FirstGov Web portal seeks to brand federal information

The leaders of the effort to create FirstGov, a new federal Web portal, have announced a plan to leverage the site's brand name in an effort to control how other Web sites use and display information from the millions of pages of federal information it will contain.

The new site,, will enable citizens to search the full text of every government Web page currently on the Internet-currently estimated to be between 50 to 100 million pages. The site will enable the 110 million Americans currently online to conduct transactions with agencies, such as reserving a campsite at a National Park.

FirstGov is being financed at no cost to taxpayers through a foundation created Eric Brewer, co-founder of Inktomi, a widely used Web search engine.

FirstGov plans to select official partners of the site and allow them to post a FirstGov certification on their sites, provided they adhere to a set of "brand conditions." The conditions are:

  • The sites must use the federal information "as is."
  • They must provide free uninterrupted public access to government information.
  • No advertising will be allowed on pages containing federal information.
  • All government information must be "clearly and conspicuously" attributed as such.
  • Government material must not be placed in close proximity to material that is pornographic or contrary to U.S. laws.
  • A user's movements must not be tracked as they surf government information.
  • Sections of the sites containing government information must comply with accessibility guidelines as set out by 1998 ammendments to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The branding effort will be managed by FirstGov's board of directors. The board includes eight members of the President's Management Council: David Barram, administrator of the General Services Administration, Mortimer Downey, deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, William Halter, deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Sally Katzen, counselor to the director of the Office of Management and Budget, William Lynn, under secretary of Defense, Robert Mallett, deputy secretary of the Commerce Department, Mike McCabe, deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Morley Winograd, director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

Three members of the federal Chief Information Officers Council will also serve on the FirstGov board. They are: Commerce CIO Roger Baker, Transportation CIO George Molaski and GSA CIO Bill Piatt.

GSA has scheduled a press conference for Thursday to provide more details about the FirstGov effort.

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