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First POST: Not Psyched

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, September 12 2013

Not Psyched

  • Mark Zuckerberg told Michael Arrington at TechCrunch Disrupt that the US government was not doing a good job balancing its efforts to protect national security with civil liberties. ""Frankly, I think that the government blew it," he said. "They blew it on communicating the balance of what they were going for with this." He continued:

    "The government response was, 'Oh don't worry we are not spying on any Americans.' Oh wonderful that's really helpful to companies that are trying to serve people around the world and that's really going to inspire confidence in American internet companies."
    "I thought that was really bad," he said. Zuckerberg said Facebook and others were pushing successfully for more transparency. "We are not at the end of this. I wish that the government would be more proactive about communicating. We are not psyched that we had to sue in order to get this and we take it very seriously," he said.

  • At the same event, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo noted that her company had tried to get permission to publish details of the national security data requests it was receiving back in 2007, but lost. "When you lose and you don't comply, it's treason," she said. "We think it makes more sense to work within the system."

  • Speaking of Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO is coming to meet with top House Republicans next week in DC, Politico reports.

  • The FTC is investigating Facebook's latest changes in its privacy policies to see whether they violate a 2011 agreement with regulators.

  • And a federal court ruled that a lawsuit against Google for illegal wiretapping, brought by 22 private citizens who say their private data was collected by Google's Street View program, can go forward.

  • Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill report that a top-secret document provided to them by Edward Snowden shows that the agency "routine shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens."

  • Hacks/Hackers NYC is offering a class on "Encryption and Operational Security for Journalists" September 16 at Meetup headquarters.

  • Vice Magazine covers Riseup, the communication collective whose secure email services have been swamped with new users since the NSA surveillance scandal broke open. The story features an interview with (old PDM pal) Joshua Levy of Free Press, open Internet advocate Elizabeth Stark, and an anonymous member of the Riseup crew, explaining their current effort to crowdfund an expansion of the group's services.

In other news around the web

  • Activists and advocacy organizations like the Heritage Foundation have discovered that they can use Buzzfeed's community platform tool to make stories that advance their own political agendas, prompting the site to announce new guidelines restricting what they will users to do.

  • A secret group connected to the conservative Koch brothers gives Politico an exclusive look into its finances. Freedom Partners raised $256 million in its first year from 200 unnamed donors each giving at least $100,000. It granted nearly all of that to a handful of major conservative lobby groups, starting with the Center to Protect Patient Rights ($115 million) and Americans for Prosperity ($32.3 million).

  • GWU professor and Crooked Timber/Monkey Cage blogger Henry Farrell offers a somewhat sour take on "The Tech Intellectuals" in the current issue of Democracy journal, a liberal periodical. He covers Chris Anderson, Jeff Jarvis, Clay Shirky, Steven Johnson, Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan Zuckerman, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Nicholas Carr, Susan Crawford, Eli Pariser, Larry Lessig and Tim Wu, and throws in cyber-skeptics Andrew Keen, Tom Slee and Evgeny Morozov for good measure. (He pulls off a nice line on Morozov, whose success "shows how trolling can be a viable business model for aspiring public intellectuals"--though he fails to point out that the reason this model is succeeding is because editors and gatekeepers who lack any tech chops keep giving Morozov more attention than he deserves.) The whole essay is worth reading, mainly for how it situates this crowd's work in the context of the "attention economy" that supports (and distorts) their work.

  • Are public schools "ripe for disruption"? That's what Joel Klein, the former chancellor of NYC's public schools, likes to say. His company Amplify (a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp) is at the center of a feature story by Carlo Rotella in next Sunday's NYT Magazine on the rapid spread of educational technology. One critical issue raised by Rotella: while tablets for students enable an explosion of "personalized education," they are also generating a tremendous amount of personal data that companies want to exploit.

  • San Francisco is planning to try out participatory budgeting online, giving citizens in each city district the ability to decide on $100,000 in expenditures, reports Gregory Ferenstein.

  • Our friend David Eaves has pulled together the "311 Data Challenge," to be hosted by Kaggle and in conduction with SeeClickFix. They've gotten 300,000 lines of 311 data from four US cities, and they're asking folks to predict the number of votes, comments and views an issue will generate. His goal: "if we can demonstrate that there are some predictive and socially valuable insights to be gained from this data – we might be able to persuade cities to try to work together to share data insights and help everyone become more efficient, address social inequities and address other city problems 311 data might enable us to explore."

  • The Minneapolis police department has oddly decided to stop releasing crime statistics in Excel format, switching to the less useful PDF format. MinnPost wonders if this isn't because their city crime app is built on the Excel data.

  • Derek Khanna takes to the Atlantic to warn about the efforts of a group of states attorney general to carve out some exceptions to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that says that websites can't be held responsible for content posted by their visitors.