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First POST: Openly Closed

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, March 17 2014

Openly Closed

  • It's Sunshine Week, and the AP's Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum reports that the Obama administration censored or denied access to government files at a greater pace in 2013 than in any previous year. They note that,

    "Citizens, journalists, businesses and others last year made a record 704,394 requests for information, an 8 percent increase over the previous year. The government responded to 678,391 requests, an increase of 2 percent over the previous year. The AP analysis showed that the government more than ever censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them, in 244,675 cases or 36 percent of all requests. On 196,034 other occasions, the government said it couldn't find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper. Sometimes, the government censored only a few words or an employee's phone number, but other times it completely marked out nearly every paragraph on pages.

  • In a truly Orwellian touch, the AP reports, "The White House said the government's figures demonstrate 'that agencies are responding to the president's call for greater transparency.' White House spokesman Eric Schultz noted that the government responded to more requests than previously and said it released more information." That is, an increase in government responses to information requests that ended with more censorship or denials of access equals "greater transparency."

  • Rich countries are more open with government data than poor ones, Emily Badger of Wonkblog reports.

  • The New York Times' Natasha Singer reports on Enigma.io, one of a new batch of start-ups taking all kinds of government and private data sets and making it easier to get a 360-degree view of a company or individual's relationships.

  • Several NATO websites were taken down by hackers on Saturday.

  • Security researcher Bruce Schneier is profiled in Politico by Alex Carp.

  • Former staff members of the Church Committee, which investigated widespread abuses by the CIA and FBI in the 1970s, write an open letter to President Obama, Congress and the public, calling for a new comprehensive investigation into government surveillance.

  • It is now illegal in Hungary to take a photo of someone else in public without first obtaining their permission.

  • Some Republican politicians are upset about the Obama administration's decision to let ICANN, the nonprofit that manages the Internet domain name system, internationalize itself.

  • People are making fun of Sen. Mitch McConnell on the Internets, and the New York Times' Ashley Parker is ON IT.

  • Klint Finley of Wired profiles open source coder David Cole, who is running for Congress.

  • Austin Hill writes a long and carefully considered defense of online anonymity and takes a huge whack at new companies like Whisper and Secret. My favorite line: "Out of all the problems on our planet that need our skills as entrepreneurs, out of all the incredible opportunities to improve the lives of our customers or fellow human beings — we need to fund & waste engineering talent to build a better TMZ?"

  • Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, the man Newsweek claims is the inventor of Bitcoin, has released a formal denial and announced he has "retained legal counsel."

  • Svitlana Zalischuk, the founder of Ukraine's Center UA, talks with me about the fight for democracy there, the role of the Internet in the EuroMaidan civic movement, and the prospects for the future.

  • Technosociologist Zeynep Tufekci explains why the death of a 15-year-old Turkish boy named Berkin Elvan, who was hit in the head by a tear gas canister during last year's Gezi protests, has set off a wave of social media-powered protests in the streets of Turkey.