Does Gov 2.0 Need a “G” Chip?

With another Independence Day holiday behind the United States, it gave us all time for the traditional side of celebrating, including  hot dogs, apple pie, parades and fireworks. It is also a time when many reflect on the freedoms and rights we are lucky to be living under, especially when so many around the World do not have these inherent rights and freedoms. Remember those freedoms also allow us to roam the Internets freely (mostly).

This Independence day made me think about the Gov 2.0 Revolution. I have said it is a good revolution, and it is. It is one sweeping the Nation, and globally too for that matter. It is a revolution I am proud to be a part of, and one that will be bringing a lot of positive changes even as soon as this year.

But with all the excitement and hope for trans-formative technologies making big changes in our civic world; there are also some areas we all need to be aware of and looking at.

Remember the “V” chip?

The nifty device mandated by an act of Congress to prohibit the transmission of violent and or adult level maturity in digital content? Well of course it was never a raging success but does work and there have been lots of offshoots and varieties of parental controls built since. It is actually a great idea, even though it was bitterly fought over by privacy and civil rights advocates. I have a feeling something similar may soon have to be developed for the Government 2.0 space.

But the question arises: Do we need a “G” chip?

What, you are now asking could that possibly be? As of right now there is obviously no such thing as a “G” chip.

So come with me on a short visit to the near future:

  • How do you know when you go from a commercial site to a government site? This will become a more complicated issue as the Governments start rolling out new sites with commercial elements on them.
  • How do you know if the Government site you are on is using persistent tracking cookies or other web information services to not only identify you but deliver appropriate services?
  • How do you know if the Government site you are on has partnerships with another company; say, Google? Whose terms of service are you under?

My anti-virus program uses red and green lights to indicate safety of my system and safety of websites I may be visiting. Perhaps we need a “G” chip dashboard with a similar layout. One that lets you know you are crossing into Government owned e-space, and one that alerts you to different persistent tracking techniques, and one that alerts you to multiple Terms of Services on one site.

As Governments rush head on into constructing their own Gov 2.0 online platforms, applications and services; care needs to be taken to consider the privacy, industrial and personal issues raised by this gigantic shift in civic service delivery. The “G” Chip would be a start in the right direction.

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10 thoughts on “Does Gov 2.0 Need a “G” Chip?

  1. These are very real issues we think about carefully in government. At State, we require all social media sites where able (you can’t do this on Twitter) to have posted a TOS and Privacy statement that is in ADDITION to the platform’s TOS and Privacy statement. We want to make it very clear you are on a government run site and also what we do or do not do with your information. We take privacy very seriously.

    Another issue enclosed in our TOS is Rules of Conduct for all of our social media sites. We want people to know how we will run our online communities. More importantly we want people to know we do not censor information posted to our communities. We only take down content based on the criteria laid out in the Rules of Conduct laid out in the TOS.

    Do all of our communities have this in place? Not yet. But since our official Social Media Use Policy went into place I expect all sites that are able will be compliant soon. For those that can’t be made compliant we are looking for ways to help users better identify official government sites and the agency who owns those sites. We view this as part of transparency component of the Open Government Directive. It is not just a paper exercise, but something we have to implement and live by every day.

    Yes, I do agree we could use other automated ways of helping to better identify Government sites. This would be helpful both to the end user and to the government when the third party site is not flexible enough to allow us to post our TOS and privacy statement. I will be interested to see what the community thinks about this issue and what future developments may occur.

    • Thanks Lovisa. These are all important points, and clearly State is leading the way on this. However the larger question is one of the overall Government 2.0 space, and how many agencies, Federal or State are taking the steps State is taking to address these issues.

  2. Privacy is a major issue. It’s certainly a big concern in the work I do with government as well as being a focus in my role on the board of EFA (similar to EFF in the US).

    When I work with government agencies here in Australia, privacy considerations are a principal concern, not least because we have very stringent and robust privacy laws.

    I’m not sure about the idea in the post, but there is real merit in putting privacy considerations high in your work.

  3. My first thought was, isn’t that what we have (and use) the .GOV domain for? But privacy requirements vary widely at the state and local government level. The .GOV domain indicates that it is an official government site, but shouldn’t/can’t also carry the burden of assuring a certain level of privacy controls.

    In Massachusetts, we have required Executive Department websites to post privacy policies for a number of years. Changes to those policies require legal review and approval to ensure they are not running afoul of state laws, regulations, or policies. Although most policies are the same, every page must link to the policy that pertains to it. This is to accommodate the differences between how the data collected on a simple web page is used as compared to how the data collected in an online application is used.

