Laws, Policies, and Performance Measures Relating to Federal Agency Web Sites

The following are not exhaustive and do not, for instance, pertain to electronic government sales of products and publications. For an update on these laws and policies see Checklist of Requirements for Federal Websites and Digital Services which are among the resources at Digitalgov.

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (Title 13, P.L. 105-277 @ 15 USC Chap. 91)
- - If agency web sites collect information from children, agencies must seek parental permission.

Computer Security Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-235 @ 15 USC Sec. 278g-3
- - Agency web sites must have security controls consistent with federal computer system standards. See also OMB Circular A-130, App. III, Presidential Decision Directive 63, and Executive Order 13221 of Oct. 16, 2001 - Critical Infrastructure Protection in the Information Age.

Depository Library Program (44 USC Sec. 1902)
- - Agency publications, including web publications, are to be made available to depository libraries through the Superintendent of Documents.

Digital Government - - White House digital strategy document of May 2012

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (P.L. 105-304 @ 17 USC Chap. 12 & 13)
- - Agencies must protect copyrights in electronic media on their web sites.

E-Government Act of 2002; P.L. 107-347 - Section 202 @ 44 USC 3501 Note)
- - Agencies are responsible for complying with required information resource management policies, guidances, and standards; for supporting an integrated Internet-based system of delivering Federal government information; for developing performance measures toward agency objectives, strategic goals, and statutory mandates; for ensuring accessibility of its information to all citizens; and for submitting an annual status report on these activities. See OMB guidance memos M-03-18 of August 1, 2003 and M-03-22 of September 30, 2003.

Electronic Freedom of Information Act (P.L. 104-231 @ 5 USC Sec. 552(a)(2)(E))
- - Agencies should provide electronic means, such as an agency web site, for displaying information regularly requested under FOIA.

Executive Order 12862, Setting Customer Service Standards (E.O. 12862 of September 11, 1993)
- - Agency web sites must identify and survey their customers and their needs and set standards and benchmarks for customer service.

Executive Order 13571, Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service (E.O. 13571 of April 27, 2011)
- - Agencies must improve their websites under a "customer service plan" which should be published on their websites .

Federal Records Act of 1950 (44 USC Chap. 31)
- - Management of records created on agency web sites must comply with federal records regulations. See implementing NARA Bulletin 98-02 and General Records Schedule 20.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 USC Sec. 552(g))
- - Agency web sites should state procedures for making FOIA requests.

Government Paperwork Elimination Act (Tit. 17, P.L. 105-277 @ 44 USC Sec. 3504 Notes)
- - Agencies should display copies of information collection forms on web sites, encourage electronic collection of information, and where necessary, provide electronic signature capability by 2003. See also implementing OMB Circular A-130, App. II.

Government Performance and Results Act (Sec. 4, P.L. 103-62 @ 31 USC Sec. 1115)
- - Agency programs, including web sites, must have plans, goals, and performance measures. See also implementing OMB Circular A-11, Part 2.

Information Technology Management Reform Act (Clinger-Cohen Act) (Div. E, P.L. 104-106 @ 40 USC Chap. 25)
- - Agency web sites should be standardized and interoperable across the government. See also implementing Executive Order 13011 of July 16, 1996.

Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act - P.L. 107-174 @ 5 USC 2301 Note)
- - Agency web sites must post fiscal year summary statistical data relating to equal employment opportunity complaints. See EEOC implementation rule at 69 FR 3483, January 26, 2004.

Office of Management and Budget Memorandum on Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (OMB Memo M-05-04 of December 17, 2004)
- - Agencies must: 1) maintain dissemination inventories and schedules and post that information online; 2) ensure information quality; 3) establish and enforce agencywide linking policies; 4) communicate with citizens and state and local governments to meet their information needs; 5) ensure search function on principal public website; 6) use only approved domains - .gov, .mil, or; 7) implement security controls so information cannot be tampered with or private data disclosed; 8) ensure private information is protected; 9) manage accessibility for persons with disabilities; and 10) manage electronic records. See also: OMB Circular A-130 Revised on Management of Federal Information; OMB Memo of April 7, 2010 on Social Media, Web-Based Interactive Technologies, and the Paperwork Reduction Act;  OMB Memo M-10-22 of June 25, 2010 on Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies; OMB Memo M-10-23 of June 25, 2010 on Guidance for Agency Use of Third-Party Websites and Applications; OMB Memo M-11-15 of April 13, 2011 on Final Guidance on Implementing the Plain Writing Act of 2010;  OMB Memo M-11-24 of June 13, 2011 on Implementing Executive Order 13571 on Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service;  OMB Memo M-11-26 of June 15, 2011 on new Fast-Track Process for Collecting Service Delivery Feedback Under the Paperwork Reduction Act; OMB Memo of August 9, 2012 on Testing and Simplifying Federal Forms; OMB Memo M-13-10 of April 4, 2013 on Antideficiency Act Implications of Certain Online Terms of Service Agreements;  OMB Memo M-13-13 of May 9, 2013 on Open Data Policy - Managing Information as an Asset; OMB Memo M-15-13 of June 8, 2015 on Policy to Require Secure Connections across Federal Websites and Web Services.  

