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When government information is not government information

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced a new service that allows you to "instantly compare what 500 of of the largest American companies are paying their top executives."

The announcement says that The Executive Compensation Reader is "available today on the SEC’s Web site at http://www.sec.gov/xbrl."

When you go to that web site, you’ll find "Interactive Financial Reports", "Executive Compensation", and (coming soon) "Financial Explorer" and "Investment Management Risk Return Summary".

But…A big, boldface disclaimer is on the bottom of the page:

These applications are on servers not controlled by the SEC. The SEC does not endorse these sites, their sponsors, or any policy, activity, product, data, or service they offer. These sites may be removed from the Internet with little or no warning. The purpose of the data reported is to test XBRL technology. The data is largely unaudited and unreviewed. It is not an official SEC filing. Use these applications at your own risk. Do not rely on the reported data, or documents rendered from the data, to make investment decisions.

The Interactive Financial Reports is a link to "http://216.241.101.197/viewer" which is run by viawest.net which describes itself as a "provider of colocation, managed hosting and business continuity solutions ViaWest has become a production partner to thousands of companies. We can design, implement and support your critical data and infrastructure – allowing you to focus on your core business."

The Executive Compensation link points to "http://216.12.130.224/" which is run by servervault.com which is also a hosting company. It’s home page says it provides "secure, robust IT infrastructure management and hosting services, specifically engineered to help federal agencies and commercial entities achieve the most stringent security posture as well as comply with a wide range of IT security regulations, including FISMA, DITSCAP, Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA."

Both sites sport an SEC logo and a numeric url that obscures the fact that you are looking at a .net or .com site, not a .gov site.

Is this a temporary situation and will these sites become .gov? is the SEC simply outsourcing the hosting? Or will these sites become commercial after a trial period with the companies or the SEC charging for services?

At minimum, this kind of outsourcing obscures the authenticity of and provenance of the information and makes the job of GPO, libraries, web-archivists, and citizens more difficult.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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