    Using third party sites – whether for social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) or software as a service (paid, such as hosted SharePoint, or unpaid, such as Google Analytics) has complicated this. On the mundane end, there often is no way to link to the policy at the bottom of the page. More profound is the trust we have to place in these outside entities to adhere to their policies over time. Like Lovisa, this is something we have put a lot of thought into. If you want to get into the details, take a look at our social media toolkits available at http://mass.gov/socialmedia, “Social Media Guidance & Best Practices,” especially the legal toolkit.

    As a citizen, I’m actually less concerned about government, with all of its rules and policies and protocols, than with private companies. What happens to data about me if they are sold, or go out of business? What recourse do I have if they change their minds, and their terms? How can I ever know if they are actually abiding by those terms? I would be interested in a privacy issue flagging system for any site, to be able to see at a glance at least what today’s policy is.

    • Sarah, John, I appreciate both of your comments. I also feel the .gov is important. However this is only part of the equation. The crossover that exists now between commercial entities and Government sites is pervasive and growing. Many Government sites are now relying on private vendors to provide options on services in the web environment. So this goes back to the point I made in the blog: people do not know right now when they are “crossing over” or not and when different standards of privacy and rules apply. Especially with the multitude of applications popping up in various forms, from emergency communications and mapping to embedded Google, Bing search engines within Government sites.

  4. One of the biggest challenges faced by consumers in identifying government web properties is the lack of government domain identities (.gov) As it stands, citizens and stakeholders are faced with a dizzying array of .com, .org and even .net domains.

    In the early days of the .gov domain, only Federal Agencies had access to it. Although registration has been opened to state and local government units for some time, the following factors still pose an impediment to local government adoption:

    > Restrictive Naming Conventions
    > $125 Annual Fee
    > Lack of hosting providers
    > Few Commercial Web Designers familiar with .gov implementation

    The .gov domain COULD serve as the “G-Chip” for government domains. All that’s required is the will to do so. Here is what the GSA must do:

    > Let local government units choose their own domain name prefix
    > Reduce the annual domain fee to market rates $5-$10 per year
    > Reach out to popular hosting providers like GoDaddy.com and certify them as .gov hosting providers
    > Help web developers and government-oriented VARs help their local government clients secure and maximize their use of a .gov domain.
    > Partner with Bing and Google to create a .gov portal that makes it easy to find any unit of government, based on State, County, Local Unit Name, Zip Code, Area Code or Geo Location.

  5. My thought is that this is a real important architectural issue. You probably need the ability to distinguish between Gov content and Non gov content on the same site so it needs to be a standard that can be applied at a fairly high level of granularity. Page components, or info streams, validated twitter accounts and stuff like that. Who would come up with the standards and manage that sort of thing, not just for America, but the whole internet?

  6. Good post, in Holland, we’re not yet as far along as the US is on the area of Gov 2.0, but we are already thinking about these kinds of challenges.

    The .gov extention is fine, if you’re only using websites. The thing about the current development of the internet is however the decrease of static websites, and the increase of flexible apps, widgets etc. These little applications are not bound to a domain but can be placed anywhere.

    Not to mention the Open Data movement. You can imagine someone developing a smart application or service, using gov-data and mixing this with commercial data. To the person using the eventual service, there is no way to distinguish the gov data anymore. But, you can imagine the government wanting to be accountable for their data only, not for the entire service. Here as well, a G-chip or some kind of watermark/branding is very welcome.

    How exactly a G-chip will function, I’m not sure yet. But it is a very interesting subject.

  7. Pingback: Tweets that mention Does Gov 2.0 Need a “G” Chip? « IdeaGov -- Topsy.com

  8. *file under “Just Sayin'”*

    Interesting stuff, taxonomy/ontology; I’ve encountered, “That distinction is without substance”. A body could spend a lifetime on that sort of philosophy, betcha.
    But operationally, it’s a great way to separate sheep/goats.

    I’m not suggesting this post rests on an empty distinction. Quite the opposite.

    Say /this/ site is explicitly and authentically identified as “commercial”. As though indicating a meaningful contra-distinction, /that/ site is “gov”.
    What does that convey? what does it promise? what does it assure?

    A naive foray: the gov site plays straight while the commercial site, well, caveat emptor reigns supreme … something like that?
    Shirley, you’re jesting again.

    What’s on my mind is that there’s nothing more manipulative than a plausible promise that’s actually false.

    The best forms of credential certification are what professional cons rely on: like faking authenticity, they’re the golden road to effective exploitation.
    “Best” lies are book-ended with truths, yes?

    –@bentrem

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