Feeds

Google force feeds Web 2.0 to US gov

And it comes right back up...

High performance access to file storage

Web 2.0 Expo When uber-Googler Andrew McLaughlin joined the Barack Obama Transition Team, charged with prepping the new administration for inauguration day, he had dreams of "bringing Web 2.0 to Washington."

But he soon realized the US government is the sort of operation that can't use the interwebs without printing every page. Quite literally.

"My story is the story of a [San Francisco] Bay Area nerd who goes to Washington and encounters some rather surprising obstacles - surprising in the sense that they are more tenacious and more obscure than you might think," Google's director of global public policy told Tim 2.0'Reilly's Web 2.0 Expo this morning.

"The kind of things that we were trying to do would be regarded as kindergarten-level, rudimentary technology implementations in the Silicon Valley, private-sector, tech-startup kind of world. But in government, they're viewed as a massive revolution in both form and approach."

McLaughlin was part of the transition team's Technology Innovation and Government Reform group. TIGR, for short. He spent three months in Washington, working to hasten a move away from stove-pipe tech contracts towards everyday web apps running on commodity hardware. And most of his efforts were completely useless.

In theory, the so-called Web 2.0 puts technological power in the hands of world+dog. It takes traditionally complicated and expensive tasks - broadcasting video, for instance - and simplifies them so that anyone can instantly partake. But that doesn't include the federal government, which has extreme problems dealing with simplicity.

The first thing McLaughlin ran into was the government's acquisition and procurement rules, which apply to almost anything the government might purchase or make use of. The rules require competitive bidding. "It raises the question: 'If the government wants to use a free online service like Flicker or Facebook or YouTube, does it have to go through a competitive bidding process?'" McLaughlin says.

"Even though these apps are free, they're part of a competitive market, so presumably the answer is 'Yes.' And I can tell you that a competitive bidding process is a very elaborate, painful, time-consuming, excruciating process that very few free online services are going to be willing to take part in."

But even if the government did take competitive bids and these free online services agreed to participate and the government actually picked one, it still couldn't use the thing. At least, not as is.

For one thing, these services typically carry ads. Government agencies are restricted from carrying advertising from private individuals and businesses. "So a White House channel on YouTube or a photo stream on Flickr or a page on Facebook can't carry advertising alongside it. Otherwise, it would put it in the position of implicitly endorsing the things that are being advertised. So it would have to come up with some sort of special arrangement with these Web 2.0 services."

What's more, most of these services have unlimited liability clauses, a must if you're opening things up to world+dog. And the government doesn't do unlimited liability clauses.

"Agencies are also prevented from incurring potential debts or obligations beyond certain limits," McLaughlin explains. "The problem is that most Web 2.0 services have indemnity clauses that are unlimited. So, the user agrees to pay all costs for anything that's illegal or against the terms. The federal government can't agree to that."

So it would have to negotiate again. And once it had new terms and conditions in place, it would still refuse to actually use the service. Most government agencies prevent their employees from visiting sites like YouTube and Facebook. "These services are presumed to be social rather than job-related."

Oh, and then there's Section 508, which requires that government information access should be equal for disabled and non-disabled government employees and US citizens at large. With a site like YouTube, videos must be transcribed.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.