Invisible Government Information

“Vital government information appears ‘invisible’” to Americans using popular search engines to try to find it, says a report released Tuesday, December 11 by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and OMB Watch.

The report, Hiding in Plain Sight: Why Important Government Information Cannot Be Found through Commercial Search Engines, examines the reasons for the poor retrieval that results when searching for government information using the popular search engines Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Live and Ask and even the search function provided by Examples from the report include:

* A search for “New York radiation” does not find basic FEMA and DHS information about current conditions and monitoring.
* A search to help grandparents with a question about visitation of their grandchildren in any search engine does not turn up an article of the same title located on the Web site of the Administration for Children & Families.
* A search for “small farm loans” turns up the commercial offers for loans, and statistics about government loans, but not most of the major federal government programs designed to help fund small farms.

The report concludes that “many of these searches miss critical information simply because of the manner in which the government agency has published the information.”

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