suffer in that people's prejudices are confirmed or at least never challenged.
In our survey of public managers, respondents were asked four questions related to the issue of control over personalization of government-sponsored Internet applications. Respondents were asked to indicate on a seven-point scale the degree to which they agreed with statements regarding control of personalization by citizens or governments under certain circumstances. Given the constraints of space, only a limited number of control options could be explored.
The survey attempted first to identify if there was a substantial difference between public managers' support for citizens' control over personalization of non-policy information, such as notifications for bills, jury duty and meetings, and their control over policy-related information, such as information that might outline the rationale for the government taking a particular policy position. The majority of public managers participating in the survey supported citizens being able to control the personalization of the information that would be displayed (e.g. on their version of a government Web site or Internet messaging service). However, there was a slight fall-off in the level of support for citizen control of policy-related information when compared with non-policy information.
The responses to the control issues indicate that the public managers participating in the survey for the most part support a high level of citizen-controlled personalization. However, at least some of these same respondents also appeared to contradict themselves when they demonstrated support for governments being able to present citizens with opposing points of view on policy information. It would take a number of additional questions to be able to fully understand the real meaning of the contradiction between these two sets of responses. This contradiction suggests that public managers may not have yet been challenged to fully explore the policy options related to the control of personalization services or to come up with a philosophically consistent position in this regard.
The level of support for government customization of information was, however, much less substantial than for citizen personalization. In fact, the largest group of respondents indicated that they were essentially neutral on this issue. This finding suggests that a large portion of public managers probably have yet to form a strong opinion about the degree of threat posed by relinquishing control of personalization to citizens or the appropriate response to this threat. Though public managers generally desire to remain on the administrative side of the policy-administration divide, this finding (or neutral stance on government customization of policy information) suggests that public managers may be taking a wait-and-see attitude. That is, they may want to hold in reserve the government's right to customize policy information, but only exercise this right in cases where citizen personalization of policy information appears to be reinforcing existing prejudices rather than providing a more efficient search for truth.
The fourth survey question to deal with the issue of the control over personalization is one that is focused on the potential role of government as a protector of citizens bests interests from their own desires to compromise those interests for short term gain. Since the formation of the United States, governments have enacted laws to protect citizens in cases where individual citizens would choose not to be protected. In this regard, for example, we are not allowed to enter into contracts for voluntary servitude or for the sale of our own organs.
The related question for the future of the personalized public-sector Internet is whether citizens might be too willing to trade privacy for convenience. This question can further be divided into two parts -- an empirical part that asks whether trading privacy for convenience is likely to occur and a philosophical one that asks if any damage is actually done to the public interest when citizens are too free with their private information.