MIT Web Site Looks to Increase Understanding of Government
By Ronald Roach
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab has unveiled a new Web site called “Government Information Awareness (GIA).” Its creators expect the Web site to become a major clearinghouse of information on government watchdogs and to counter new government technologies that are being used to track information about citizens. GIA’s name and mission are a kind of inversion of the Pentagon’s $20 million “Terrorism Information Awareness” project, according to MIT officials.
“It seemed very odd that the same level of effort isn’t spent working on technologies that help citizens understand the government’s links, networking and influences,” says Ryan McKinley, the graduate student behind the project.
GIA relies largely on users to contribute information, such as a senator’s voting patterns or a politician’s potential conflicts of interest. It is likely that much of the content posted will be inaccurate or unfair, but GIA hopes the useful, fair information will “rise to the top.” McKinley says he believes
that the technology will police itself, as users have the opportunity to rank postings for credibility.
“The premise of GIA is that individual citizens have the right to know details about government, while government has the power to know details about citizens. Our goal is develop a technology which empowers citizens to form a sort of intelligence agency; gathering, sorting and acting on information they gather about the government,” according to the GIA Web site.
The Web site can viewed at
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