 
users have equitable and timely access to data that are disseminated to 
the public.''). In short, equitable and timely dissemination of 
statistical information is a core principle of Federal statistical 
policy.
    Since the mid-1980s, consistent with these SPDs, DOL agencies have 
provided pre-release data access to news

[[Page 31811]]

organizations, as a courtesy, under strict embargoes (known as ``lock-
ups'') for PFEIs. PFEIs are a set of designated economic data series 
(e.g., the Employment Situation or Consumer Price Index) that have 
significant commercial value and may affect the movement of commodity 
and financial markets upon release. DOL, in its discretion, has 
employed lock-ups for the release of limited non-PFEI data (i.e., 
Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims). Although not required to do so, 
DOL in 1988 constructed a special lock-up facility to provide pre-
release access to news media organizations. DOL took steps to enhance 
the security of the lock-up facility, including in 1992 and again in 
2011-2012. These lock-ups have provided participating media 
organizations a period of time (typically 30 minutes) to review data 
prior to the official release time. At the official release time, DOL 
has opened the communication lines within the facility, allowing the 
press to transmit their articles or tables of data to the public.
    For many years, dissemination through the lock-up process served as 
one of several effective methods to assist the government in getting 
information to the public. But today, with increased communication and 
technology capabilities utilized by the government, the media, and the 
general public, this particular method is no longer necessary and 
discontinuation of the lock-up best ensures the equitable and timely 
dissemination of statistical information consistent with OMB's 
guidance. Continuing security, resource, and equity concerns also 
outweigh any benefits of the current process.
    DOL's Inspector General has noted concerns with the current press 
lock-up process, including in reports dated January 2, 2014 (17-14-001-
03-315) and March 25, 2016 (17-16-001-01-001) and in every subsequent 
Semi-Annual OIG Report to Congress. Specifically, DOL Inspector General 
Report 17-14-001-03-315 states that the lock-up ``unintentionally 
creates an unfair competitive advantage for certain news organizations 
and their clients'':

    Pre-release access of DOL-generated economic data is intended to 
serve the general public by ensuring that news reports about the 
data are accurate. To that end, the media are given access to the 
data in advance of the public release to facilitate their ability to 
analyze and ask questions about the data as they prepare their news 
stories. However, the intended purpose of ensuring accurate news 
reports must be weighed against the inequitable trading advantage 
that a lock-up can potentially create. Several news organizations 
that participate in the DOL press lock-up are able to profit from 
their presence in the lock-up by selling, to traders, high speed 
data feeds of economic data formatted for computerized algorithmic 
trading. Because these news organizations have pre-release access, 
they are able to pre-load the data . . . allowing their clients to 
get this information faster than the general public, which has to 
wait to download the data after it gets posted to the Department of 
Labor websites.

    The aforementioned report further recommends that BLS and ETA ``. . 
. implement a strategy designed to eliminate any competitive advantage 
that news organizations present in the lock-up and/or their clients may 
have; or, absent a viable solution, consider discontinuing the use of 
the press lock-up that provides news organizations pre-release 
access.'' Some media lock-up attendees continue to post online 
advertisements claiming that their clients are advantaged by their 
lock-up attendance.\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ For example, as recently as May 12, 2020, the Associated 
Press advertised on their event-driven data page that users can 
``[g]et the lowest-latency delivery of economic release from 
Washington DC lock-ups'' and that their ``low-latency delivery of 
economic releases, coupled with [their] machine-readable format of 
[their] entire text news output, gives firms the data they need to 
make informed, split-second decisions.'' See Associated Press, 
Microseconds Matter, https://www.ap.org/discover/event-driven-data 
(last visited May 12, 2020). See also Dow Jones, Calendar Live, 
https://professional.dowjones.com/newswires/calendar-live/ (last 
visited May 12, 2020) (advertising that they can provide ``[s]ub-
second updates on actual data from government lockups, banks, 
industry, and trade groups'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    To protect the integrity of our data releases and to ensure 
dissemination of key economic data in an equitable, timely, secure, and 
cost-effective manner, as of June 3, 2020, DOL will permanently 
discontinue use of the lock-up facility, regardless of whether the 
restrictions that are currently in place as a result of the COVID-19 
pandemic remain necessary as of that date. Discontinuing use of the 
lock-up facility eliminates the risk of premature disclosure of the 
data by the press or as a result of the lock-up embargo process, and 
eliminates the risk of providing an unfair competitive advantage to 
lock-up participants and their clients compared to the rest of the 
public due to the preparation time provided by the media's early access 
to the data. BLS and ETA will continue to make their data available to 
the general public immediately upon their 8:30AM Eastern Time release 
through the Web and other sources.

