MIT Provides GIA: Government Information Awareness
"In the United States, there is a widening gap between a citizen's ability to monitor his or her government and the government's ability to monitor a citizen. Average citizens have limited access to important government records, while available information is often illegible. Meanwhile, the government's eagerness and means to oversee a citizen's personal activity is rapidly increasing."
Exasperated by the growing fear of an upcoming massive new US federal surveillance system, two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston have chosen to celebrate Independence Day with a new Internet service that will allow any individual on the Web to contribute information and to create original dossiers on US government officials.
The system is offering standard background information on politicians, and starting today it offers any Internet user the opportunity to submit their own intelligence reports on government officials.
As for the TIA (Terrorism Information Awareness), no evident or public effort is made to verify that the information collected is reliable and complete. All of the information currently on the site is available from public sources.
The official and publicly available mission of the GIA project is:
"To empower citizens by providing a single, comprehensive, easy-to-use repository of information on individuals, organizations, and corporations related to the government of the United States of America.
To allow citizens to submit intelligence about government-related issues, while maintaining their anonymity. To allow members of the government a chance to participate in the process."
But the new GIA (Governement Information Awareness) goes one bold and courageous step further. Starting today, the site will allow the public to submit information about government officials, and this information will be made available to anyone visiting the site.
The GIA approach, as some of you may indeed feel, raises the possibility that people could post unreliable or outright false and deceiving information, or data that unreasonably compromises a person's privacy. But as the US citizen has no way to verify, check or contribute to the way that the TIA may work against her, this marks only a fair counterbalancing act to an already powerful unchecked and uncontrolled mechanism which could well severaly handicap the freedom of many non-terrorist citizens.
The technology approach utilized by this courageous initiative is not new to the Internet as it is very much like the apporach utilized by Wikis, in which a Web site is content is accessible and editable by visitors who contribute new information. One of the best known Wiki sites is Wikipedia, is an online encyclopedia created entirely by its visitors who have voluntarily writtenand edited over 140,000 articles, on subjects ranging from Science to Philosophy. Any Wikipedia user who thinks he has spotted an error or wants to add information can modify any content. Unlike at a standard encyclopedia operation though, there is no central authority to edit or reject articles.
As of now (July 5th 2003 4:30 pm GMT+1) the content of the site is NOT accessible anymore. You can indeed see that it existed by accessing this Google search page (until it lasts) where even the cached content has been already cleared.
The site is now accessible again online (00:23am July 6th).
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