The 24 agencies required to comply with the Open Government Directive have begun soliciting citizen feedback on how to improve transparency, participation, collaboration, and innovation in government. Agencies are using IdeaScale to facilitate two-way feedback with citizens. To date, over 700 ideas have been submitted!
Unfortunately, the current implementation introduces slight privacy concerns for users. This is due to the fact that the sites automatically assign the user’s email address (minus the domain) as the profile name. This occurs when the user signs up for an account while making their first post. Since many internet users have accounts from a small list of free email providers (e.g., Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.), this implementation makes it possible to compromise the privacy of some user email addresses and, by extension, other off-site information.
If you are concerned about potentially exposing your email address, there are two workarounds. The first is to use an email address that is not linked to Google, Microsoft, AOL, or Yahoo and does not contain personal information (e.g., abc12345 @dfxyz.net rather than FirstNameLastName @gmail.com). The second is to enter your first and last name in your profile so that the site displays this information rather than the default user name. It is best to do this before making your first post because some agencies do not update the profile name on existing posts.
Another issue with the current implementation is how the different agencies manage account creation. Rather than sharing a single account profile repository, the agencies each maintain their own set of accounts, which forces users to create new accounts on each site. While IdeaScale does offer log-in alternatives such as using AOL, Google, WordPress, or Yahoo, this usability issue will affect many citizens electing to post ideas to multiple agencies.
The user experience and security of the IdeaScale sites would be enhanced if federal agencies addressed these two issues soon. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to craft their own ideas on how to improve the government and submit them to the relevant agency’s IdeaScale site before March 19, 2010.