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ACASignups.net's Charles Gaba: Not Nate Silver, Just a Guy with a Spreadsheet

BY Miranda Neubauer | Sunday, April 6 2014

A Michigan web developer named Charles Gaba, an active member of the DailyKos.com Democratic blogging hub, has built the go-to site for data about Obamacare's progress. Now the DailyKos community is thanking him for his efforts, raising $59,000 on ActBlue to compensate him for his volunteer efforts. Read More

WeGov

What Does Privacy Have to Do with Open Government?

BY Christopher Wilson | Friday, April 4 2014

Activist Aruna Roy raised questions about privacy in open government at last year's OGP Summit (Joe Athialy/flickr)

The answer to that question might not be obvious. Privacy is something we tend to associate with people and personal information, while open government is presumably about making government data and processes transparent for more accountability (see Open Knowledge Foundation’s distinction between Open Data and My Data). But it’s a question that’s getting asked, as privacy and surveillance are increasingly prominent concerns in a post-Snowden world. It’s also an issue that commanded the attention of the open government community at last year’s OGP Summit. Since then, though, there’s been relatively little discussion or progress made to understand the relationship between privacy and open government. As the open government community convenes regional meetings this spring, it’s important to take stock of how open data and data sharing are de-facto drawing boundaries around these norms, and take clear steps towards building privacy into the open government mandate.

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WeGov

#StopSurveillanceinKS: A Draft Law in Kosovo Proposes Dragnet Surveillance à la NSA

BY Sonia Roubini | Thursday, April 3 2014

The Republic of Kosovo may soon join the list of countries with a government-led mass surveillance program. Kosovo’s Ministry of EU Integration is bringing the first draft of a surveillance law before Parliament tomorrow. The draft law proposes sweeping data collection and retention measures that could affect a set of Kosovo citizens loosely defined as "one or more persons identified in a lawful authorization and whose incoming or outgoing communications are to be intercepted and monitored." Read More

WeGov

How the State Department Plans to Make Humanitarian Crowdmapping Mainstream

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, April 3 2014

Progress on the mapping of Nimule, South Sudan

The U.S. Department of State has more than 859,000 Twitter followers and more than 518,000 likes on Facebook, and they want to mobilize those million plus followers for the benefit of humanitarian causes around the world.

In early March the State Department launched MapGive, a campaign to educate the masses about crowdmapping: why it is important and how one can help. MapGive, a collaboration between the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) and the Office of Innovative Engagement (OIE), is one of several projects in the third round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program designed to harness the power of crowdsourcing to improve government.

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WeGov

European Parliament Adopts Law to Keep Internet Open

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, April 3 2014

Is all Internet traffic created equal? The European Parliament thinks so, voting on Thursday to adopt a law on net neutrality, which would make it harder for Internet service providers (ISPs) to discriminate against certain types of Internet traffic based on the source. Read More

At 18F, The U.S. Looks to Fail Fast on Government IT Projects Instead of Failing Big

BY Alex Howard | Thursday, April 3 2014

The state of govt IT today: Long lines in Columbia, SC waiting to sign-up for HealthCare.gov

Can a new small office inside the General Services Administration start to revolutionize how the U.S. government does information technology? That's the premise behind 18F. Longtime open government observer Alex Howard offers this in-depth report. Read More

WeGov

Open Data Gives New Lease of Life for Civil Society in the South Caucasus

BY Onnik James Krikorian | Thursday, April 3 2014

Eric Barrett, Executive Director of Jumpstart Georgia at the Central Open Data Hackathon in Warsaw (Onnik James Krikorian)

Two weeks ago, on March 21, 2014, the Georgian chapter of leading international anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International called on the country’s citizens to turn off their mobile phones for one hour to protest government surveillance. The action came in the wake of revelations that the previous authorities were intercepting phone calls, text messages, and internet traffic on a systematic basis. The European Union calls the situation that still exists today under a new government, "a jungle of misuse of the possibilities of technology to record almost everything." Yet, despite concerns regarding the amount of data collected on citizens in the former Soviet republic, large online databases of government information might actually be giving the media and civil society in Georgia a new lease of life in fighting corruption and engaging citizens. Read More

WeGov

One Messaging App, Internet Optional. And Hold The Censorship, Please.

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, April 2 2014

meliesthebunny/flickr

Since its launch less than two weeks ago, FireChat has been called a SnapChat and Whisper hybrid or something between SnapChat and Chatroulette. Even more astounding, in Taiwan—where FireChat toppled reigning messaging app Line from its place as number one social networking app in the App Store—thousands of participants in the Sunflower Movement have been encouraged to download the app as a means of communication during protests against a controversial trade agreement with mainland China. Bonus: FireChat is also facilitating unmediated conversations between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese users.

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WeGov

Digital Diplomacy: Russian and Ukrainian Cartographers Find Common Ground On OpenStreetMap

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, April 2 2014

Screenshot of the contentious bit of land as seen in OpenStreetMap 4/2/14

Russia “officially” annexed Crimea from Ukraine on March 21, but is Crimea really Russian now? That depends, in part, on whose map you look at. Crowdsourced sites, like Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap, have struggled alongside geography establishments to come to a consensus, even if that consensus is, for now, to do nothing.

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#PDF14 preview: An Interview with Jake Brewer

BY Sonia Roubini | Wednesday, April 2 2014

The next in our series of #PDF14 speaker previews is Jake Brewer. Jake leads the External Affairs Team at Change.org and describes himself as someone who has spent the past decade being “generally obsessed with solving social problems at scale”, particularly the problem of making citizen’s voices heard in government. Jake will speak on the main stage of #PDF14. 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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