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New US Digital Service Looks to Avoid IT Catastrophes

BY Alex Howard | Wednesday, August 13 2014

USDS' Mikey Dickerson at the 2009 MySQL Conference (Photo by Jorge Bernal)

At a time when the public's trust in institutions is at historic lows, the federal government's use of technology has an unusual place in the national discourse. After the first Internet president's administration was responsible for the high-profile failure of Healthcare.gov, the issue seemed ripe to drive significant reform on Capitol Hill. Even if some 10 million adults gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act after "Obama's trauma team" made successful fixes to Healthcare.gov, negative public perception has lingered, and for good reason. Under the radar, other projects have continued to sputter, like a $300 million dollar Social Security government IT boondoggle that still has not delivered a working system for submitting disability claims. The crash of the FCC's dated website under the weight of 1.1 million comments this summer didn't help, either. At the same time, the confidence of the technology community has been damaged by revelations of dragnet surveillance and surreptitious backdoors planted in software. Now, the executive branch has launched two new initiatives aimed squarely at these issues, 18F and the just-announced US Digital Service, Alex Howard reports. Read More

First POST: Unequal Relationships

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, July 11 2014

A rush to legislate new data collection law in the UK is drawing pushback; how the cellphone unlocking movement is a great example of "internet activism"; why journalists should fear Facebook; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Today's Big Disaster

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, February 13 2014

Comcast's bid to buy Time Warner Cable could be a huge disaster for consumers and Internet users in America; the connections between online resistance, state surveillance, and data-driven political targeting; more roundups of The Day We Fight Back; and much, much more. Read More

Sublime to Absurd: The HealthCare.gov Debate, From Procurement Reform to Cats and Jon Stewart

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, October 23 2013

Many commentators in the past few days have criticized the media coverage of Healthcare.gov's launch problems, highlighting what they see as a lack of technical understanding. Meanwhile, the issue has sparked a complex, passionate discussion among some experts on Twitter debating the root of the problems, comparisons with the Obama campaign's Narwhal system, the difference between campaign and government technology, the inherent flaws in the procurement process and how to improve government technology. Three of the key figures in the ongoing Twitter debate, storified below, over the past few days were Clay Johnson, technologist, founder of Blue State Digital and a 2012 Presidential Innovation Fellow, writer and consultant Clay Shirky, and Harper Reed, CTO of Obama's 2012 election campaign. While among them and others the discussion has been a wonky, almost philosophical conversation about the role of technology and government, rooted in their experiences, Rep. Darrell Issa Wednesday opted for a more sensational approach when he decided to cite Johnson's Oct. 7 blog post calling the contractors "sloppy" to create "8 Cats Who Called 1-800-ObamaCare but Still Couldn’t Get Healthcare." Read More

First POST: Drip, Drip

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 11 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: The NSA releases new documents showing it violates its own privacy rules on a daily basis; cryptoparties are springing up again in Germany; gun control supporters are recalled in Colorado; and much, much more. Read More

New Report on NSA's Privacy Violations Fuels Movement for Surveillance Reform

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, August 16 2013

Photo: Jeff Schuler/Flickr

A startling new report published late Thursday evening that reveals for the first time thousands of instances where the National Security Agency overstepped its legal authority by illegally collecting the phone and e-mail communications of U.S. citizens is likely to put privacy and surveillance issues on the front-burner next month when members of Congress return to Washington D.C. from the August recess. Read More

This Week, Congress To Critique Obama On Tech in Government

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, July 8 2013

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director Office of Management and Budget (middle) is in charge of Obama's new management agenda

President Obama on Monday touted his administration's use of technology and data analysis for a more efficient government ahead of a mid-week House hearing that is likely to be critical of his administration's performance. Read More

DATA Act, Promising to Increase Federal Spending Accountability, Rises Again

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, May 17 2013

Rep. Eric Cantor & Rep. Darrell Issa at Data Demonstration Day (Flickr/Majority Leader)

Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif) plans to reintroduce the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act, which aims to open up and standardize the federal government's spending data. The House passed an earlier version of the bill in April of 2012, but it had not moved forward in the Senate. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which Issa chairs, has now posted a discussion draft of a new version of the legislation. The committee will begin marking up the legislation this coming Wednesday, according to Daniel Schuman, policy counsel at the Sunlight Foundation. Read More

Benghazi Becomes #Benghazi as Oversight Committee Streams Hearing Online

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, May 8 2013

The House Oversight Committee is streaming its Wednesday proceedings live as committee members hear testimony from State Department personnel concerning the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks. The hearing is being broadcast live over YouTube and, as of this writing, has more than 2,800 simultaneous viewers. Read More

Redditors Suspicious Of Congressman Issa's No New Internet Regs Proposal

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, November 29 2012

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)'s Legislative Director Laurent Crenshaw and Issa at a PDF cocktail party this June

Several Redditors reacted skeptically Wednesday to California House Republican Darrell Issa's town-hall visit to the online forum advocating a new bill that would put a two-year moratorium on new Internet regulations. Read More

News Briefs

RSS Feed tuesday >

First POST: Company

The global "Snowden effect" is huge; how many consumer-facing online services fail the user privacy test; the Dems' 2016 digital to-do list; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Mood Slime

The Sony email leak reveals the MPAA's campaign against Google; how Uber is lobbying in local markets; mapping the #MillionsMarchNYC; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Cloudy

What the Internet is not; new analysis of public opinion on net neutrality; how cloud backup apparently foiled a police coverup; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Records

Is the future of citizen journalism vigilantism?; one tech mogul's vocal support for CIA torture; a cri de couer from the founder of the Pirate Bay; and much, much more. GO

Web Index Sees Impact of Net Neutrality, Surveillance and Copyright Laws

Denmark, Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom and Sweden have come out on top of the Web Index, a ranking of the Web Foundation measuring the economic, social and political benefit that countries gain from the web. The United States is at number six. For the authors of the report accompanying the index, the results reflect how inequality has an impact on access to the web. "Nordic policy-makers have been quick to adopt and promote the free Internet - and open access to information - as a 21st century public good," the report states. " Others, as this year's findings show, need to move fast to catch up." The report attributes the Scandinavian countries' advantage to the countries' broader efforts to invest in public goods and establish a welfare and acting against " excess concentrations of wealth and power." With the lower inequality in those countries than in others, "the skills, means and freedoms to benefit from new technologies are widespread, which helps to explain why Scandinavian countries score highly on the political, social and economic impact of the Web GO

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