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First POST: Insecurity

BY Nick Judd | Friday, July 26 2013

Around the web

  • A House hearing next Wednesday will, for the first time since Edward Snowden disclosed the existence of National Security Agency surveillance of Americans, focus on testimony from the spy agency's critics.

  • The vote forced House members supportive of NSA surveillance to defend their position to constituents.

  • Were Russia to extradite Snowden, the U.S. would not seek the death penalty, the U.S. Department of Justice informed the federation in a letter dated July 23.

    The AP implies that the move is meant, in part, to make it more difficult for Snowden to get asylum in Russia. Snowden is, as of the most recent reports, still holed up in the transit zone of a Moscow airport, bereft of passport and thus with no legal means of leaving his international purgatory.

  • Halliburton will plead guilty to destroying evidence in the case of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, incurring a maximum fine of $200,000.

    The corporation makes about $7 million in revenue every three months. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, aboard a rig majority owned by BP, claimed 11 lives and caused widespread ecological damage, engulfing shores from Louisiana to Florida in balls of oily sludge and compromising one of America's most crucial fisheries.

    Halliburton has also agreed to a separate, $55 million voluntary payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Guardian reports.

  • Forbes privacy blogger Kashmir Hill gained access to control software for eight private homes over the Internet, sparking two separate conversations — one about the security of home automation systems, the other about how prosecutions under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act can stifle efforts to identify and fix exactly these kinds of potentially serious flaws.

  • The Pope is the most influential person on Twitter, says the Catholic News Service, citing Burston-Marstellers' recent "Twiplomacy" study of world leaders on the social network.

  • The Associated Press reports that what White House officials have been billing as a customer experience for health insurance exchange customers akin to high-end ecommerce sites will be more like a long phone call to a call center as tight deadlines and political upheaval are forcing states and federal officials to make compromises.

  • Also from the AP: "President Barack Obama's administration is courting female bloggers to play a role in a massive campaign aimed at informing the public about the benefits of the new health care law."

  • Mobile app makers are considering voluntary standards that would lead them to disclose what data they were collecting on users.

  • GovTech explores the Data Science for Social Good Fellowship at University of Chicago, asking if there is merit to the idea that "data scientists" should start thinking about social problems.

  • Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), running against Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Rush Holt, and state Speaker Sheila Oliver for the Democratic nomination in a special election for U.S. Senate, held a Reddit AMA, answering questions from the community's members.

  • Sarah Stirland explains Capitol Bells, an app that helps users stay up-to-date with action on the House floor.

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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friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

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