[govinfo] GovInfo News 1-25-2007

  • From: "Patrice McDermott" <pmcdermott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2007 10:18:25 -0500

- Court rejects senator's bid to eliminate fish agency - over info
- Lieberman expands Homeland panel oversight; names Chairs
- Digital Fingerprints; Tiny behavioral differences can reveal your identity    
  online
- GCN Interview with Steven Arnold of the Google Government Report

Patrice McDermott, Executive Director
OpenTheGovernment.org
202-332-OPEN (6736)
www.openthegovernment.org


- COURT REJECTS SENATOR'S BID TO ELIMINATE FISH AGENCY
By Blaine Harden
Thursday, January 25, 2007; Page A12

SEATTLE, Jan. 24 -- In a slap at the power of a single U.S. senator to change 
federal policy, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down today 
an attempt by Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) to eliminate a small agency that 
counts endangered salmon in the Columbia River. Craig tried to eliminate all 
funding in 2005 for the Fish Passage Center, which is based in Portland, Ore., 
and has 12 employees, because he said its data were "cloaked in advocacy."

The Fish Passage Center has documented how the federal Columbia-Snake River 
hydroelectric system has killed salmon and pushed several species to the brink 
of extinction. It is a primary source of information for the federal judge who 
oversees the protection of endangered salmon in the Columbia, as well as for 
fish agencies in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. more

***

- LIEBERMAN EXPANDS HOMELAND PANEL OVERSIGHT
http://www.gcn.com/online/vol1_no1/42998-1.html

01/24/07 -- 04:21 PM
By Mary Mosquera,

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe 
Lieberman (I-Conn.)
today named subcommittee heads and the formation of two new subcommittees that 
reflect expanded jurisdiction and focus on homeland security issues.

The two new subcommittees are:
Disaster Recovery, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairman, with the ranking 
Republican member to be designated at a later date, to consider issues related 
to the government's work helping communities to recover from disasters in 
general and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in particular; and
State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration, Sen. Mark Pryor, 
(D-Ark.), chairman, with Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.), the ranking Republican, to 
oversee Homeland Security Department efforts on state and local fusion centers 
and law enforcement grants and integration of private-sector efforts to prepare 
for and respond to emergencies.
Jurisdictions for three existing subcommittees remain virtually the same, with 
the added responsibility for postal issues within the Subcommittee on Federal 
Financial Management.

The existing subcommittees are:
Investigations, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman; Sen. Norm Coleman 
(R-Minn.), ranking Republican, including oversight over the efficiency and 
economy of operations of all branches of government and the adherence to rules 
by those doing business with the government;
Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, Sen. 
Daniel Akaka, (D-Hawaii), chairman; Sen. George Voinovich, (R-Ohio), ranking 
Republican member, including oversight over the effectiveness of national 
security staffing and the management of all agencies and their programs; and
Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and 
International Security, Sen. Thomas Carper, (D-Del.), chairman; Sen. Tom Coburn 
(R-Okla.), ranking Republican member, including oversight over federal 
financial management, federal IT management and the Census.

***

- DIGITAL FINGERPRINTS; TINY BEHAVIORAL DIFFERENCES CAN REVEAL YOUR IDENTITY 
ONLINE
Julie J. Rehmeyer

Early during World War II, British intelligence officers eavesdropped on German 
radio transmissions, but because the messages were in an encrypted version of 
Morse code, the British couldn't understand the content. The dots and dashes 
came in distinctive rhythms, and the Allied spies quickly learned to recognize 
each Morse code operator's particular style, which the listeners called the 
operator's "fist."

Having identified the individual code senders, the intelligence officers 
triangulated signals and traced the operators' movements across the 
continent-thus tracking the movement of their military units.

Morse code transmissions have, for the most part, been supplanted by 
more-elaborate forms of electronic communication, the latest being the 
Internet. And differences remain in the way that people tap out their 
electronic secrets. Internet users have characteristic patterns of how they 
time their keystrokes, browse Web sites, and write messages for posting on 
online bulletin boards. Scientists are learning to use these typeprints, 
clickprints, and writeprints, respectively, as digital forms of fingerprints.

