Terms of Use & Privacy

This site is a place where people can discuss important policy issues and exchange information in a thoughtful and productive way. To keep the discussion inclusive, useful and civil, anyone who registers as a participant must agree to the Site Use Guidelines.

SmartParticipation is part of a Cornell University research project on using Web 2.0 to help people have meaningful, informative and deliberative discussions of important issues. The Description of Research tells you about this research, and the Privacy Notice explains how Cornell researchers could use information you post on the site. Before you can register as a participant, federal law requires us to get your Consent to be part of this research.


By registering as a participant, you agree to all of the following:

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

3. You will not use the site to solicit money or to promote commercial products or services

4. 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.

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


What is this research about? This site is part of a multi-year study of how the Internet and other new technologies can help people have informed and thoughtful discussions of important issues.

Who is doing this research? The research is run by CeRI (Cornell eRulemaking Initiative). CeRI is a 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.

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

  2. To register, you must pick a username and password. And you must consent to be a part of the research by agreeing to the site Terms of Use.

    CeRI will email you to confirm your registration. CeRI may use your email to let you know things such as: when someone has replied to one of your comments; when the time for the discussion is running out; or when something new happens on the site. CeRI may also ask you to fill out surveys that help with the research.

    CeRI will not share your email address with anyone. CeRI will not use your email address for any reason that is not directly related to the research. (For more details about how your personal information will be protected, see Privacy Notice.) You can opt out of receiving emails from CeRI.

  3. If you chose to register, you’ll have the option of providing information about yourself on your Profile page. Information you put in your Profile will be visible to anyone who sees the site.

    You do not have to include this information.

  4. After registering, you’ll have the option of joining the discussion by making comments, 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.

  5. If you do want to comment or reply to or endorse someone else’s comment, CeRI 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. CeRI may report answers to these questions to government decisionmakers, use them in research, and refer to them in articles or talks about results. CeRI will not use your answers in a way that makes them personally identifiable.

    Any comments, replies or endorsements you choose to make on the site are public information, visible to anyone viewing the site. (For more information, see Privacy Notice.)

  6. 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 to help people make clear and informative comments—not to make a judgment about, or take a position on, what you say. You can learn more about moderation here at our FAQ page. You do not have to respond to the moderators or follow their suggestions.

  7. You will also have the option of looking at educational material about NYC congestion.

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

  8. After the discussion is over, what participants said will be compiled into a report. The report will be transmitted to city, borough, and state officials, as well as to advisory groups who provide input into transportation policy. The actual discussion will remain available online.
  9. CeRI may also ask you to fill out one or more survey(s) to help researchers learn how to reach a broad range of participants and how to make the site as easy to use and informative as possible for everyone.

    You do not have to take these surveys. CeRI may report survey answers to government decisionmakers, use them in our research,and refer to them in articles or presentations. If we do this, CeRI 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? No. If you decide not to participate in this research, it will not affect your current or future relationship 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, it can be seen by anyone viewing the site. We anticipate that this risk is not greater then everyday use of the internet. We will attempt to monitor the site and remove highly sensitive information such as a home address or telephone number, 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 visible information to anyone viewing the site.

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 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 this information, 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, CeRI will email you to confirm. As federal law requires, Cornell 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, September 25, 2013, November 17, 2014 and October 19, 2015.
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.