Report: Govt Info at Your Fingertips? Not Quite

By Justin Rood

Dec 11, 2007 1:13pm

Looking for information on grandparents’ visitation rights? Wondering how to obtain a farm loan? Want to know more about federal radiation monitoring in New York City? The U.S. government has the answers to questions like these, and they are mostly online. But you won’t find them using Google, Yahoo or other major search engines, according to an Internet-age Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group. By accident or by design, millions of pages of potentially useful, publicly-funded information are blocked from major search engines, the Center for Democracy and Technology says in a new report. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. In many cases, government agencies fail to take basic steps to ensure their Web sites can be indexed by search engines, the group found. "It’s really trivial," said CDT spokesman Brock Meeks. The process "takes maybe half an hour," he said. "It’s a well-known, commonly-used standard…something you could find in the ‘Dummies Book to the Internet.’" In some cases, government employees have written files to bar Web surfers from finding particular pages on their sites through Google or other search engines. Until recently, the White House made it impossible for U.S. taxpayers and others to find information about Iraq on the Web site without searching at the site itself. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also blocked search engines’ access to its public site. Following reports of the blocks on in September, both the White House and ODNI said the blocks were written in error and removed them. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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