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The White House Gets Friendly With Hackers

Thursday, 21 Feb 2013 | 12:36 PM ET
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The White House is taking a cue from Silicon Valley and adopting what Mark Zuckerberg calls the "hacker way."

Given the recent string of hacking attacks, it's easy to associate hacking in a negative context, but the government is tapping into the hacking culture to build a better platform for its "We the People" petition platform.

(Read More: US Is Developing Aggressive Penalties for Cybertheft )

On Friday, the government is hosting the first White House Open Data Day Hackathon, where a small number of developers, also known as hackers, will show off what they created using a new application programming interface (API) that allows them to mine the data of the "We the People" petition platform.

(Read More: Hack Days: Not Just for Facebookers )

The "We the People" project, which has been around since September 2011, is a website that allows citizens to create and sign petitions. If a petition receives a certain number of signatures, the White House will issue a response. A new API based version of "We the People" is set to launch in March, but a few developers got a sneak peak of the API and were given the chance to create tools, visualizations and other services using the API.

Hackathons, or crash coding sessions, have long been a way for those in Silicon Valley to build new software products quickly.

Many tech companies, including Facebook, have used the software jam sessions to crank out ideas for new products. Facebook's chat feature as well as the "Like" button were created in a company sponsored hackathon.

(Read More: Inside Facebook Headquarters )

While we don't know yet exactly what software products will be shown off Friday, we do know that the new API will give developers access to user data from all the petitions to use for building new products and services.

Basically, the API version of the platform — once fully rolled out — will allow developers gather petition data and make it possible for organizations to host petitions and get signatures on their own websites, instead of sending people to the White House's official "We the People" website.

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