Archive for the ‘Web sites’ Category
The Office of Management and Budget has just issued a new policy for dealing with Internet “cookies” — these are text files that a Web site can put on your computer to track how you traverse the site.
Cookies enable Web site personalization — for example, the allow a Web site to remember you and, maybe, the items you put in your online shopping cart. But they have always been watched by some privacy advocates because of the potential implications — for example, they could track a visitor’s travels to other sites. [Read how cookies work here... and how to delete them here.]
The federal government has been all but banned from using persistent Internet cookies because of those privacy concerns. OMB has just issued new policy guidance would enable agencies to use this tool. And Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas reported on the new policies on the Dorobek Insider on Friday. You can find his report here.
This is an issue I’ve followed for a long time (here is the FCW editorial I wrote on the subject back in 2006) — and, to be honest, I’m suspicious of the new policy. That being said, I have just started reading them.
The new OMB policy seeks to re-balance the privacy considerations given that the ban was instituted more than a decade ago. The idea: Times have changed and people are more accepting of these tools.
As I say, I’m reading the policies now, but… It is important to be very clear — agencies were absolutely not banned from using cookies. They had been banned from using PERSISTENT cookies — cookies that can track you long term. I didn’t get a chance to read all the comments that came in — and unfortunately OMB has not kept those comments online. And I still have to read the policies, but… I have year to hear a convincing argument why agencies must have persistent cookies. Some argue that the private sector does it, but that argument is specious — the government is not the private sector. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the private sector does. (Should government follow the Facebook privacy model?)
I’m reading the new policies with an open mind, but… I’m very suspicious.
The 2010 cookie/federal Web privacy policies:
* OMB policy M-10-22: Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies [PDF] [Scribd]
* OMB policy M-10-23: Guidance for Agency Use of Third-Party Websites and Applications [PDF] [Scribd]
How these came about…
Giving OMB credit, they tried to evolve these policies in a relatively public way. As I seem to say a lot these days, I think they could have developed it in a public way. That being said, it would be nice if the comments were still available.
Here were some of the discussion:
By federal CIO Vivek Kundra and Michael Fitzpatrick, associate administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Policy
In June 2000, the OMB Director issued a memorandum (M-00-13, later updated by M-03-22) that prohibited Federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, due to privacy concerns, unless the agency head approved of these technologies because of a compelling need. That was more than nine years ago. In the ensuing time, cookies have become a staple of most commercial websites with widespread public acceptance of their use. For example, every time you use a “shopping cart” at an online store, or have a website remember customized settings and preferences, cookies are being used.
* WhiteHouse.gov blog post: Enhancing Online Citizen Participation Through Policy [June 16, 2009]
By Kundra and Fitzpatrick
Last week, Vivek Kundra and Katie Stanton talked about the efforts underway to introduce more Web 2.0 technologies to the federal government sites and to open more back-and-forth communication between the American people and the government. Some of this naturally requires the adoption of new approaches and innovative technologies. But another big part of this is updating existing practices and how these tools can be used to break down barriers to communication and information.
We continue to ask for your feedback, but the best feedback is informed feedback. So what follows is background on current policies and some examples of what we’ve heard from you during the Brainstorming phase of our outreach.
Here is the specific section on cookies:
* WhiteHouse.gov blog: Cookies Anyone (the http kind)? [July 24, 2009]
By Bev Godwin, who was on assignment to the White House at the time. She is currently GSA’s Director of USA.gov and the Office of Citizen Service’s Web Best Practices Office
Nine years ago – a lifetime in Internet time – the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a policy commonly referred to as “the cookies policy. “This policy prohibited federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, unless the agency head provided a waiver. This may sound like arcane, boring policy – but it is really important in the online world.
Unfortunately in this post, Godwin points to a site where people could post comments — http://blog.ostp.gov/2009/07/24/cookiepolicy. Unfortunately that page doesn’t seem to exist. It would be great to see the comments now.content is important to our citizens. We can use that data to improve the content and navigation of our sites.”
