Do government Web sites flunk privacy issue?

Do government Web sites flunk privacy issue?

Sensitive personal information, even Social Security numbers, often can be found on local government Web sites

BY DONNA YOUNG | GCN STAFF

Local government information technology managers focused on privacy concerns raised by the increasing importance of Web systems at the Public Technology Inc. annual conference in Atlanta in April.


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face="Arial,Helvetica,Geneva" size="2" color="#FF0000">Karen Anderson, mayor of Minnetonka, Minn., and president of the National League of Cities, makes a point at the Public Technology Inc. annual conference.Web managers met in an all-day forum the first day of the conference, hosted by PTI, a Washington nonprofit technology organization for cities and counties. They discussed accessibility, design and development, electronic-government initiatives, privacy and ethical issues.

Bill Taylor, a Sacramento, Calif., webmaster, led a discussion about ethics and used as an example law enforcement departments that put arrest records on the Internet.

'Just because the information is public, do we really need to make it easily accessible?' Taylor asked.

Posting such information Taylor said, makes it possible for a hacker to discredit an innocent person by inserting that person's name or photo on the Web site.

And, Taylor added, an arrest is not a conviction, but an implication of guilt exists and is publicized when that data is on the Web. Taylor said government agencies too often give technology employees too much control over posting information to the Web.


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face="Arial,Helvetica,Geneva" size="2" color="#FF0000">Jim Lay, of Sarasota County, Fla., with Barry Smith of Gaithersburg, Md., who won a Solutions Award in the small- jurisdiction category.'They often don't know the policy involved,' he said.

Personal information

Richard Smith, chief technology officer for the Privacy Foundation, a Denver nonprofit group that researches privacy issues, said many government agencies are guilty of placing private information on the Internet.

Smith was a keynote speaker during the conference. He noted that some city and county Web sites even list Social Security numbers.

All Web sites should post a privacy policy, Smith said.

The four-day conference included seminars and workshops about wireless connections, Global Positioning Systems, geographic information systems, and integrated justice, transportation and environmental systems.

More than 250 local government employees from 94 cities and counties attended the conference, as well as about 100 federal government, nonprofit and industry representatives.

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