Tech, gov leaders to debate e-gov privacy

State and local government and technology leaders will debate electronic

government privacy issues, such as public-key infrastructure security, digital

signatures and policy statements, in a new e-Government Web Privacy Coalition.

The coalition, formed by NIC Technologies, a leading e-government company,

will be composed of 10 state and local government professionals and five

private sector workers.

"The coalition needs to look at how to protect citizens and businesses

from having data in an insecure environment," said Rich Phillips, NIC's

director of corporate communications. Phillips said that by protecting the

public's information, their confidence will grow, and "e-government can

move forward."

The coalition has two goals:

* Identify and publish preferred practices to promote privacy standards,

confidentiality and the preservation of public trust.

* Create an independent organization to develop and oversee a voluntary

certification program for government World Wide Web portals and e-government

applications. The organization would award a privacy seal to government

sites that meet the minimum standards.

Although the coalition is being formed by a private-sector company and

will have five private-sector members, Phillips said NIC believes that "government

should be the policy-maker." By having two-thirds of the coalition public-sector

representatives, he said the coalition would meet this goal. The private

sector's role is important as well, he said, because they must follow the

established standards.

The coalition will first meet on July 12 and will issue an initial report

within 30 days, Phillips said. The private-sector members will include

representatives from Cisco Systems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Digital

Signature Trust Co. and Oracle Corp.

Public-sector members have not been named yet because many need approval

from government boards. Phillips said that about 95 percent of public-sector

personnel have been contacted about the coalition and many expressed interest.

They will be announced by the end of the month.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation, a think tank that studies state

e-government efforts, will serve as an adviser to the coalition.

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