A Letter from Director of the Federal Register on Electronic Documents
We are pleased to announce that the Office of the Federal Register will soon launch an electronic public inspection desk at www.federalregister.gov. This service will deliver important regulatory information to the public, reaching a much larger audience than our current paper-based public inspection system.
As we prepare for the soft launch of our online public inspection, we are issuing this bulletin to raise awareness of important issues related to the new public inspection desk. These issues include hidden data in your electronic documents, Sunshine Act notices submitted in a paper-only format, and various other technical issues that may delay publication of your document.
HIDDEN DATA IN ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTS
As our production system becomes progressively more electronic, it becomes increasingly important to assure that electronic documents convey only the intended data to the end user. Normally electronic documents convey the printed information on the document's face, as well as imbedded metadata concerning prior versions of the document and the document's authors, among other information. Those with even a limited knowledge of technology can easily access this sensitive and often confidential data unless precautions are taken.
As our inauguration of the Federal Register online public inspection desk approaches, all federal agencies must be prepared for their documents to be displayed for public inspection via the Internet. Your agency must take any necessary precautions regarding metadata in its Federal Register documents. The Office of the Federal Register will not erase any hidden data or "scrub" your documents before they are displayed online for public inspection. Your agency is responsible for any underlying metadata in the document before and after it arrives at the Office of the Federal Register. Please speak with your Information Technology department for more information about precautions that may be needed to protect metadata.
Also, when you submit a document to the Office of the Federal Register for publication electronically, please be sure that the document does not have any comments or remaining "tracked" changes left in it from the agency editing process. We will not accept documents with comments or remaining tracked changes for publication.
SUNSHINE ACT NOTICES IN MANUSCRIPT-ONLY FORMATS
On November 1, 2007, we sent a letter to all our federal agency partners announcing our new policy regarding paper-only submissions. Under this policy paper-only submissions now qualify as technical impediments under 1 CFR 17.7, and will be processed under the deferred publication schedule. Conforming documents - submitted in paper with a certified copy on disk or sent as a digitally signed document - will continue to be published on the regular three-day schedule.
This letter serves as general notice to agencies that Sunshine Act notices submitted to this office in paper-only form also qualify as technical impediments under 1 CFR 17.7 and will be placed on a deferred public inspection and publication schedule. This means that a Sunshine Act notice submitted in paper-only form will not be placed on immediate public inspection. The document will be placed on public inspection only after it has been keyed into an electronic file and that file has been received, processed and assigned a publication date.
Sunshine Act notices, submitted in paper with a certified copy on disk or sent as a digitally signed document, will continue to be processed for public inspection and publication as stated in 1 CFR 17.2(c).
REVIEW OF TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS
When preparing your electronic files for submission there are several items that may cause technical impediments which could delay publication of your document. In order to ensure prompt processing of your electronic file, be sure to:
- Submit only one file per disk.
- If your document contains graphics, appendices, or annexes - include them in the document where they should appear in print. Do not send them as separate files in addition to your text.
- Do not submit a "read only" file.
- When drafting your document do not use the automatic formatting features of your word-processing program.
- Accept all tracked changes before submitting the electronic file.
- Assure there are no comments in the file before submitting the electronic file.
- Take the necessary precautions regarding the metadata before submitting the file.
- If you submit a fully coded SGML document the file extension should be .txt (not .xml).
We are extremely excited about our new electronic public inspection desk and look forward to hearing from you with any feedback. For technical questions related to this bulletin, contact our Technical Services Staff at 202-741-6020.
Raymond A. Mosley
Director of the Federal Register