Okay, I spoke at a Privacy Camp deal recently in San Francisco, decided to amuse myself, and must've said some useful things. (I should really listen to what I say.)
Alex Howard caught a bunch in Craig Newmark on better government through enlightened customer service and I should let the piece talk for itself, but here's a few items.
Newmark was thoughtful about privacy controls for social media
platforms, deferring specific technical questions to the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the Sunlight Foundation, where he
sits on the board
of directors. He also saw potential in Facebook's new features.
"For example, Facebook's open social graph stuff could be a good tool
for democracy," he said. "It allows someone to work with a wide network
for good effects, mutual benefit and for the common good. In addition,
if someone uses a Facebook profile -- or something similar -- to
participate in national agenda setting, it provides transparency into
In the interview, the most famous customer service representative
in the world also offered simple tips to government officials -- or
anyone faced with helping customers, consumers or clients online, for
that matter. "First, listen," he said. "Figure out if their concern is
valid. If it's valid, you solve it. There will be people you can never
make happy. You help them in good faith but you need to know when to
What if government agencies, employees and elected officials can't
"give up" on providing online services? "That shouldn't be an excuse for
not delivering good customer service," said Newmark. "A related problem
is trying to help someone who is having trouble articulating a problem.
You need to proceed in good faith and listen."
The bigger problem, said Newmark, is that "until the last year or so,
people were told government is the problem, or that government
doesn't matter. People in government were told that providing good
customer service could be career-limiting."