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Minnesota Announces Civic Tech Legislation

BY Sam Roudman | Friday, March 7 2014

Can civic innovation be managed statewide? A bill in Minnesota is betting yes. It is looking to grab some of the state's $1.2 billion surplus to fund open data, open government, and civic technology. Openminnesota.org, a site set up to promote and explain the bill, says the following: "Open Minnesota will build an engine for public open data use, civic technology creation engaging start-up companies and technology volunteers, and help hundreds more government units get cost-effectively connected to the best global open government lessons for local adaptation." Read More

First POST: Dorian Mode

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, March 7 2014

Did Newsweek identify the wrong man as the inventor of Bitcoin?; defending Julian Assange from his critics; drone hobbyists get reason to rejoice; and much, much more. Read More

What We Really (Should) Talk About When We Talk About Big Data

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, March 7 2014

Corporations don't need census data to guess your race & use it against you (Wikipedia)

Discrimination. Redlining. Racial profiling. These practices predate the Internet, and yet there is every indication that technology can enable infringements on civil rights to an even greater extent than before. Last week, in an effort to put civil rights at the forefront of the ongoing debate about digital privacy and security, a coalition of civil and human rights organizations jointly released “Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data,” five tenets to guide policy-making.

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First POST: Don't Spill Anything

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 6 2014

More on why the CIA may have snooped on Senate staffers; StopFake.org is trying expose misinformation about Ukraine; Twitter users have a laugh on British PM David Cameron; and much, much more. Read More

Now You Can See Who Really Pays NYC Property Taxes

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, March 5 2014

Property tax revenue makes up around a quarter of New York City's budget, but until now broader information about it has not been easily accessible. Users could only look up individual properties by entering lot and block information into a basic online form on a city website, and would have had to cross-reference that information with a building's address and other sources, explained Chris Whong, co-organizer of New York City's Code for America brigade betaNYC. "This data is much more powerful in the aggregate," he said. That's why, as part of last week's Code Across NYC hackathon, he along with several collaborators worked to develop an online platform "born out of curiosity" that maps New York City property data. Read More

WeGov

Facebook's Got A Finger in India's Political Pie

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, March 5 2014

Screenshot of Facebook's election tracker

Facebook is an increasingly active political force in India. The company launched their Indian election tracker Tuesday to coincide with the first Facebook Talks Live digital broadcast, “Town Hall” style conversations in which 2014 candidates field questions submitted by Facebook users. These projects build on the get-out-the-vote collaboration between the Times of India and Facebook, which was announced in September.

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Civic Crowdfunding Looks to Bigger Projects with Phased Campaigns

BY Sam Roudman | Wednesday, March 5 2014

Civic crowdfunding dreamed big but started small. The platform Neighbor.ly grabbed attention for a 2012 campaign to help fund a multi-million dollar rail car in Kansas City, but only raised $3,775 of its $10 million goal. The early campaigns of both Neighbor.ly and Citizinvestor that were actually successful reached for modest goals, usually less than $15,000. A look at the campaign pages of either platform today shows larger projects, in the tens or hundreds of thousands, creeping in as well. Civic crowdfunding is growing. To facilitate and attract more large projects Citizinvestor this week announced a plan to crowdfund projects in phases. Read More

WeGov

YanukovychLeaks.org Exposes a Corrupt and Violent Regime

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, March 5 2014

Picture courtesy of Fundacja ePaństwo

Thousands of documents float and sink in a remote reservoir not far from a grand 345-acre estate contained within a sprawling wrought iron fence. As evocative as it may seem, this not the beginning of a spy thriller, but of Yanukovych Leaks, an online portal where the leaks have been uploaded by investigative journalists who say the extravagance detailed in those papers may prove ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's depth of corruption. Read More

WeGov

Surveillance in the Overlooked Corners of Africa

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, March 4 2014

Screenshot of Appelbaum and Marques

In the video below, filmed during the Oslo Freedom Forum in May 2013, Jacob Appelbaum breaks it to Rafael Marques, an Angolan investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist, that his laptop is being surveilled through a crude backdoor in spite of the fact that he is using Tor. He opens up a file where they can see all the images that have been stored and are waiting to be collected by the hackers. Appelbaum tells an understandably concerned Marques: “Every computer that's targeted is compromisable,”

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WeGov

Can the Internet Help Build Democracy in Tunisia?

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, March 4 2014

The website of the NGO I WATCH (screenshot)

As January 26, 2014 approached, the day Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly would vote on passing a Constitution that had been snarled in debate for two years, rather than feel relief, activist Achref Aouadi tells techPresident he had grown dismayed after his failed attempts to create an online platform that would allow Tunisian citizens to debate, discuss and vote on the provisions of the draft Constitution. A day before the vote, he had not yet found a viable platform nor the funds for a developer. A crucial opportunity would be lost for stirring civic participation, which he sees as a vital step in the building of Tunisia’s democracy. Then, an online search turned the tide in Aouadi’s favor. Read More

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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