While the aims of this research are to strengthen password security, reduce 
online fraud, identify online pornographers, and catch terrorists, the 
technology is raising some troubling possibilities. "It's a bit scary," says 
Jaideep Srivastava, a Web researcher at the University of Minnesota in 
Minneapolis. "The privacy implications are huge." This technology might make it 
impossible for a person to use the Web anonymously.
[...]
Hsinchun Chen, a researcher in information systems at the University of Arizona 
in Tucson, realized that such analysis could be applied to a quite different 
problem. "It could be used to track anyone who is trying to hide their identity 
on the Web," Chen says. "They'll leave a trace."

People commonly post anonymously to message boards or employ different user 
names. Chen seeks to enable law-enforcement officers to detect whether various 
threatening or illegal posts come from a single user.

Chen and his colleagues have studied messages from the White Knights, a chapter 
of the Ku Klux Klan; the Al-Aqsa Martyrs, an anti-United States Palestinian 
group; and English and Chinese bulletin boards where pirated software and music 
are commonly sold.
[...]
Chen says that he isn't free to discuss details about how his system has been 
used for law enforcement. He offers only, "We've been successful at bringing up 
clues that will alert authorities about suspicious people."

He acknowledges that his team's creation could be employed in ways that raise 
privacy concerns. Governments "could use it to probe political forums or to 
create a profile of people," he says. "That's the part we want to avoid."

Peter Eckersley, staff technologist with the Internet-privacy group Electronic 
Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, worries that writeprints will have a 
chilling effect on whistle blowing and public speech in general. "From this 
point on," he says, "the writer who would remain anonymous in the face of 
serious scrutiny will have to take unusual recourse to the thesaurus and a 
syntactic scrambler."  more [Science News Online]

***

- GCN INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN ARNOLD OF THE GOOGLE GOVERNMENT REPORT
By Joab Jackson, GCN Staff more

[...]
GCN: Why should agencies care about Google?
Arnold: Let me give you an anecdote. I got invited to meet with the people from 
a large insurance company in Denmark. I asked how much of their traffic came 
from Google [searches]. And they said they thought about 35 to 40 percent. I 
asked if there is a way to check, and they said they could do it right there 
from a laptop. [When they checked], they looked at me and said "You know what? 
Last month Google was 80 percent of our traffic."

GCN: So you are seeing an increase in Google-derived traffic within the last 
few months?
Arnold: Literally, within the last 12 to 16 weeks. The anecdote underscores 
what we've seen in other work, that Google is basically the search engine of 
choice for virtually everyone in the world.
As people realize how much traffic comes to them from Google, it becomes more 
important to understand what other people are doing to make sure their Web site 
is indexed by Google and their sites come up in the context of the proper 
keywords. You really now have to pay attention to Google not because Google is 
the greatest company on the planet, but because Yahoo and Microsoft just 
haven't done that good of a job competing.

GCN: So what can agencies do to better present their pages to Google?
Arnold: The first step is to create a sitemap that conforms to Google's 
guidelines, because Google has already convinced Microsoft and Yahoo to follow 
its formula. So that is job one.

Job two is to take a very hard look at the page names and the URLs on your 
site. Most government Web pages I look at have very long and complicated URLs, 
and Google's robots can process those, but they prefer to process 
human-understandable URLs.

The third thing is the government needs to do a better job with content. The 
government has great information. The Department of Agriculture has outstanding 
information, but it is presented in such a way that makes it really hard to 
index and search effectively. If you want a good report, you have to download a 
huge PDF file.

So I think the government has to make more of its content easy to comprehend, 
and not put out these 5-megabyte globs of data.

GCN: Any thoughts on the battle between the two premier U.S.-government-focused 
search engines, FirstGov and Google U.S. Government search?
Arnold: There is no battle at all. I really believe FirstGov does much more 
focused indexing.

When Google sends its robots to an agency Web site, it looks at the links, 
indexes the first 100,000 characters per page and follows the links two levels 
down. But FirstGov looks hard at these sites and goes very deep into the site. 
Remember the FirstGov [result] set will be much smaller and more focused than 
the Google set, which will be very broad.

If you work for an information service, you certainly can start a search with 
Google, but if you want to be thorough, you will have to look at FirstGov. If 
you're a government worker, you might want to start with FirstGov, but you 
definitely want to take a look at what Google has indexed.

So think of FirstGov as drilling down into a topic and Google going very broad 
across many topics. So the two services are complementary.


 

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