US Government Exposes Itself

by Lindsey Arent



The government has unleashed a comprehensive search engine, offering more than 3.8 million government and military Web pages to the public. But there is no free lunch -- you'll have to pay Uncle Sam for the privilege of perusing.

The Commerce Department's National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Northern Light Technology today introduced gov.search, the first custom search engine that provides access to more than 20,000 federal Web sites you never thought you cared about.

The price for use of the service ranges from US$15 for an individual day-pass, to $30 for monthly access, to $250 for a year's worth of scintillating government minutiae.

By linking together all of the disparate Web sites and supplementary information created by the federal bureaucracy, the new search engine allows public access to government documents and texts that were previously available on the Web, but were often tricky or costly to find.

The service allows users to perform a full-text search of the gov.search database and screens the results by government subject area, federal branch, or agency.

The NTIS is the government's central arm for the sale of scientific, technical, engineering, and business information. Northern Light has authored an Internet search engine that indexes nearly 140 million Web pages.

Once there, you can search for information from the census bureau, get the skinny on federal transportation planning, or inquire about the fundamentals of civil engineering dollars at work. You can also seek out obscure or irrelevant information, such as details about the military's dental plans, or endless surveys of feedback from military retirees.

The engine's index also includes access to NTIS title and abstract data dating back to 1964, as well as access to the full texts of esoteric sources such as Defense Daily magazine, FedNet Government News, and 5,400 other journals, news services, and magazines.

While the search engine may sound like it contains the kind of information that conspiracy theorists and hackers would love to get their hands on, proponents claim there's little to worry about in the way of security breaches.

"There's no classified information here and nothing that the government agencies don't want the public to see," said Susan Stearns, director of enterprise marketing for Northern Light. "This isn't going to create any more problems for the government than the Internet hasn't created already."

 

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