II. Action

    As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOL lock-up facility is 
currently closed, and will remain closed at least through June 3, 2020. 
In an effort to protect the integrity of our data and ensure fairness 
in the dissemination of statistical information, DOL plans to 
permanently discontinue use of the DOL lock-up facility starting on 
June 3, 2020. After that date, regardless of any restrictions that may 
remain in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOL will no 
longer provide credentialed press early access to the economic data 
under embargo conditions in a lock-up. Instead, data will be released 
to the general public all at once, through online publication. The 
purpose of this action is to ``ensure that all users have equitable and 
timely access to data that are disseminated to the public,'' as noted 
in OMB SPD No. 4.
    The previously proposed policy change to suspend the use of 
electronic devices in the lock-up room (see 85 FR 7333), was designed 
to retain the media's ability to publish accurate and informed stories 
shortly after the embargo was lifted. During the suspension of the 
media lock-up room for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, the 
media demonstrated their ability to produce informed and accurate 
articles within minutes of the electronic release to the BLS website 
despite not having early access to the data at all.
    Furthermore, DOL invests significant personnel and financial 
resources to administer and staff the lock-up facility, ensure that 
data products are created and transported to the lock-up facility, and 
secure the lock-up facility. Discontinuing lock-ups, as opposed to 
merely eliminating use of electronic devices, will enable DOL to cease 
these expenditures while also eliminating entirely any possibility of a 
breach from the lock-up room. As explained in more detail below, the 
recent COVID-19 experience demonstrates that DOL can eliminate the 
overhead and risk of lock-up rooms altogether without degrading the 
quality or timeliness of media coverage.
    At the appropriate scheduled times, BLS and ETA will provide access 
to official news releases on the agency websites. In addition, the 
agencies will issue releases through social media and to email 
subscribers. Agencies will continue to respond to questions about the 
data from the public, including the media, following the releases.

III. Necessity of Action

    When DOL first used embargoed data releases in the mid-1980s, media 
dissemination was an equitable and timely method to get data to the 
public. Today, technology and the internet permit the public and 
interested data users to obtain releases for themselves. However, 
unlike media organizations in

[[Page 31812]]

the lock-up facility, internet users are not allowed to digest data 30 
minutes before the official release time. Internet users are also 
disadvantaged relative to lock-up participants to the extent that 
internet postings may lag slightly behind lock-up transmissions. 
Developments in high-speed algorithmic trading technology have also 
raised concerns about the possible impact of unequal access to 
sensitive economic data. As discussed above, DOL's Inspector General 
has issued multiple reports with findings that the current press lock-
up ``creates an unfair competitive advantage for certain news 
organizations and their clients.''
    It was never the intent of DOL in establishing the lock-up facility 
to provide a financial windfall to paying clients of credentialed media 
organizations, or to allow credentialed media organizations to profit 
off of the privilege of early access to government data. DOL does not 
wish to facilitate those practices. Although DOL understands that 
certain high-frequency trading firms may retain some advantage in 
faster ingestion and downloading of government data even after the 
lock-up process is discontinued, DOL itself will no longer have any 
role in facilitating such an advantage.
    It is no longer necessary to use the credentialed news media to 
help the Department disseminate DOL's statistical data widely because 
the internet permits the public and interested users to obtain releases 
for themselves. Discontinuing the lock-up will not disadvantage the 
lock-up participants; it will merely remove the advantage they 
currently enjoy. In the time since the OIG recommendations were issued, 
BLS and ETA have devoted significant resources to introducing improved 
technologies to ensure data are posted and accessible on their websites 
immediately following the official release time. When the COVID-19 
pandemic required the closure of the media lock-up in March of 2020, 
these improved technologies allowed BLS and ETA to disseminate the data 
immediately and widely to the public without incident and without 
providing early access to lock-up participants. Specifically, the March 
Employment Situation report, released on April 3, 2020 without a lock-
up, demonstrates that the BLS website can serve all interested users in 
the seconds after release time with little or no degradation in 
response time and a negligible error rate. The same holds true for the 
Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Reports issued since March 20, 
2020. Stories in the press covering the March data were available to 
the public only slightly later--and, in at least one case, actually 
earlier--than they were a month earlier when a lock-up was held. Given 
this success over the past two months, DOL now believes it can continue 
to disseminate the data to the public, including the media, in a timely 
manner. DOL will therefore discontinue the use of the lock-up facility 
to allow all parties, including the media, commercial entities, and the 
public, equitable and timely access to our most important statistical 
data.

IV. Result

    By permanently discontinuing the lock-up facility as of June 3, 
2020, DOL intends to protect the integrity of its data and enable 
dissemination of news releases in an equitable, secure, and cost-
effective manner so that all information is available to the public and 
the media at the official release time.
    The Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. 
Census Bureau are also committed to the secure, timely, and equitable 
release of all data. As such, for the reasons stated in this notice, 
both Bureaus will also discontinue embargoed media lock-ups at the 
Department of Labor's facility and will continue to release their data 
securely through their websites.

    Signed at Washington, DC, this 19th day of May 2020.
William W. Beach,
Commissioner of Labor Statistics.
[FR Doc. 2020-11297 Filed 5-26-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-24-P