How transparent is too transparent? In an attempt to make it easier for ordinary people to see what their governments are spending their money on, more entities -- from city to federal -- are putting this information online, noting that it's a public record. But some government workers are uncomfortable about having their names and salaries posted online.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus package, states are required to set up websites in a specific format to explain to citizens how the money was spent.
Beyond that, however, a number of other states are going further, putting information ranging from transit projects to water projects to actual checkbooks online. (A number of so-called transparency sites, such as New York and the District of Columbia, cover only contracts, however.)
Most such sites are sponsored and updated by local governments. For example, Georgia puts full names, titles, agencies, salaries, and travel expenses online, via the state.
In Idaho, a nonprofit organization is supposed to be setting up such a site next month (ouridaho.com, currently password-protected), and it obtained information from local governments by publicizing ones that did not cooperate.
Some states have said such transparency websites cost too much, which watchdog organizations such as the Sunshine Review have denied.
Other governments have been uneasy about the notion of posting such information online, even when the law is that such information is declared to be part of the public record. In Maine, where another nonprofit organization put government employees' salaries online, a bill was proposed to help protect workers' privacy, though the bill died.
Ironically, neither the Maine nor the Idaho nonprofit sites specify who is funding them.