House Oversight Subcommittee Examines Federal Records Implications of Web 2.0

On July 22, the House Oversight and Government Reform Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee held a hearing on “Government 2.0: Federal Agency Use of Web 2.0 Technologies.”

Chairman William Lacy Clay (D-MO-1) explained in his opening statement the three goals of the hearing were to: gain an understanding of what is meant by Web 2.0 in the Federal government; recognize the Federal records management implications of these new technologies; and identify what areas of Web 2.0 need further exploration by the Committee.

United States Archivist David Ferriero was the first witness. He discussed NARA’s guidance on Federal e-records management, including the 2005 guidance on managing Web records and the 2006 guidance on the use of new Web technologies, including RSS feeds, blogs and wikis. NARA will be issuing a new Bulletin on Web 2.0 and Social Media Platforms this fall that will expand on how agencies’ use of social media platforms may impact records management. NARA is also currently conducting a study on Federal agencies’ use of Web 2.0 technologies to identify what kinds of records agencies are creating and their potential long-term value.

Gregory Wilshusen, Director of Information Security Issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), testified on the challenges that Web 2.0 has created for agencies in  identifying what records to preserve, and how, as well as the privacy implications of these new technologies. He also spoke about uncertainties that Web 2.0 records have created for agencies in responding to FOIA requests, because it is not always clear whether agencies control Web 2.0-generated content and whether the information created actually constitutes federal records.

Chairman Clay had previously requested that GAO conduct a review of the management and protection of information collected and maintained by third party social media providers such as Facebook and Twitter. Since that review has just begun, Wilshusen could not yet comment on its findings. We’ll let you know when that report is released.

David McClure, Associate Administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration, testified on the important role Web 2.0 can have in easing outreach to the public, and the challenges that these third party applications can create since they are not built exclusively for government use. Finally, John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog expressed his concerns about the risks that third party Web 2.0 technologies present for consumer privacy.

This hearing was the first in a series on Federal agencies’ use of Web 2.0 and the e-records management challenges it creates. We’ll keep you updated as future hearings occur.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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