Terms of Use & Privacy

This site is a place where people can learn about and discuss important policy proposals in a way that gives government decisionmakers valuable public input. To keep the discussion open, useful and civil, anyone who registers as a user must agree to the Site Use Guidelines.

Discussion on the site is part of real government decisionmaking processes (see FAQs). At the same time, the site is part of a Cornell University research project on using Web 2.0 to help people participate effectively in public policy processes. The Description of Research tells you about this research, and the Privacy Notice explains how we use information you post on the site. Before you can register as a user, federal law requires us to get your Consent to be part of this research.


By registering as a user, you agree that

  1. You are responsible for whatever you post
  2. You will not post anything (including images) that
    • libels or defames someone or violates their right to privacy
    • is obscene or otherwise inappropriate in context
    • degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, or disability
    • is abusive or intimidating
    • infringes someone’s copyright, trademark or other intellectual property
  1. You will not use the site to solicit money or to promote commercial products or services
  2. You will not try to interrupt the operation of the site, interfere with anyone else’s use of the site, or use information on the site without getting permission first

We will edit or remove content that, in our judgment, violates any of these Guidelines. You could be banned from using the site if you do not follow the Guidelines or if, in our judgment, you violate someone else’s rights in any other way.


What is this research about? This site and its sister sites are part of a multi-year study of how the Internet and other new technologies can help people understand and participate effectively in important government policy decisions. We are also studying how to help governments use public input to make better decisions. For more details, see Research and Publications.

Who is doing this research? The project is run by CeRI (Cornell eRulemaking Initiative). CeRI is a research group of Cornell University faculty and students from computing and information science, communications, law, and conflict resolution. Learn more about the researchers here.

What will I be asked to do if I agree to be part of this research?

1. If you want to post comments on the site or endorse other people’s comments, you must register as a user. If you just want to follow the discussion, you don’t have to register.

We may monitor use of the site to see how often people come to this site and which pages they look at. We may report this information in the aggregate (that is, for a group of people but not separately for any specific person).

2. If you choose to register, you must pick a username and password and give us a working email address. And you must consent to be a part of the research.

We may also email you to let you know things such as: when someone has replied to one of your comments; when there’s been some new development about the government’s proposal; when the time for making comments is running out; or when the government has announced a decision. We may also ask you to fill out surveys that help with the research. We may email you when new discussions open on the site.

We will not give out your email address to anyone and we will not use it for any reason that is not directly related to the research. (For more details about how we protect your personal information, see Privacy Notice.) You can opt out of receiving emails from us.

3. After registering, you’ll have the option of making comments about what the government is proposing to do, replying to what other people are saying, or endorsing other people’s comments.

You do not have to do any of these things; you can just follow the discussion.

4. If you do want to comment or reply to or endorse someone else’s comment, we will ask you a few questions about your experience and your interest in this policy discussion.

You must answer these questions in order to comment, reply or endorse. We may report answers to these questions to government decisionmakers, use them in our research, and refer to them in articles or talks about our results. If we do this, we will not make your answers personally identifiable by revealing your email address or any information from your profile that you have not opted to make public.

Any comments, replies or endorsements you choose to make on the site are public information, visible to everyone. (For more information about what might be done with this material, see Privacy Notice.)

5. Moderators may respond to your comments with questions or suggestions designed to help you participate in the most effective way possible.

CeRI moderators are trained to be neutral and objective. Their job is help people make clear and informative comments, whether someone is for or against the government’s proposal. You can learn more about moderation here at our FAQ page. You do not have to respond to the moderators or follow their suggestions.

6. You will also have the option of looking at educational materials about government decision making processes and how to write an effective comment.

You do not have to look at the educational materials. We may monitor use of the site to see whether you looked at the educational materials or other materials on the site. We may report this information in the aggregate (that is, for a group of people but not separately for any specific person).

7. At the end of the discussion period, we may write a summary of all the comments. If we do, we will let you know and give you a chance to check the summary to be sure it's accurate and complete.

You do not have to check the summary.

8. We may also ask you to fill out one or more survey(s) to help us learn how to reach a broad range of people and how to make the site as easy to use and informative as possible for everyone.

You do not have to take these surveys. We may report survey answers to government decisionmakers, use them in our research, and refer to them in articles or talks about our results. If we do this, we will not make your answers personally identifiable by revealing email address or any information from your profile that you have not opted to make public.

Do I have to participate in this research? You may follow the discussion without participating in the research.

To make comments or reply to or endorse other people’s comments on this site, you must complete the registration process, including consent to participate in the research. But if you want to comment on the government’s proposal without participating in the research, you can send your comments to the government directly; we will give you information on how to do this if you contact us.

If you decide not to participate in this research, it will not affect your current or future relationship with the government or with Cornell University.

What are the risks of participating in this research? Using the site and participating in the research does not require that you make public any sensitive or identifiable personal information. But if you choose to include this kind of information in your comments, there is a risk that someone who visits the site could discover it and use it in a way that harms you or makes you uncomfortable. We will attempt to monitor the site and remove highly sensitive information such as a social security numbers or home addresses, but we strongly urge you not to reveal such information.

What are the benefits of participating in this research? The goal of the research is to improve communication between government decisionmakers and the public on important policy issues. If you are interested in more democratic and higher quality laws and public policies, you may benefit from participating in this research.

Will I be paid to participate in this research? No. We may offer you an incentive (e.g., chance at winning a gift card) to complete one or more survey(s).

Can I stop participating in this research whenever I want? Yes. You can stop using the site at any time. If you wish, you can contact us and we will delete your user account.


Comments, replies, and endorsements that you make on the site are public information. This means that

  1. Anyone who visits the site can see this material
  2. We may provide it to government decisionmakers, analyze it and include it in articles, talks, etc. about the research project, or make it available as part of a dataset for use by other researchers
  3. We may summarize this material
  4. The material or the summary may become part of the formal public record in the government decision process or be referred to by government decisionmakers when they explain their decision

We will not reveal to anyone (including government decisionmakers or other researchers) any information that makes it possible to identify you individually (e.g., email address) unless you have included this information in one of your comments or given us written permission.

If you have questions

About the site or the research program it is part of: Contact Mary Newhart, Executive Director, CeRI, mjn3@cornell.edu, 607-255-3660

About your rights as a participant in this study: Contact the Cornell University Institutional Review Board (IRB) at 607-255-5138 or visit their website at http://www.irb.cornell.edu/

If you want to be anonymous, report your concerns or complaints through the Ethicspoint website or by calling toll free at 1-866-293-3077. Ethicspoint is an independent organization that allows people to make an anonymous complaint to the University.


I have read the information on this page, and I am at least 18 years of age.

By completing the Registration process, I agree to these Terms and Conditions, and I consent to participate in the research of which this site is a part.

Once you have completed registration, we will email you a confirmation. As federal law requires, we will keep a record of your consent for at least 3 years after the research is over.

The information on this page was approved by the IRB on September 30, 2009. Revisions were approved on February 19, 2010, April 12 2010, February 16, 2011, August 18, 2011, February 28, 2013 and September 25, 2013.
Cornell University reserves the right to revise these Terms and Conditions at any time by updating this page. If you continue to use the site, you are agreeing to comply with any revisions, so you should visit this page from time to time.