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Help Wanted: Rethinking Gov't 2.0's Legal Framework

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, June 18 2009

Over on the White House blog, U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra and Michael Fitzpatrick from the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Policy (a.k.a. OIRA) plant a bit of a flag in the ground with a post calling out the "existing practices" that conventional wisdom is beginning to eye as potential roadblocks to open and participatory government. The interesting two-sides-of-the-coin here are that the very policies Kundra and Fitzpatrick are calling into question were, at the time they were enacted, intended to make the United States government more open and participatory:

  • The 1990 Paperwork Reduction Act. PRA was a good government bill meant to make engaging with government less onerous and open up the democratic process. But its documentation requirements might hamper the government use of wikis, blogs, and the like.
  • The 2000 "Federal Cookie Policy." Issued as a OMB memorandum, the policy was meant to protect citizens' privacy, but it can get in the way of using some web 2.0 technologies -- YouTube, for example.
  • "Records Management Law." It's not immediately clear (to me, at least) what Kundra and Fitzpatrick are referring to here, but they seem to be interested in making it easier to comply with guidance from the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • The 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act. FACA was aimed at regulating the influence 'unofficial' advisors might have on the presidency. Today, it might limit the ability of, say, volunteer programmers to contribute their work to the federal government.

Kundra and Fitzpatrick are asking for your thoughts on whether or how to pursue changing these laws and policies.