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First POST: Fixing Elections

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, January 31 2013

Fix the vote

  • Following President Barack Obama's inaugural mention of electoral administration, House Democrats have introduced H.R. 12, the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013. Among other things, the bill would require states to provide online voter registration, clarifies voter ID requirements, sets standards for privacy — including a provision that victims of domestic violence, for example, might have their information retained by the state but withheld from view — and lays out guidelines to improve accuracy of the voter rolls.

    The bill has been referred to several House committees.

Chinese hackers get behind the paywall

  • The New York Times reports that people in China attempted to access its reporters' email addresses and gain other information from its computer networks:

    The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

Building towards reform?

  • Google and Twitter transparency reports released earlier this week expand a conversation about online privacy in a way that what's available from the government simply won't do, Miranda Neubauer writes:

    "The government is so secretive that the only way we can get this information is through the companies," [the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor] Timm told techPresident.

    As a result, only companies like Google and Facebook are providing the kinds of information that watchdogs and members of Congress need when considering how to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — a law consistently invoked when defining online privacy despite the fact that it is 27 years old and predates the modern Internet.

    Companies like Facebook or cellphone carriers should release similar information, he said.

No honor among pirates?

Around the web

  • One of our favorite things at techPresident is the "Personal Explanations" tumblr, which documents when members of Congress ask that a change of their vote be noted in the Congressional Record as well as the sometimes absurd excuses given by members who miss a vote. Today Personal Explanations catches Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in action:

    As some Supreme Court Justice said sometime, sunlight keeps
    mold from happening, or something to that effect.

  • Nextgov's Joseph Marks writes: "Every federal agency’s information technology shop should include workers with expertise in social media, open government and cloud computing. That's according to new guidance from the federal Chief Information Officers Council."

  • And also looks at how Congress might get closer to a GitHub-ready version of the U.S. Code.

  • Look at this software suite for municipal councils to better manage legislation.

  • In Minnesota, a business-to-business online exchange to help distribute flu vaccines.

  • Mobile phones are proliferating in Africa, but when it comes to coverage, reception is still very spotty in rural areas, Reuters reports.

  • The British-made Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized, bare-bones computer available for $35, will be headed to UK schools to help kids learn programming and computer science thanks to support from Google. While your First POST editor uses a Raspberry Pi as a front end for his home media center, the tiny computer was always intended to be a cheap and easy starter kit for kids to learn computing from the ground up — to understand what technology is and what it can do, rather than only what a vendor allows it to do, and to think like a maker rather than a consumer.

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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