Our mission

Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Letter in support of the NTIS

Things seem to be coming to a slow boil with the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). We wrote about Senate Bill 2206 the “Let Me Google That For You” Act on April 11, 2014, and again earlier this month to report about how the American Library Association and its Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) were dealing with NTIS’ proposed demise. On July 23, 2014, the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight held a hearing “A More Efficient and Effective Government: The National Technical Information Service” (video and testimony included).

This morning, a docs librarian friend sent me the letter he was writing to his Senator. He graciously agreed to let me print it on FGI, which I’ve done below. Please feel free to copy/paste all or portions of this letter when you contact your Senator about supporting and maintaining the NTIS. I know all of our readers are going to do that asap right?!

Dear Senator ________________,

I am writing to urge you to oppose S. 2206, the Let Me Google That For You Act, which would abolish the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). As a librarian and a government information specialist who serves the government information needs of your constituents every day, I have concluded that the intent of this bill grossly undervalues the role NTIS plays in providing researchers, businesses, and the American public with access to technical research conducted at public expense.

The text of the bill observes that many reports available from NTIS can also be found through publicly searchable websites, such as Google and usa.gov, but fails to appreciate that this availability is often precisely because NTIS had a hand in collecting and publicly distributing them. In fact, many of the federal agencies which publish through NTIS have neither statutory responsibility nor the resources to provide permanent access to their own reports, and depend upon NTIS to provide them to other government agencies and the public. The availability of a technical report on an agency website today therefore provides no assurance that it will still be there tomorrow. A 2013 survey by the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group, which collects and preserves selected online publications of federal, state, and local governments, found that 51 percent of the dot-gov URLs from their earliest survey in 2007-08 broke over the ensuing six years.

Furthermore, many of the agencies which published reports in the NTIS collection no longer exist, leaving NTIS as their only surviving source. In fact, over two million of its reports exist only in paper or microform, and are not available in digital form from any source. Alarmingly, this bill makes no provision for the preservation of these reports or the cataloging data which facilitates access to them.

Rather than elimination of the agency which serves these critical functions, transparency would be better served by legislation to:

• Fund NTIS so it does not have to operate on a cost-recovery basis
• Place NTIS under the umbrella of the Office of Science and Technology Policy directive on “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” announced by the White House on February 22, 2013
• Institute a digital preservation plan for NTIS reports so that NTIS not only streamlines access, but assures their long-term preservation and availability.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.



[Thanks Infodocket for keeping track of this issue as well!]

DOTD: pocket-sized drones


Document of the day: Army researchers develop Cargo Pocket ISR, By Jeffrey Sisto, Natick Soldier RD&E Center, Public Affairs (July 21, 2014).

Researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are developing a pocket-sized aerial surveillance device for Soldiers and small units operating in challenging ground environments.

A Failure to Archive

Read the CRS Report “Records in the Digital Environment” in conjunction with this recent report from the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia “A Failure to Archive: Recommendations to Modernize Government Information Management”. The report outlines the huge and growing problem that the BC government has on their hands. There was a policy change 10 years ago in which records responsibility was shifted to the Royal British Columbia Museum complete w an expensive fee schedule for transfer. This has resulted in 33,000 boxes of records accumulating in a warehouse rather than be deposited in the BC Archives.

Long and short of it is that governments at all levels around the world are not keeping up with their archival responsibilities to the detriment of the public’s right to know.

Archiving is a public good. Records about key actions and decisions of government must be preserved in a lasting historical record for future generations. Without a comprehensive public archive, access to information and the ‘right to know’ is significantly and severely impaired.


LIS-GISIG – CRS: Records in a Digital Environment: Background and Issues for Congress

via gov-info.tumblr.com

Leaked by Secrecy News blogger Steven Aftergood ( @saftergood )

All federal departments and agencies create federal records “in connection with the transaction of public business.” The Federal Records Act, as amended (44 U.S.C. Chapters 21, 29, 31, and 33), requires executive branch departments and agencies to collect, retain, and preserve federalbrecords, which provide the Administration, Congress, and the public with a history of public-policy execution and its results. Increasing use of e-mail, social media, and other electronic media has prompted a proliferation of record creation in the federal government. The variety of electronic platforms used to create federal records, however, may complicate the technologies needed to capture and retain them. It is also unclear whether the devices and applications that agencies currently use to create and retain records will be viable in perpetuity—making access to federal records over time increasingly complicated, costly, and potentially impossible.

In recent years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) reported records management deficiencies at federal agencies. NARA, which has government-wide records management responsibilities, found 45% of agencies were at high risk of mismanaging their records. Agencies’ inabilities to comply with federal recordkeeping laws and responsibilities may make it difficult for NARA to predict future federal archiving needs because officials may not anticipate the true volume of records, nor will they know the variety of platforms used to create those records.

The executive branch has taken steps to clarify records management responsibilities and attempted to improve recordkeeping administration. In August 2012, for example, NARA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) jointly released a directive providing agencies with a framework for managing federal records, including both paper and electronic records.
Yet, challenges remain. Congress may have an interest in overseeing whether agencies are appropriately capturing and maintaining their federal records. Additionally, Congress may choose to revisit the laws that govern federal recordkeeping to address the variety of platforms used to create federal records. Congress may also choose to ensure that such records will be accessible to the public in perpetuity. Moreover, with the increase in the creation and use of electronic records,

Congress may have an interest in examining whether agencies are taking appropriate steps to ensure the authenticity and trustworthiness of the electronic documents they create and preserve….

read full report

Whitehouse.gov includes unique non-cookie tracker, conflicts with privacy policy

ProPublica reported on new research by a team at KU Leuven and Princeton on canvas fingerprinting. Canvas fingerprinting allows websites to uniquely identify and track visitors without the use of browser cookies or other similar means. One of the most intrusive users of the technology is a company called AddThis, who are employing it in “shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.com.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been tracking on this privacy-destroying technology for several years.

While YouPorn quickly removed AddThis after the report was published, the White House website still contains AddThis code.  Some White House pages obviously include the AddThis button, such as the White House Blog, and a link to the AddThis privacy policy.

Other pages, like the White House’s own Privacy Policy, load javascript from AddThis, but do not otherwise indicate that AddThis is present. To pick the most ironic example, if you go to the page for the White House policy for third-party cookies, it loads the “addthis_widget.js.” This script, in turn, references “core143.js,” which has a “canvas” function and the tell-tale “Cwm fjordbank glyphs vext quiz” phrase.

via White House Website Includes Unique Non-Cookie Tracker, Conflicts With Privacy Policy | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

(HT BoingBoing!]