A proposal for Obama’s new CTO: Require independent review by technical experts

Yesterday my former Microsoft colleague Matt Lerner, now at FrontSeat (“software for civic life”) sent out mail about the new ObamaCTO.org site, a user-powered forum for gathering and prioritizing ideas for Obama’s new CTO.  Anybody can register, vote on ideas, or submit your own; in a twist from digg-style rating, each person is limited to ten votes, and you can apply up to three on any given topic.  Unsurprisingly, I immediately voted for Ensure reliable & trustworthy election technologies.🙂

The site’s very well done, powered by UserVoice, with a straighforward interface.  Micah Sifry’s Never Mind Who; What Should S/he Do? on techPresident has more details on this site (as well as a new report on the role of the CTO from the 21st Century Right to Know Project).

And far be it from me to pass an opportunity for grassroots activism by.  Here’s my submission:

Require independent review of projects by technical experts

Over the last 8 years, many governmental projects have failed to take into account basic principles of systems and software engineering, design, computer security, and privacy.  The REAL ID proposal, for example, stored personal data in unencrypted form, relied on databases which didn’t yet exist, and ignored the questions of false positives due to inaccurate data.  Independent review by experts can detect these issues early in the process, which either gives time for them to be addressed or allows the project to be rethought far more cheaply.

If you think it’s reasonable, please vote it up!