GAO Assesses Public Commenter Identity Management

1 min read

Jeff Brody

The Government Accountability Office has assessed federal agencies’ efforts to manage identities of those who comment on public policy.

GAO discovered that seven of 10 sample agencies observe internal policy in handling the identities of these commenters in different ways, the accountability agency said in a report publicly released Friday. The study aims to address the lack of standards affecting how commenters are displayed.

Findings indicate there is a lack of uniformity in how agencies handle this matter. Agencies either only display input within a comment system or also maintain comments from external sources such as email archives, the report noted. Some agency practices also exhibit duplication of comments.

The Administrative Procedure Act provides directions on how agencies should process comments, but lacks rules on the disclosure and verification of commenter identities.

GAO recommends different agencies to implement policy that lays out requirements for posting comments and handling associated identity information. Affected agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Bureau of Land Management and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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