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First POST: Openly Closed

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, March 17 2014

It's Sunshine Week, and the US government is less transparent, says AP; secret-sharing apps like Whisper and Secret are dangerous, says Austin Hill; and taking pictures of people in public now requires their permission, says Hungary; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

The Fight for Democracy in Ukraine: A Conversation with Center UA's Svitlana Zalischuk

BY Micah L. Sifry | Sunday, March 16 2014

Svitlana Zalischuk speaking at PDF PL-CEE 2014, Warsaw (Photo: Onnik James Krikorian)

One of the highlights of this year's Personal Democracy Forum Poland-Central/Eastern Europe (PDF-PLCEE) conference last Thursday and Friday in Warsaw was the talk by Szitlana Zalischuk, the founder of Ukraine's Center UA civic group. "Democracy is weak," she warned the 300-plus attendees, who had come from 25 countries around the world to learn from each other about the potential of technology to enable positive social change. The "EuroMaidan" movement may have forced Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych out of office, but it was far from clear that non-violent civic activism was going to win the day in the face of an invasion of Crimea and more not-so-veiled threats of force from Russia. Like many other PDF-PLCEE attendees from the region, Zalischuk was both electrified by the victory of the EuroMaidan protest movement and deeply worried about the future. On Saturday, the day after PDF-PLCEE ended, we sat down together during an open data hackathon held in a conference room in Warsaw's new soccer stadium. Our interview, which took place in three parts, is embedded below. Read More

WeGov

Amidst General Distrust of Politics, the Socialist Party of Catalonia Takes Babysteps Towards Transparency

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, January 15 2014

A screenshot of the homepage of the website Espai Obert ("Open Space" in Catalan language)

The Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) has launched a transparency portal, dubbing itself “the first open party of Barcelona.” This is part of an effort to renew the organization and perception of the party in a context of profound distrust toward politics in the whole country, after several big corruption scandals that involved the Prime Minister and, lately, also the Spanish Royal Family. Will the new website be enough? Read More

WeGov

At "Peak Open," Open Government Partnership Faces Default States of Closed

BY Alex Howard | Wednesday, November 6 2013

Incoming civil society chair of the OGP, Rakesh Rajani, far left (Photo: Alex Howard)

With the second annual Open Government Partnership summit now concluded, one longtime observer of the "open government" movement, Alex Howard, offers his overview of its achievements, shortcomings and challenges ahead. Read More

WeGov

Denmark to Close Down on Openness in Government Administration

BY Jon Lund | Wednesday, April 24 2013

Copenhagen (credit: JamesZ_/Flickr)

A clear majority of Danish parliamentarians supports the new Freedom of Information Act, which would increase the right of government to keep internal documents and correspondence between members of the legislative and executive branches of government secret from the public. The law could prevent the media from exposing political scandals. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and it is the civil servant culture. Read More

Hamburg’s New Transparency Law – Lessons for Activists

BY David Eaves | Friday, June 29 2012

David Eaves: "Two weeks ago, the State Government of Hamburg passed a new law that required all government information not impacted by privacy issues to be posted online. The law is part of a next generation of access to information laws — like the one passed in Brazil — that requires government information to be disclosed and made available online in a machine readable format. As Christian Humborg, one of the key activists behind the law, said: “An Adobe PDF document is no longer sufficient.” I asked him what activists around the world could learn from victory for Hamburg's transparency advocates. What follows is a summary of our conversation." Read More

WeGov

Brazil's Open-Government Shock Treatment

BY Greg Michener | Wednesday, June 27 2012

Officials in Brazil's government have had a transparency shock treatment in the past year. Photo: Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz

Countries arrive at more transparency and greater freedom of information either through long training or sudden shock treatment.

The U.S. experience, with decades of incremental law and legal precedent, is synonymous with the archetypical training regime. Brazil, on the other hand, is undergoing the epitome of shock treatment. In one month, May 2012, Brazil formally launched an ambitious freedom of information law that outlines a "right to information" – replete with provisions for the release of information in open, computer-readable formats – and, at around the same time, a new open-data portal. For added shock, the Brazilian government inaugurated a second new fundamental right, the "right to historical truth." This right is embodied by the newly established Truth Commission, whose aim it is to reconcile abuses from the military dictatorship that controlled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Brazil also currently occupies the co-chair of the Open Government Partnership. In short, Brazil is in the midst of a massive transparency offensive and there are positive signs that it is moving in the right direction.

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In California, Progress On a Bill to Open Government Records

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, May 24 2012

Legislation that would require all California government agencies to make public records available in an "open" format moved forward on Thursday after activists rallied to persuade the state's Senate Appropriations Committee that the requirement would not burden those agencies with millions of dollars in new obligations. The legislation calls for government agencies to save documents in a searchable format. The legislation defines "open data" as a document that can be located and downloaded by open source software, public internet applications like Google Docs, or both. The legislation also says that agencies have to make relevant databases available to the public with the "relationships and mappings" intact, and that they have to be functionally operable. Read More

Public Authority Puts Thousands of Freedom of Information Requests Online

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, April 30 2012

Under a new freedom of information code for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that was set to go into effect April 15, the public authority has released 22,000 pages of documents on the Internet — including every response to a Freedom of Information Act request received in 2011.

Transparency activist John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, says this is "great and stupid at the same time."

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Is It Time for Transparency in Spain?

BY Antonella Napolitano | Monday, April 2 2012

Image: h de c / Flickr

The right-leaning government of Spain is working on the creation of a new transparency and information access law, for the first time in the history of the country. In the expectation that Spain will adopt the new law soon, two open government NGOs recently launched a new site, Tuderechoasaber.es (Your Right to Know). The site helps citizens find the right body to address a freedom of information request. 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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