The Privacy Implications of Wiki Government
Beth Noveck has just published what looks to be a terrific book entitled Wiki Government. (Thankfully, my Prime Amazon membership guarantees the book’s speedy delivery to my door). Noveck is currently serving on the Obama Administration’s Technology, Innovation, and Reform Team where she will be working on ways to enhance public participation and transparency in government policymaking. In a video produced by Government Technology, Noveck explains her overall strategy on the participatory democracy front: government needs to make better use of the public’s expertise using Web 2.0 technologies. Rather than encouraging electronic town halls that might result in massive, unhelpful opinion dumps, agencies and the EOP should use blogs and wikis to recruit subject matter experts on specific issues. The more focused the question, she explains, the better the public comments are likely to be. She describes the current Peer to Patent program that recruits citizen input on patent applications as an example and it sounds like the White House blog is engaging in similar activity.
This all sounds very exciting. We could of course imagine the mischief that interest groups could engage in at these sites, from sock puppetry to hired guns posing as neutral experts on various issues. But no matter, Noveck’s work will produce important strides in participation, and I am really looking forward to seeing it unfold.
My question is whether government is thinking about the privacy implications of all of this participation. Will agency wikis and blogs require and retain personal information about participants? One would imagine it would, and perhaps should, do so if it is going to weed out trickery and if it is going to create ties with citizen participants who government would like to recruit for help in the future. Perhaps Noveck’s book will address these questions but I thought I would seek comments and insights from our readers in the meanwhile.
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