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First POST: Collections

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, January 13 2014

The collection of phone meta-data would not have stopped any terrorist attacks since 9-11, says a New America Foundation study; Christie's aides are hardly the only political hacks using personal email to avoid public records laws; Matthew Burton explains how the CFPB's experience can help other govies make better web products; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Contained Fury

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, October 30 2013

Members of the House Intelligence Committee disagree about whether the NSA has kept them fully informed; Sen. Rand Paul a serial plagiarizer?; An antidote to technolibertarianism; and much, much more. Read More

9 Things You Should Know Before Debating HealthCare.gov, From Someone Who Actually Launched a Successful Government Website

BY Merici Vinton | Thursday, October 24 2013

Screenshot of ConsumerFinance.gov

Editor's note: Merici Vinton was one of the first employees of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as digital lead. She assisted the agency's chief technology officer Eugene Huang and its special advisor (and now Senator) Elizabeth Warren with the development of its technology and digital strategy. She oversaw the successful launch of ConsumerFinance.gov and recruited most of the original technology and digital team. She left CFPB in June 2012. About twelve percent of the agency's staff are part of its tech team.

Over the summer of 2010, I had coffee with Eugene Huang. Eugene worked in the White House as a Senior Advisor to the US CTO and had been recently appointed as the acting CTO at a new federal agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He asked me: What would you do if you had the opportunity to make digital and tech work in government?

My response was threefold: 1. Never build a website that's too big to fail; instead, start small. 2. Let's do open source when possible (preferably always). 3. Let's have in house strategy, design, and tech. None of this was particularly revolutionary in the private sector, however many government agencies at that time (and currently) outsource their technical capabilities to the point where the vision and strategy is out of house. Not only that, fixing a typo on a website can take 24 hours. My conversation with Eugene laid the foundation for what became our technology and digital team, as well as approach to digital services. Here's how we did it.

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The CFPB's Search For Better Data On Consumer Complaints

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, April 26 2013

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working on a pilot project to better contextualize the data it publishes on consumer complaints about credit cards, said Scott Pluta, the CFPB's assistant director for the office of consumer response, in an interview Thursday. Read More

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Announces New Tech Fellowship Program

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, May 1 2012

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced today that it is looking to bring on 30 designers and developers as part of a new, two-year fellowship program. A federal bureau that began operations just last year, CFPB staffers are building an agency from the ground up, without either the infrastructure support or the dated precedent of older agencies. To do that in the 21st century, CFPB officials told me, they want technology talent on hand to work across the entire organization. "We're in a unique position because of our size and newness that we can put in place a foundation that will last," CFPB Chief Information Officer Chris Willey told me today. Read More

For CFPB, "Open" Also Means "On GitHub"

BY Nick Judd | Monday, April 9 2012

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced that from here on out, if it contracts with a third party to build software, that code will be shared with the public at no charge.

In a blog post on April 6, the CFPB's Matthew Burton announced that the agency will also use open source software and release its own software products as open source. Code that might expose "sensitive deals that would put the Bureau at risk for security breaches" is excluded, but otherwise, Burton points us to CFPB's GitHub repository for a soon-to-be-growing list of code coming out of the nascent federal entity.

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Citizens, Lend CFPB Your Design Chops

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, May 18 2011

Over at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that agency-in-the-works headed up by Elizabeth Warren, they're rolling out a especially creative approach to citizen feedback. Over on ConsumerFinance.gov, they're ... 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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