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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

News Briefs

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In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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