Sunday, June 26, 2011

“Privacy and HCI”

Currently, I am also taking POL S 533X and this is a class where we research and understand what makes quality e-government web sites and how they should be developed. Between the state, local, and federal levels of government, all levels are facing serious financial constraints which is pushing the e-government initiatives even hard as government store-fronts shut down and resort to offering forms, services, and information via the Internet and the WWW. Outside of the digital divide being a competing variable in the success of e-government, one of the biggest concerns is privacy. As designers and developers begin roll-out these e-government sites, how can they provide measures to protect the public provide that their personal information that they enter online into these sites is safe. Privacy, like security, concerns risk, its perception, and its management. Privacy problems often lie in the potential future consequences of present behavior, which may be deemed risky or safe according to standards of judgment (not necessarily those of the participants involved). As such, privacy harkens back to HCI’s origins in ergonomics and the safe operation of complex machinery (Ackerman, M., Mainwaring, S., 2011). History tells us that if there is a database that stores key personal information, like the databases some e-government sites may have, there is the opportunity for this information to be compromised. One such example really hit close to home here in Texas recently. The State of Texas migrated hundreds of thousands of personal data on State of Texas employees onto a public e-government site by accident. This personal data resided on the public database for years; however, because a link to this information was never coded into the actual e-government site, the state “feels” none of this data was further compromised. The problem is that the information was still accessible if this e-government site was hacked or internal unauthorized personnel found this information and dishonestly managed or benefited from this mistake. I feel one of the keys to insuring privacy in the HCI process is that designers need to carefully plan and map how data moves throughout the whole e-government processes and provide safety checks and balances that help protect personal users information using external and internal controls that are sufficient.

Ackerman, M., Mainwaring., S. (2011). “Privacy Issues and Human-Computer Interaction”, 2011.

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