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"Government 2.0" - is it Safe to Play for the citizen?

Malcolm Crompton's picture

Facebook has recently been rattling our confidence somewhat.  On November 6, Facebook outlined a strategy to integrate more targeted advertising into its popular social networking website.  By 5 December, the strategy had been wound back & the CEO of Facebook had offered an apology.

What was this about & what has this to do with citizens and governments?

The strategy was "Beacon".  Its tracking technology included the ability to report back to Facebook when a user makes a purchase or similar transaction on a Facebook partner website. Any purchase could be broadcast to anyone who has access to the user's Facebook profile. Beacon was enabled by default but users could also opt out (if they were quick & alert & did not have a popup blocker operating), for example on each transaction.

The backlash led to the Beacon arrangement being switched over to opt in & the CEO apology.

And the link to government?  What if government starts offering Web 2.0 style services then re-uses user information, be it input or user behaviour revealed by audit logs or 'friends' / community groupings etc?

Well, we have been trying to think this through.  Have a look at the Cisco point of view called Safe to Play at http://www.theconnectedrepublic.org/ where IIS were the lead consultants in undertaking the work.

More anon ...

Malcolm Crompton is Managing Director of Information Integrity Solutions (IIS), a globally connected company that works with public sector and private sector organisations to help them build customer trust through respect for the customer and their personal information.

Comments

Facebook's experience answers the question

The user outcry, and swift climbdown by facebook, answers the question you pose. People are quite happy to contribute to 'web 2.0' sites so long as they control their interaction and feel the website is playing fair with them but when the site tries to use their information to make money for themselves they risk just such a backlash. Part of the problem is the absurdly high monetary values given to such social sites. So many million people use them businessmen think there must be a way to make money of them so they're bought for huge sums but as soon as the new owners try to generate even a little more cash flow they're exposed as houses of cards which can collapse overnight.

Doing the right thing doesn't have to be 'thought through', it just has to be done. An opt in or opt out box when someone registers from the new site, giving permission for their data to be used in some way, might be an idea but it should be remembered that the whole point of facebook is that people present themselves as who they really are while on a government comment site everyone is going to identify themselves as 'Donald Duck' or '!@#Bingo!' anyway.

It would be extremely foolish for the Government to 'reuse' people's information without being up front about it in the first place, it would garner a great deal of press criticism and lose them votes hand over fist but, on the other hand, facebook has millions of users and any prospective government blog or wiki would be lucky to get a tiny fraction of that. The government already has a vast amount of information about the citizenry from all the tax, census, health and demographic data it gathers so what would be gained from surruptitiously data mining the scraps from a blog used by a few hundred various posters on a blog?

The Government, by its very nature, is always going to be five years behind the times anyway. By the time it's talked about it for two years and held a hundred committee meetings and used up half a million dollars of taxpayers money and finally created its blog or wiki everyone will be busy doing the next big thing on the net and the government's foray will be irrelevant.