Great discussion here. Information Week just posted a review of the three new guidance docs, which was pretty positive overall. I think the (disappointing) truth is that the coverage of this will be a lot more positive than those that work in these issues would think, and that the big questions not addressed, like polling on govt sites, will remain unanswered.
Agreed - a cursory reading of the document from those unfamiliar with memo-speak - and this document exhibits horrid memo-speak - will look very positively at it, and assume the problem is solved. While I agree its a step in the right direction, clearly OMB has put off a larger effort to really think through the PRA and its implications in a digital world until some unspecified later date.
Keep in mind, the jist of the language in the PRA came from a Records Management person in the Carter Administration (although the initial legislation got enacted at the beginning of the Reagan Administration in 1981). One of the very few aspects of Newt Gingritch's Contract with America that actually got enacted was re-instituting the PRA. Bottom line, we are working with a 30 year-old information management solution, and a process in OMB that hasn't really been looked at since it was enacted in the early 90s. Maybe its just me, give given the changes in the use of technology and its impact on information over the past 15+ years, perhaps its about time we revisited this issue. Unfortunately, the PRA guidance put out today doesn't do that.
Sure, the PRA was canceled some time in the late 80s. Newt got this re-instituted in 1995, as one of the few things from the Contract with America that got through Clinton's Vetos . It was pretty much the same language as the initial version, although it added some absurd things like the Dewy Decimal system for the internet, known as the "Government Information Locator Service" (GILS) - good thing that's worked out so well, ey?
Thanks, but I don't think it was 'canceled' and 're-instituted.' Canceled isn't an action or term used in reference to federal law. It's possible that legislation could contain a date at which the law expires (sometimes called a 'sunset'). For many laws with such dates, the Congressional expectation is that the law would be reauthorized before it expired. Quite often, federal agencies will continue to implement a law that has not been reauthorized before it's expiration date since the appropriations they receive to implement it essentially act as one year extensions of the law. I don't remember if the PRA originally had an expiration date, but it was reauthorized in 1986. It never was not in force and I've never heard of the Contract with America events you mention. For a history of the PRA, see a Congressional Research Service report : http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/RL30590.pdf
Hi Rick, you're right, I used the wrong verbiage. According to the document you linked, the 1986 reauthorization lasted until 1989, at which time I guess the term would be that it was sunsetted. So from 1989 to 1995, it was not in force. Regarding the Contract with America reference, this is an easy thing to find. Here's an example of many links on this (see the last paragraph): http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Contract+with+America
Noel - It never sunsetted. The law has been in effect from the day it was first passed - there have been no gaps. You'll have to check the PRA language, but I suspect the law is permanent and the lapses in authorization are only with respect to the authorization for appropriations. Checked the link you provided and I can see that the PRA is listed, but this was just the latest in a series of reauthorizations, so with respect to the PRA, the Contract didn't really do anything. Congress simply took credit under the Contract for something it was going to have to do anyway.
From a technical perspective, social media tools, and web 2.0 technologies generally rely upon the use of persistent cookies. This memo says nothing about the reversal of the policy that (essentially) forbid the use of persistent cookies.
This memo, it seems, was meant to clarify, not change policy.
I certainly hope that (cookie) memo does more to enable web 2.0 technologies than the one released yesterday. Anything short of a blanket authorization to use persistent cookies would be a disappointment.
I think this is workable for a majority of social networking uses. I believe that OMB is correct in still insisting on have surveys cleared through PRA especially if it will shape policy. There may be an issue with wikis on considering "identical questions" as a survey controlled by PRA because it may be very easy to construe a set of wiki page tiles as identical questions.
Documents like these drive me nuts! While no doubt well intentioned it is totally incomprehensible and will do little to speed the adoption of social media because the people wishing to use the tools will have to get the advise of agency legal counsel to interpret the memo. Now I understand that documents such as these are effectively legal documents so all the jargon might be necessary, but there is no reason/excuse not to have plain English examples that go along with each item. So rather than simply whine let's look at a specific example...take the paragraph:
* Items collected to allow users to customize or influence the appearance of an agency website.
When agencies permit website users to customize or influence the appearance of an agency website, the items collected to permit this customization are generally not subject to the PRA. This catagory includes faceted navigation, which permits website users to filter website content. For example, a websiste might offer a user the option of selecting from a list of topics as a means of customizing the presentation of information; responses to such offers are not "information" under the PRA. Similarly, an agency may link and/or store faceted navigation preferences (e.g. in a user profile) without triggering the PRA. However, information that is collected beyond what is necessary to navigate or customize a website is subject to the PRA. (In these and all other areas, agencies shall comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and policies that pertain to privacy.)
wheeewwwww (I had to type this in by hand)...what's the deal with embedding this doc via the slideshare nonsense..how about a good ole' fashioned link to a PDF??
As an example to clarify the above legalese the memo should give clear examples such as:
If you want to allow users to customize the way they navigate your website, and you want to store their preferences, that's fine, just don't collect information not needed for the navigation preferences. In addition if you want to allow users to customize the look of your website via skins or other types of preferences that's fine also.
Each of the items listed should be followed by plain English descriptions of the type of social media item being described. Not that difficult.