* WhiteHouse.gov blog post: On Cookies [August 11, 2009]
By Kundra and Fitzpatrick
Our main goal in revisiting the ban on using persistent cookies on Federal websites is to bring the federal government into the 21st century. Consistent with this Administration’s commitment to making government more open and participatory, we want federal agencies to be able to provide the same user- friendly, dynamic, and citizen-centric websites that people have grown accustomed to using when they shop or get news online or communicate through social media networks, while also protecting people’s privacy.
It is clear that protecting the privacy of citizens who visit government websites must be one of the top considerations in any new policy. This is why we’ve taken such a cautious approach going forward and why we felt it so important to get feedback and hear from people on this. While we wanted to get people’s ideas for improving our policy, we also needed to hear any concerns so that we could understand better where potential pitfalls might lie.
Going back a decade… some of the discussion that led to the persistent cookie ban.
[The CIO Council] strongly support the requirement that the use of any technology, including persistent cookies, to track the activities of users on web sites be approved personally by the head of the executive department (for the 14 executive departments) or agency.
As we make progress towards electronic government, personalization of web sites, typically done through persistent cookies, may become necessary in order to serve our customer’s requirements. At that time, it would be appropriate for OMB to review the “no delegation” policy in light of the then-current “state-of-the-art” in privacy protections. For example, OMB may decide to relax this policy when customers are given a choice of selecting either a personalized (i.e., with persistent cookie) or non-personalized (no persistent cookie) web experience.
* Letter from Spotila to Baker, clarification of OMB Cookies Policy (September 5, 2000)
We are concerned about persistent cookies even if they do not themselves contain personally identifiable information. Such cookies can often be linked to a person after the fact, even where that was not the original intent of the web site operator. For instance, a person using the computer later may give his or her name or e-mail address to the agency. It may then be technically easy for the agency to learn the complete history of the browsing previously done by users of that computer, raising privacy concerns even when the agency did not originally know the names of the users.
* M-00-13, Privacy Policies and Data Collection on Federal Web Sites (June 22, 2000)
* M-99-18, Privacy Policies on Federal Web Sites (June 2, 1999)
The blog, call Blogband and it will likely focus on the Obama administration’s broadband initiative to get broadband service out to more of the country. The broadband plan is part of the stimulus package and, of course, is being led by the FCC.
It is the start of a welcome change for FCC, which has had an incredibly cumbersome Web sites. I haven’t visited recently, but… years ago, when I was looking for information about the Sirius-XM merger, I went to the FCC Web site and it was almost impossible to find what I was looking for, and then each submission from each person was a separatePDF file, which made reading them all clunky at best. So I look forward to seeing how the broadband discussion evolves.
I don’t often post full text of posts because… well, that’s not the Internet way — reference and link. If people do the work, they deserve the traffic. That being said, Genachowski’s introductory post isn’t that long…:
The National Broadband Plan is one of the most important initiatives that the FCC has ever undertaken. To foster public dialogue about the National Broadband Plan, we’re tapping the power of the Internet to launch a new FCC blog, calledBlogband . What better time to start blogging than now? With just 183 days before our deadline to send the National Broadband Plan to Congress, we need as many people involved as possible.
Like our unprecedented two-dozen public workshops and the upcoming fall public hearings, Blogband is part of the FCC’s commitment to an open and participatory process. Blogband will keep people up-to-date about the work the FCC is doing and the progress we’re making. But we want it to be a two-way conversation. The feedback, ideas, and discussions generated on this blog will be critical in developing the best possible National Broadband Plan.
As this blog demonstrates, the Internet is changing and expanding the way Americans communicate, providing them with unparalleled access to information. Our goal is to create a National Broadband Plan that charts a path toward bringing the benefits of robust broadband to all Americans. So visitBlogband often to keep up with the latest news and – more importantly – get involved.
And, of course, a hat tip to National Journal’s Tech Daily Dose blog.
Recently, I announced the launch of a new pioneering project to improve civic engagement in Congress via crowdSPRING. I will be redesigning my website – using a technique called crowd-sourcing – to lead the way in making government sites more transparent and accessible to the public.
The project allows designers to mock up multiple layouts for consideration by you, my constituents. The final design will be chosen based on votes, design functionality, usability, and other criteria. I believe that this crowd-sourcing initiative will usher in a new era of government transparency. Many government websites have good content, but the content is often very hard to find. We are giving power to you, and democratizing the way we interact with the public.
