The public can now friend the White House and scores of agencies on social networks, virtual worlds, and video-sharing sites. The Obama Administration sees this trend as crucial to enhancing governmental transparency, public participation, and collaboration. As the President has underscored, government needs to tap into the public’s expertise because it does not have all of the answers.
To be sure, Government 2.0 might improve civic engagement. But it also might produce privacy vulnerabilities because agencies often gain access to individuals’ social-network profiles, photographs, videos, and contact lists when interacting with them online. Little would prevent agencies from using and sharing individuals’ social-media data for more than policymaking, including law-enforcement, immigration, tax, and benefits matters. Although people may be prepared to share their views on health care and the environment with agencies and executive departments, they may be dismayed to learn that such policy collaborations carry a risk of government surveillance.
This Essay argues that government should refrain from accessing individuals’ social-media data on Government 2.0 sites. Agencies should treat these sites as one-way mirrors, where individuals can see government’s activities and engage in policy discussions but where government cannot use, collect, or distribute individuals’ social-media information. A one-way mirror policy would facilitate democratic discourse, enhance government accountability, and protect privacy.
To access the full article, please click the ‘Download’ link, above.