In the course of my online travels tonight, I discovered that part of the Scottish Parliament’s web site had been hacked:


It’s hardly a security crisis for the Parliament’s webcasting functions to go offline for a little bit. But I do think that these kinds of security breaches are more troubling for their potential impact on the trust that participants must have in the security of online consultation systems.

Without that trust it will be very difficult to elicit participation on topics where participant anonymity matters. Considering that the capacity for true anonymity can in some cases be essential for the integrity of a process — think about the UK’s consultation a few years ago on domestic violence, as discussed in Sarah Pearce’s 2001 (pdf) paper — it’s crucial to put the security of consultation systems on the same level as the security of any government database.