Challenges Remain in Use of Web 2.0 Technology

Because at least 22 of 24 major federal agencies have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, there is some concern among top federal managers that computer security must be even more carefully monitored.

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Gregory C. Wilshusen said that privacy, security, records management and freedom of information are challenges that federal agencies are now facing. He is director of Information Security Issues.

“Agencies are faced with the challenges of determining how the Privacy Act of 1974, which provides certain protections to personally identifiable information, applies to information exchanged in the use of Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networking sites,” Wilshusen testified. “Further, the federal government may face challenges in determining how to appropriately limit collection and use of personal information as agencies utilize these technologies and how and when to extend privacy protections to information collected and used by third-party providers of Web 2.0 services. In addition, personal information needs to be safeguarded from security threats, and guidance may be needed for employees on how to use social media Web sites properly and how to handle personal information in the context of social media.”

Web 2.0 technologies also raise issues in the government’s ability to identify and preserve federal records.

“Agencies may face challenges in assessing whether the information they generate and receive by means of these technologies constitutes federal records and establish mechanisms for preserving such records, which involves, among other things, determining the appropriate intervals at which to capture constantly changing Web content,” said Wilshusen. “The use of Web 2.0 technologies can also present challenges in appropriately responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests because there are significant complexities in determining whether agencies control Web 2.0-generated content, as understood within the context of FOIA.”

Federal agencies have begun to identify some of the issues associated with Web 2.0 technologies and have taken steps to start addressing them. For example, the Office of Management and Budget recently issued guidance intended to (1) clarify when and how the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 applies to federal agency use of social media and Web-based interactive technologies; and (2) help federal agencies protect privacy when using third-party Web sites and applications.

Even though Web 2.0 technologies have the potential to transform how federal agencies engage the public, Wilshusen says that “determining the appropriate use of these new technologies presents new potential challenges to the ability of agencies to protect the privacy and security of sensitive information, including personal information, shared by individuals interacting with the government and to the ability of agencies to manage, preserve and make available official government records.”

Because at least 22 of 24 major federal agencies have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, there is some concern among top federal managers that computer security must be even more carefully monitored.

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Gregory C. Wilshusen said that privacy, security, records management and freedom of information are challenges that federal agencies are now facing. He is director of Information Security Issues.

“Agencies are faced with the challenges of determining how the Privacy Act of 1974, which provides certain protections to personally identifiable information, applies to information exchanged in the use of Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networking sites,” Wilshusen testified. “Further, the federal government may face challenges in determining how to appropriately limit collection and use of personal information as agencies utilize these technologies and how and when to extend privacy protections to information collected and used by third-party providers of Web 2.0 services. In addition, personal information needs to be safeguarded from security threats, and guidance may be needed for employees on how to use social media Web sites properly and how to handle personal information in the context of social media.”

Web 2.0 technologies also raise issues in the government’s ability to identify and preserve federal records.

“Agencies may face challenges in assessing whether the information they generate and receive by means of these technologies constitutes federal records and establish mechanisms for preserving such records, which involves, among other things, determining the appropriate intervals at which to capture constantly changing Web content,” said Wilshusen. “The use of Web 2.0 technologies can also present challenges in appropriately responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests because there are significant complexities in determining whether agencies control Web 2.0-generated content, as understood within the context of FOIA.”

Federal agencies have begun to identify some of the issues associated with Web 2.0 technologies and have taken steps to start addressing them. For example, the Office of Management and Budget recently issued guidance intended to (1) clarify when and how the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 applies to federal agency use of social media and Web-based interactive technologies; and (2) help federal agencies protect privacy when using third-party Web sites and applications.

Even though Web 2.0 technologies have the potential to transform how federal agencies engage the public, Wilshusen says that “determining the appropriate use of these new technologies presents new potential challenges to the ability of agencies to protect the privacy and security of sensitive information, including personal information, shared by individuals interacting with the government and to the ability of agencies to manage, preserve and make available official government records.”

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