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First POST: Mixed Blessings

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, December 5 2012

From techPresident:

  • Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: State health insurance exchanges, provided for in the now-certainly-going-to-stay-law Affordable Care Act, ask states to build websites that are intuitive, efficient, and work at scale — three things government websites have not historically been known to do. While some state administrations drag their feet on making a decision and other governors make a show of opting not to build an exchange, leaning instead on the federal government to provide one, a small number of states are plunging ahead. For Personal Democracy Plus subscribers, Bailey McCann explains the technical challenge those states face and what their officials have to say to their peers who haven't decided what to do about exchanges.

  • Sarah Lai Stirland reported on how analytics made the Obama campaign more efficient.

  • Copyright infringement concerns kept Elizabeth Warren off Pinterest.

Around the web

  • Freedomworks is in turmoil after it was announced Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey left the group with an $8 million payout. Other staffers are jumping ship. Politico reports that Armey believed FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe was being too generous to himself with a book deal.

  • Text-cathedra: Vatican communications adviser Greg Burke, a former Fox News correspondent, said regarding the new papal Twitter account: "The pope is not the kind of person like the rest of us who in a meeting or a lunch is looking at their BlackBerrys to see if any messages have come in. He is not walking around with an iPad, but all the pope’s tweets are the pope’s words."

  • An audit by the National Security Archive has found that "sixty-two out of ninety-nine government agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations since US Attorney General Eric Holder issued his March 19, 2009 FOIA memorandum..."

  • Cory Booker is using Twitter to document his attempt to live on a food stamp budget.

  • Zachary Lemnios, assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, is moving to I.B.M.

  • Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) are considering a revamp to the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, which governs the acquisition process for federal IT and created the CIO role.

  • A recently released U.N. report reveals a protocol for how law enforcement agencies should best monitor and track people online:

    The document outlines the stages law enforcement agencies should go through when conducting electronic surveillance of suspects: first, by obtaining data and “cookies” stored by websites like Facebook, Google, eBay and Paypal; second, by obtaining location data from servers used by VoIP Internet phone services (like Skype); then, by conducting a “smart analysis” of these data before moving on to the most serious and controversial step: intercepting communications, exploiting security vulnerabilities in communications technologies for “intelligence-gathering purposes,” and even infecting a target computer with Trojan-horse spyware to mine data.

  • Who should run the Internet? As the World Conference on International Telecommunications gets underway in Dubai, Tim Berners-Lee expressed his belief that governance of the Internet should remain the way it works now. A study suggests that a so-called "sender pay" system which might be under discussion at the ITU would not necessarily lead to faster development of countries' communications networks. Andrew McLaughlin, entrepreneur-in-residence at Betaworks and former deputy CTO for the Obama administration, suggested that the ITU be dismantled.

  • The New York Times reported on how border agents' power to search electronic devices is facing increased challenges in court.

  • Quartz has created, which infuses what looks like a real-life wall board on the fiscal cliff with interactive links.

  • The Strike Debt campaign has published a report "that highlights the use of loans as the main form of assistance to help those affected [by Hurricane Sandy] better understand the choices being imposed on them."

  • Y Combinator has cut its start-up class.

  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) is working on building opposition to a music royalty bill backed by Pandora.

  • Nieman Lab reported on Opened Captions, a real-time API for closed captions pulled from C-SPAN, developed with the help of Dan Schultz and colleagues on the Boston Globe's interactive team.

  • Buzzfeed examined the controversy behind a new California requirement that 73,000 registered sex offenders must notify local authorities when they create a new username on any website.

  • A report recently detailed how one email sent to employees at the South Carolina Department of Revenue resulted in a breach of state computers that allowed access to 3.8 million tax returns, in what is being called the biggest cyber-attack against a state government.

  • ICYMI: Thomas Friedman recently wrote about how stimulus money helped to fully complete a fiber-optic grid in Chatanooga for which Republicans and Democrats in the state came together to pass a $229 million bond issue. He writes:

    The majority of Chattanooga homes and businesses get 50 megabits per second, some 100 megabits, a few 250 and those with big needs opt for a full gigabit per second, explained Harold DePriest, the chief executive of EPB, the city's electric power and telecom provider, which built and operates the network. 'The average around the country is 4.5 megabits per second.' So average Internet speed in Chattanooga is 10 times the national average ... Imagine that we get a grand bargain in Washington that also includes a stimulus of just $20 billion to bring the 200 biggest urban areas in America up to Chattanooga's standard.

  • A federal court found that data roaming requirements fall under the FCC's broad authority to manage the airwaves, rejecting a challenge from Verizon.


  • The New York Times noted that Egyptian protesters who were massing against President Mohamed Morsi had their phones in hand to document the movement. Foreign Policy blogger Mohamed El Dahshan tweeted an image with the comment "I think Bastille might've looked a little like that. minus the smartphones." Ahram Online proclaimed its solidarity with Egyptian news outlets that went on strike to protest for "freedom of the press, freedom of expression, civil liberties and the rule of law" in reponse to Egyptian government proposals.

  • British Home Secretary Theresa May defended her office's surveillance proposal in a newspaper op-ed.

  • The German city of Bonn says it's the first European city to support the Open311 standard.

  • As German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially launched her reelection bid for a third time, the hashtag for her Conservative Party, the CDU, had a dedicated page on Twitter. The Social Democratic party leaders and parliamentary group as well as individual SPD supporters were also using the hashtag to offer realtime responses on Twitter and on Facebook especially regarding the CDU's stance on a minimum wage and equal marriage rights for gays. Der Spiegel let readers online create their own Merkel speech.

  • Reuters reported that secret information on counter-terrorism efforts shared by foreign governments might have been compromised in a massive data theft by a senior IT technician for Switzerland's intelligence service.

  • The European Commission announced that 48 countries from the EU and beyond have joined together to fight child sex abuse online.

  • An online posting by Chinese journalist Li Yuanlong broke the story of five young Chinese runaways who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, a case which sparked online controversy in China, the AP reported. The journalists said local officials escorted him out of the city where the incident happened, where he also lives, and told him to stay away for four or five days.

  • A South Korean man received a suspended jail sentence for retweeting North Korean propaganda posts.

  • An Indian village council has forbidden women and girls from using mobile phones because "they promote extramarital affairs and unsanctioned marriages and erode the moral fabric of society," the New York Times reported. "Married women will be allowed to use them only indoors and in the presence of a relative."

  • Ghana Decides is a blogging project that has been covering news leading up to Ghanaian elections on December 7.

  • Citizen journalists in Sierra Leone helped report on recent elections by SMS.

  • Pandodaily explored the success of the startup ecosystem in Stockholm.