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First POST: Obscurity

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 4 2014

Obscurity

  • Taking advantage of a slight loosening of government restrictions, major Internet companies including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Facebook have started publishing how many government requests for user data they have received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

  • Kevin Bankston, the Policy Director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, commented to Sam Gustin of Time magazine that, “What these reports reveal is far less than what we need for adequate accountability from the government. Lumping all of the different types of surveillance orders together into one number, then adding obscurity on top of obscurity by requiring that number to be reported in ranges of one thousand, is not enough to educate the American public or reassure the international community that the NSA is using its surveillance authorities responsibly.”

  • Trevor Paglen has turned his cameras on American spy satellites, with startling results, our Jessica McKenzie writes.

  • The Chaos Computer Club of Germany has filed a criminal complaint, seeking to have the country's federal prosecutor general investigate the government for violating the law by conducting mass surveillance on its citizens.

  • Economist Dean Baker argues in The Guardian that recently disclosed non-compete agreements between companies like Apple and Google "should forever destroy any connection between the Silicon Valley tech billionaires and their supposed libertarian world-views." He adds, "the real news here is how the Silicon Valley barons allegedly broke the law…actively collud[ing] to stifle market forces."

  • The White House is going to host a Maker Faire.

  • Rebecca Leber of Think Progress reports on some sneaky websites set up by Republicans that aim to trick Democrats into donating to the other side.

  • If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has its way, soon our cars will be sharing data with each other about how we're driving.

  • Political tech vendor ElectionMall, whose CEO Ravi Singh was recently charged with campaign finance fraud, has a troubled history, our Sarah Lai Stirland writes.

  • DonorsChoose has opened up its 2013 data, including 130,000 school projects, more than 300,000 donors, and $60 million in donations, Lucy Bernholz reports.

  • Budweiser's "Puppy Love" and Coca-Cola's "It's Beautiful" Superbowl ads are topping the YouTube trend charts for the United States as of this morning. Does this mean sexism is out and multiracial/species love is in?

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.

GO

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.

GO

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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