Sign-ups for FirstGov’s e-mail alerts, RSS increase

Citizens have been signing up at FirstGov.gov for government e-mail alerts, especially since the news broke that the personal information of millions of U.S. veterans may be in jeopardy, a General Services Administration official said.

More than 26,200 users of the government’s Web search engine FirstGov have signed up for the e-mail alerts, according to the official.

“We’ve been delighted by the number of signups and think it’s a demonstration of the value of the service,” said GSA spokesman David Bethel.

Bethel said the recent spike in the number of signups for the e-mail alerts stemmed from the news of the stolen VA data.

The recent theft involved a VA data analyst who had loaded personal information on every living veteran -- including birth dates and Social Security numbers -- onto his laptop computer, which he took home. Someone stole the computer from the employee’s home May 3. The data was also on a portable device that was stolen.

Since February, users also have been able to stay in the know by signing up for Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds and e-mail updates, when GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications first offered the service.

“We expect this number to continue to grow. In fact, new subscribers come on every day,” Bethel said.

According to GSA, there are, on average, about 17,500 downloads of the FirstGov Updates RSS feed every week and about 4,600 downloads weekly of the Frequently Asked Questions RSS feed.

About 3,500 visitors weekly go to the Web page that explains FirstGov RSS feeds, which give users quick access to a site’s news and information. About 3,000 visitors go to the RSS feed library.

On Feb. 10, FirstGov announced the two features that build on the recently renovated Web site. Aided by private-sector partners Vivisimo and Microsoft, the search engine connects visitors to more than 40 million related documents from federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments.

These services were another step in the drive to enhance citizens’ access to government, Bev Godwin, director of FirstGov operations, said in February.

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