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-13 @ 44 USC Chap. 35)
- - Agencies must reduce information collection burdens on the public, and if agency web sites collect information from the public, they must display OMB approval numbers and expiration dates for the information collections. Agency web site must be described in the Government Information Locator Service.

Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PL 111-274 @ 5 USC 301 note)
- - Agencies must communicate to the public in a clear, concise, and well organized manner appropriate to the audience with a designated senior official overseeing its implementation.

Presidential Memorandum on Electronic Government (December 17, 1999)
- - Agencies must develop a strategy for upgrading their respective Internet sites to become more open, efficient, and responsive, and to more effectively carry out the agency's mission.

Privacy Act (5 USC Sec. 552a)
- - Agency web sites must post a statement of agency privacy policies and protect an individual’s right to privacy when they collect personal information. See also implementing OMB Circular A-130, App. I, and OMB Director memoranda M-99-18 of June 2, 1999 and M-00-13 of June 22, 2000 (no or restricted "cookies").

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as added by Sec. 408(b) of P.L. 105-220 @ 29 USC Sec. 794d)
- - Federal information technology, including web sites, must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

Performance Measures for Federal Agency Web Sites

Performance Goal
Extensiveness: Amount or extent to which services are used
Basic Measure
- - Information on content unit retrievals (i.e., number of document downloads)
- - Number of user sessions per time period (not number of hits)
Other Agency Specific Measures
- - Number of user contact sessions
- - Activity levels by time periods
- - Ratio of unique to repeat (2 or more) user sessions per time period

Performance Goal
Efficiency: Use of resources in providing services
Basic Measure
- - Cost of providing web site session per user.
- - Percent of operational time when web site is not available.
Other Agency Specific Measures
- - Number of staff hours or days devoted to web site creation/maintenance by size of site in pages.
- - Cost per user help session.
- - Relation to diminishing costs of other publications media (e.g., printing) as indicator that web site may be replacing other dissemination media.

Performance Goal
Effectiveness: How well the web site meets the general governmental objectives and specific agency objectives
Basic Measure
- - Completeness of coverage of agency publications, press releases, etc.
- - Degree to which web site is increasing the timeliness of access to agency publications.
Other Agency Specific Measures
- - Permanent public access to agency publications.
- - Degree to which Government Information Locator Service is integrated into web site design/operations.
- - Degree to which web site shows agency reach new constituent audiences.

Performance Goal
Service Quality: How well the web site functions
Basic Measures
- - User success rate in finding specific information in a given time period.
- - Average time between user contact request and agency response.
- - Number of customer complaints/suggestions and whether agency actions results
Other Agency Specific Measures
- - Whether agency has Help Desk dedicated to its web site.
- - 24/7 availability measures
- - Minimal user errors in locating pages.
- - Courtesy, helpfulness of user support staff.
- - Increase in number of repeat users per time period.

Performance Goal
Usefulness: How well the web site meets the needs of users
Basic Measures
- - Customer comments plus surveys and focus groups.
- - Degree to which web site information increases user productivity.
- - Degree to which web site information is incorporated into other tasks inside any outside the agency.

Other Agency Specific Measures
- - Cognitive and Usability Evaluation.
- - Measured user satisfaction with:
- - Clarity of homepage, organization of site.
- - Timeliness of web site information.
- - Links to other useful information.
- - Number of referrals from other web sites and sources of referrals.

The above material was largely taken and adapted from a 2001 government study by Charles R. McClure, J. Timothy Sperhe and Kristin Eschenfelder entitled "Performance Measures for Federal Agency Websites" and from J. Timothy Sprehe "Federal Web Sites and Performance Measures", Internet Connection, April 2001.

Compiled and maintained by Rick McKinney, Federal Reserve Board Law Library

Last updated on November 20, 2015

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