My goal as your Member of Congress is to serve you first and foremost. This crowd-sourcing initiative ensures that I am meeting your needs on your terms by allowing an unprecedented level of access into the design process of a government website.
The purpose of the website redesign is to move America closer to Government 2.0, where the public’s ability to access and provide advice to Members of Congress is enhanced by new technology and new online participation. As many of you know, I am very active through Twitter, Facebook, and my blog. I intend to make my new site be an example for other member sites to follow. Congress must take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies, to transform the relationship between citizens and government. Instead of viewing the public as a customer for services, I believe that we should empower citizens to become our partners in shaping the future of our nation.
The project has gone live, you can view the entries by clicking here.
I would love to hear your comments about this initiative. You can leave them on my blog here.
I will be posting more information soon about the voting process once we begin recieving entries for consideration.
This has just launched, but… Find the specific details about this initiative here.
What a fascinating idea — and how fun will it be to watch this as it evolves.
Significant milestones for the Obama transparency initiative. And a lot of good stuff out there to read about it. The DorobekInsider “reader” series try to pull the best of those links together in one place. (Earlier, we had the DorobekInsider CTO reader.)
From the Obama administration
The White House has an over all fact sheet on the transparency and open government initiative. But some of the big sites…
The site: whitehouse.gov/open/
This is the Obama open government Web site — the place from which you can find everything else.
The site: www.data.gov
One of the big initiatives by Obama CIO Vivek Kundra, and was done fairly quickly. When Kundra was the chief technology officer for Washington, DC, he created DC’s Data Catalogue, where machine readable data was posted online. From there, DC sponsored the now famous Apps for Democracy, where the District offered up a prize for the best applications developed using those data sets. The Sunlight Foundation is now conducting Apps for America 2, where there is a big prize for the best applications developed using data.gov data. More on that in a moment. Federal News Radio 1500AM’s Jason Miller spoke to Kundra about this. You can hear Miller on the Daily Debrief here… and his full interview with Kundra here. And here is what Data.gov says aboug Data.gov:
Welcome to Data.gov
The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federaldatasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
How to use Data.gov
Data.gov includes a searchable data catalog that includes access to data in two ways: through the “raw” data catalog and using tools. Please note that by accessing datasets or tools offered on Data.gov, you agree to the Data Policy, which you should read before accessing any dataset or tool. If there are additional datasets that you would like to see included on this site, please suggest more datasets here. For more information on how to use Data.gov, view our tutorial.
* Suggest an idea
The Obama open government dialogue, where through May 28, the administration is seeking your ideas on transparency and openness. Like Recovery.gov’s National Dialogue earlier this year, the open government dialogue is being run with the National Academy of Public Administration.
* Obama transparency and openness blog
Yes, there is a blog… andthe lead item describes the initiative and the announcements, and it includes a video from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, about this initiative. You can also read OMB Director Peter Orzag’s blog post about all of this here.
* Innovation gallery
The WhiteHouse.gov/open site includes a “gallery” of innovative ideas.
The Innovations Gallery celebrates the innovators and innovations who are championing the President’s vision of more effective and open government. In the Innovations Gallery, the public can browse examples of new ways in which agencies across the Executive branch are using transparency, participation, and collaboration to achieve their mission.
* The Jan. 21, 2009 Obama transparency memo
The President’s January 21, 2009, memorandum entitled, Transparency and Open Government, that directed the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration, to develop a set of recommendations that will inform an Open Government Directive.
Outside the administration
* Apps for America 2
I mentioned this earlier, but… it will be fascinating to watch. On Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke with Sunlight Foundation executive director and founder Ellen Miller about transparency, data.gov, and Apps for America 2. You can hear that conversation here.
From the Sunlight Foundation press release on the Data.gov Mash-up Challenge:
In collaboration and with financial support from Craig Newmark, founder of Craiglist and Sunlight board director; Google; O’Reilly Media and TechWeb, Sunlight is offering over $25,000 in prizes, and will award the winners at a ceremony at the Gov 2.0 Summit hosted by O’Reilly Media and TechWeb on September 8, 2009. The grand prize is $10,000. Additionally, Sunlight is offering one second place award of $5,000, one third place award of $2,500 and 10 honorable mentions at $500 each. Sunlight will also award a bonus prize of $2,500 for the best visualization of the data on Data.gov. (This visualization prize may be given in addition to the prizes mentioned above.) The first, second and third prize winners (and the visualization prize winner if not one of the first, second or third place winners) will also receive airfare and hotel placement for a trip to Washington, DC.
