March 5, 2009
Dear Vivek Kundra,
I wanted to reach out and congratulate you on your selection today as the chief information officer for The White House as reported by Brian Knowlton in The New York Times. The next few months will undoubtedly be busy. Nonetheless could I bend your ear for a moment?
Not true it turns out.
Both YouTube and Akamai will continue to communicate their work toward security and privacy, I see you use YouTube in the District already. I wonder what your view is about all the cookie fuss?
In no way am I trying to downplay the importance of data privacy or security, especially within a government run web property. Privacy and security are of the utmost importance to my business. All of the talk about the enabling of cookies seems like an old tired debate. Sure I work for WebTrends and absolutely we provide baseline web analytics software for Whitehouse.gov, but aren’t we past all of this cookie business? I am sincerely interested in your opinion here.
Let’s think about this for a moment….how efficient is a government web site if citizens can’t find the information or services they are after? The analytics tools that the Whitehouse.gov team is using, much like most private sector companies with a website, is simply to help ensure the site is providing visitors the information, pictures and multimedia content they want to see. Making it as easy as possible to find information is exactly what people are asking for (in the public and private sectors) – a government that uses technology to assist them can cut down on costs associated with providing information to citizens. That is practical empowerment; it is communication, transparency, participation.
A hypothetical: What if a large percentage of citizens who visit Whitehouse.gov perform on-site searches for the term “stimulus” but aren’t visiting the companion Recovery.gov site? Are the promotions for the Recovery.gov site too hard to find? Are these citizens not relating the word “stimulus” with “recovery”? Aggregate analytics provide the collective data and insight needed to diagnose and help correct these types of challenges. And, think what would happen if we allocated the fiscal stimulus funds for infrastructure improvements without taking into account how people use our current infrastructure. We’d run the risk of waste millions of dollars improving bridges that don’t need repairs or don’t get much traffic – or we’d dole out an equal sum for an inconsequential amount of work on every bridge in the nation — rather than investing in the ones that that need the most repairs due to the heaviest use and or age.
I believe there is a difference between the security of a web application and the analysis needed to gain better insight and take better actions from data.
I would love to hear what you think about all of this. How about over dinner at The White House in May?