« Authenticating Digital Government Information » by Timothy L. Coggins
The quotation above from St. Clair v. Johnny’s Oyster & Shrimp, Inc., a 1999 US federal district court case, captures a perception of the trustworthiness of digital information that over ten years later is, in many instances, still uncomfortably close to reality. It raises two important questions with which governments providing online information and users of that information must grapple: Is digital government information reliable and trustworthy? Has the government entity providing digital information online taken the care necessary to ensure its authenticity? This chapter presents a historical perspective of authenticity of government information, provides definitions of significantterms and phrases related to authentication, offers basic descriptions of some methods used to ensure authenticity of government information, and identifies some examples of what is happening at the federal and state level in the United States and in other countries to address these important questions. It also suggests some strategies and appropriate steps toward the goal of an affirmative answer to the two questions under consideration. The authors are both law librarians, and the examples used in this chapter are government-issued legal information. However, the principles, processes, and concepts identified in this chapter should be applied to all types of digital government information.