Entries must be applications that use any of the data sources or content on Data.gov. They can be, but are not limited to, client applications, Web based applications, applications that use the Adobe AIR platform, iPhone apps and Java applications. Sunlight also encourages contestants to use one of its open source libraries of government information or APIs, or those of its partners, including the new MAPLight.org Congress API, the OpenSecrets API or the FollowtheMoney.org API.
What others are saying
A lot written about all of this in recent days.
I mentioned earlier that I wrote my May column in AFCEA’s Signal magazine about transparency. You can find a link to that column — and more about it — here. I also posted the Federal Register notice on this yesterday as well.
On Federal News Radio 1500 AM
I mentioned that Jason Miller spoke to Kundra about Data.gov. Find that here… And Frank Reeder, former director of the Office of Administration and president of the Reeder Group, was on the Federal Drive this morning talking about these issues. Hear that conversation here.
TechPresident.com‘s Micah Sifry and Nancy Scola: White House Opens Doors on Major Open Government Initiative. Great insights… (They also have a excellent post — and I noticed it too — that the White House has not updated the speeches section of WhiteHouse.gov in three months. Scola also noticed that on “suggest an idea” site, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), under the handle “republicanleaderjohnboehner,” has suggested an idea.)
Finally — and in some ways, I’m saving the best for last — as Data.gov was release, there was some really insightful analysis on Twitter — so it was analysis in 140 characters or less. One of the best was Mike Mathieu of Seattle, Wash., a civic software entrepreneur, founder of Front Seat, Walk Score, ObamaCTO. He noted that some of the data had already been posted online elsewhere, and that the catalog for data.gov is not available in a machine readable format yet. He also recommended that data.gov needs an open community discussion forum for each source.
All of that being said, this was done very quickly — kudos — and it is just a start. (If the government doesn’t end up building a discussion forum, I bet you Mathieu — or somebody — will build it. Ah — government as a platform.) This is just a start, but… there is a lot here for us to all sift through over the Memorial Day weekend.
One other related but unrealted blog post worth reading comes from Bev Godwin, who is with GSA on loan to the White House new media team. She has written a blog post about many of the ways government is using new media.
One of the more vexing issues right now is transparency and the recovery program, and I keep pointing out that this is all unprecedented. There has arguably never been this level of transparency on this scale done this quickly… and I would argue that this is unprecedented in the private sector as well. That being said, it is also critically important. And the team working on the administration’s recovery plan understand that.
I mentioned back in March that the Obama administration was trying to get some transparency around the stimulus transparency initiative by, at least initiatially, reaching out to feds. And they used an existing tool — OMB’s MAX federal community wiki. (If you don’t know about the MAX federal community, the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project has a case study on it here … and last year when I was at Federal Computer Week, we highlighted it as a case study in collaboration.)
The administration was quickly chided — somewhat unfairly — for being transparent in a way that wasn’t publicly available. In my conversations with people, what they were trying to do was to use the tools that they had and the plan has always been to reach out in additional ways. And I have been hearing parts of those plans, but we’re getting the first official look at them on Recovery.gov’s home page … and on Facebook… on Twitter … and below…
The administration is turning to the National Academy of Public Administration , which has been way out front on collaboration issues with its with its Collaboration Project, to create a public “dialogue” as a way of eliciting ideas from the public and from industry.
For one week beginning April 27th, The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the Office of Management and Budget in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration, will host a national online dialogue to engage leading information technology vendors, thinkers, and consumers in answering a key question:
What ideas, tools, and approaches can make Recovery.gov a place where all citizens can transparently monitor the expenditure and use of recovery funds?
Participants from across the IT community will be able to recommend, discuss, and vote on the best ideas, tools, and approaches. Your ideas can directly impact how Recovery.gov operates and ensure that our economic recovery is the most transparent and accountable in history.
