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First POST: Splits

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 16 2014


  • A coalition of major privacy advocates, government whistleblowers and advocacy groups have come out against the Senate version of the USA Freedom Act, reports Andrea Peterson for the Washington Post. Their concerns include ambiguous language in the bill, the absence of provisions more protective of Americans' privacy, and immunity for corporations that help spy on Americans. At the same time, other organizations, including the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, are still backing the bill.

  • "We're not saying that anyone's interpretations are wrong, just that this bill can be interpreted in numerous different ways, which has previously proven to be a major problem. Our issue is not just that the bill fails to stop many kind of abuses, but that it can be interpreted as actually authorizing more aggressive spying on us than ever before -- and if civil liberties groups disagree on the interpretation of this bill, imagine what the NSA's interpretations will look like,” Sascha Meinrath, the director of the New America Foundation's X-Lab, commented. The coalition's letter is here.

  • Government requests for Google user data were up 15 percent, to roughly 32,000, over the first six months of 2014, compared to last year, according to its latest transparency report. Google says it complies with about 75% of those requests.

  • In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session yesterday timed to the release of his new book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, Julian Assange says "Google can certainly do something better to fight privacy violations and defends its users….but you won't see that happen, because…Google is too close to the government." He adds, "The company's business model is based on sucking private data out of parts of human community that have never before been subject to monitoring, and turning that into a profit. I do not think it is wise to try to 'reform' something which, from first premises, is beyond reform."

  • The GovTech fund launched officially yesterday with $23 million in its coffers and four startups already in its portfolio, Re/Code's Amy Schatz reports.

  • Jen Pahlka, Code for America's founder, hails GovTech's arrival and says it shows the giant global government IT market is finally starting to earn the attention of VCs.

  • GovLoop, the social network for people who work in government, unveiled a snazzy new web site yesterday.

  • The third round of White House Innovation Fellows has been announced, and among them we are proud to say is Christopher Wong, who was co-curator of PDF 2012 and 2013. He will be working on crowdsourcing initiatives at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Kudos Chris!

  • Yesterday's pro-net-neutrality rally in New York City was headlined by the man who coined the term, Tim Wu, along with his running mate, Zephyr Teachout, our Miranda Neubauer reports.

  • In the continuing fallout from the Teachout-Wu primary bid in New York State, former Working Families Party organizing director Mike Boland, who managed Teachout's campaign, rues the party's endorsement of Andrew Cuomo. "Think of what we did on Zephyr's campaign without the WFP, and what we could have done with it. I think the party could have wound up with 20,000 new small donors," reports Jimmy Vielkind in Capital NY.

  • New Zealand's national election is being roiled by the fight between Kim Dotcom, Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on one side, and the country's prime minister John Key on the other, reports Tim Hume for CNN. While the hot issue now is whether the country is in cahoots with the NSA, the deeper issue--at least to Dotcom--is about a conspiracy by New Zealand and the US governments to do Hollywood's bidding in shutting down his file-sharing service.

  • Egyptian blogger and democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah is out on bail.