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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?

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.

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wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

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tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

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monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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