This is similar to the National Dialogue on Health IT and Privacy that the National Academy held last year. Back in October, I suggested that the concept was worth watching … and on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we had the National Academy’s Lena Trudeau on several times to talk about it. Hear an early one here [.mp3] … or her most recent one here talking about their report assessing the National Dialogue tool.
One of the big industry concerns was whether “transparency” means that they will have to surrender proprietary information. Frankly, if they do, they will not participate. And I believe that the organizers have considered that and they have devised a plan that allows a public description with additional follow-up data available for consideration purposes. That being said, this is a big issue for industry and some companies will be reluctant to participate if it means the loss of their intellectual property.
That being said, this seems like an important opportunity… and I’ll be fascinated to see what evolves from this dialogue.
I had asked Goldy Kamali, who is vice president of business development, public sector at Adventos and the person responsible for the site, for the story behind FedScoop. She sent me the FedScoop press release, which does provide more information.
FedScoop’s inception and sleek, user-friendly format resulted after a lunchtime brainstorming session with Nigel Ballard, Federal Marketing Manager at Intel. “The Federal space was crying out for single online port of call for busy Federal IT professionals. The solution seemed rather obvious, an onlinemashup of disparate Federal news sources, brought together in one easy-on-the-eyes website. And FedScoop is it,” says Ballard. “For those who have been struggling to settle on one must-read Federal web site to save as their home page, that search is finally over.” Ballard has remained actively engaged in the progress and development of the site.
Existing, similar sites depend on editors to edit and approve individual stories. FedScoop, however, automatically pulls stories from different Federally focused news sources 24/7. In addition, FedScoop allows for custom searches of the entire contents of all of the featured sites and blogs.
I’m thrilled to say that Kamali added this blog to FedScoop — Woot to that! (And I’m right next to CJD-fav Robert Carey’s blog, the CIO of the Department of the Navy and the first government CIO to post a blog. Of course, the editor in me would say that this blog and the Carey blog — and others — are of more relevance to government audiences then, say, the NYT blog, The Caucus. That’s why the “about” page becomes so important… But the WSJ blogs, The Washington Wire and the WSJ’s Business Technology are quite good. But this is really just nit picking, isn’t it? )I said earlier that I think people like to know who is pulling information together, even if it isn’t done by editors, and the above item, which is posted on the “about” page helps. (And, of course, I noted that my “about” page isn’t showing up on this site. I’ll have to get that fixed.)
The layout, designed by FaraJoomla, sure is nice, isn’t it?
I look forward to seeing how it develops and evolved… and if it becomes a resource for people.
Again, stay tuned.
“We haven’t seen this much demand since the 9-11 commission report” was posted on the site in 2004, said Jeff Ventura, spokesman for the House.
“We’re being overwhelmed with Web traffic about the bill.” Ventura said the Web site is working, but many computer users are getting the equivalent of a busy signal when they try to visit the site. Once users are on the site, it works at reduced speed. “You have to keep trying and eventually you get in,” he said. Ventura said the slowdown is expected to last until Tuesday, when demand is expected to decline with the House in recess.
In the meantime, technicians planned to work through the night to fortify the system. “Our computer people aren’t going anywhere,” Ventura said.
So I discovered a new Web site: FedScoop. The site pulls the news from various news sources — GovExec, FCW, GCN… Federal News Radio — and puts them all in one place. So it trys to bring all the headlines together for you.
The site also has some of the popular federal blogs — with one noticeable missing blog! (They tell me the Dorobek Insider will make the page.)
The site is pulled together by Goldy Kamali, who is vice president of business development, public sector at Adventos.
Of course, I have just a few critiques:
- ID yourself: This site, like many sites out there these days, doesn’t say specifically who put it together. Why? In the age of transparency, why not say who did the work? Have a way to contact that person.
- Great layout: The site was designed by FaraJoomla and it is very sleek.
- FedScoop vs RSS feeds: I’m guessing that FedScoop pulls from RSS feeds, so… in the end, why would somebody not just use RSS feeds? We’ll see.
Over all, the site is nice looking and it is great to be able to find stuff in one place. It will be interesting to see how it develops.