Public information disappearing from federal websites
The Treasury Board of Canada is removing previously-available documents from government websites.
Missing is information on aboriginal affairs, for example.
Direct your browser to the federal government’s “Aboriginal Canada Portal” and all you’ll find is a message stating the fed no-longer deems it necessary to maintain that website. (Why they took the extra step of deleting content, as opposed to simply leaving it there as an archive, is anybody's guess.)
The government's stated reason:
“There are now a wide variety of Aboriginal resources online and the rise of search engines and social media have rendered the Portal web site obsolete,” states a message where the Aboriginal Canada Portal once was.
Also recently removed from the web was an archive of speeches made by the Canadian minister of justice.
These observations were first brought to light by Vincent Gogolek, executive director for the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA). He’s written that documents leaked to FIPA detail “a new federal government plan to make government websites a whole lot less informative.”
Dubbed the “Action Plan for the Renewal of the GC Web Presence” (dated November 28, 2012, and available in two parts here and here), the initiative’s official mandate is to meet three requests made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
- Significantly reduce the number of GC websites and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of web publishing
- Develop and implement standards and management process for social media
- Develop and Implement Mobile Application standards and government processes
The central theme running through the PowerPoint presentation obtained by FIPA is consolidation.
Some of the more-specific objectives listed in the document are very reasonable. For example, that Government of Canada content be “device agnostic” so as to keep pace with technological advances and remain available across different platforms such as desktop computers and mobile phones.
Other sections are potentially less innocuous. One point regarding what content will be included in the government’s consolidated web presence asks, “most popular user requests only?”
As Gogolek emphasized, the design changes are appearing to involve a lot of information simply disappearing. Given it's nearly free to store even very large amounts of data online, it is difficult to understand what the federal government stands to gain by deleting information from its websites. (Every previously-available document that’s so-far noticed to have gone missing would barely put a dent in the storage capacity of a single Gmail account.)
Perhaps one point listed on the PowerPoint presentation's “considerations” section lends a clue.
The number-one item on that page states that “political message hit ratios” will be measured before and after the websites’ redesigns.
If a piece of information isn’t relevant to the Conservative government’s “political message”, why bother keeping it online?