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First POST: Reaching

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, March 16 2015


  • House Speaker John Boehner is planning to announce a new investigation into Hillary Clinton's email practices as Secretary of State, including a focus on the 31,000 emails she deleted because she deemed them to be personal, ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Liz Kreutz and Shushannah Walshe report.

  • Yesterday, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden held a private but not off-the-record meeting with about two dozen senior techies and privacy advocates attending SXSW, reports Adi Robertson for The Verge. One participant described Snowden's remarks as a "call to arms" to tech companies to adopt more secure communications to "raise the costs" to the NSA of mass surveillance.

  • Talk about "vaporware": Secrecy around StingRay, a cellphone tracking tool used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that can capture text messages, calls, emails and other data, is so tight that when local communities buy it, they have to sign a nondisclosure agreement, reports Matt Richtel for The New York Times. A county supervisor in Santa Clara, CA, Joe Simitian complains, “So, just to be clear, we are being asked to spend $500,000 of taxpayers’ money and $42,000 a year thereafter for a product for the name brand which we are not sure of, a product we have not seen, a demonstration we don’t have, and we have a nondisclosure requirement as a precondition. You want us to vote and spend money, you can’t tell us more about it.”

  • The International Association of Chiefs of Police has written a pre-emptive letter to top Congressional lawmakers calling on them to avoid restricting the use of automated license plate readers, Cyrus Farivar reports for ArsTechnica.

  • Speaking of the police, Wikipedia pages covering several prominent cases of police brutality, including the entries for Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo--all victims of the New York City police department--have been edited by computers running on the police department's computer network, Kelly Weill reports for Capital NY. For example, in the Garner case, the phrase "Use of the chokehold has been prohibited" was changed to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”

  • The NYC police say that in one case, the editor of a page on Eric Garner was working on computers outside of 1 Police Plaza, Weill also reports.

  • Since that story broke, @NYPDedits appeared, a new twitter bot that will note any new edits made by NYC police computers. So far it hasn't tweeted. (h/t Azi Paybarah)

  • From Reddit: Here's how a nine-year-old explained net neutrality to his friends. (h/t Antonella Napolitano)

  • It's Sunshine Week, and in the Washington Post Robert O'Harrow Jr. reports on the disaster unfolding inside the US Customs and Border Protection agency, where immigrants applying for residency who need their immigration files face a backlog that has increased six-fold since 2009.

  • Quorum analytics, a data-driven startup created by two Harvard undergrads that aims to help well-heeled lobbyists and other people with lots of money better target Members of Congress, gets profiled by Catherine Ho in the Washington Post.

  • Contrapuntally, Lawrence Lessig and his MayDay PAC are back with a new strategy: Per his post on Medium, instead of trying to help reform-minded candidates win general elections, they are going to crowd-source finding more allies among congressional incumbents in targeted districts, in part by connecting MayDay members to reach out to voters in those districts to ask them to reach out to their member of Congress. (Know any safe incumbents who aren't Democrats who favor public funding of elections?) And if you don't think that alone is a reach, Mayday is also going to try to recruit large donors in those districts to take a pledge to stop giving to candidates who don't support corruption reform.

  • This is civic tech: Early spring is when the potholes flower on previously ice-covered roads, and so it's no surprise that SeeClickFix just put out a release describing the record number of user reports flooding into the civic reporting platform: more than 10,500 in just the last week alone, 30% more than the previous week.

  • The city of Seattle has a $470,000 technology fund offering matching grants of up to $30,000 each for community groups looking to "increase technology literacy, provide access to computers, the Internet and other information technologies and increase civic participation in the use of technology," reports Mark Pomerleau for They could almost buy a StingRay with that money!

  • The first round of the Knight News Challenge, which is offering a share of $3 million for projects that will "better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections," closes this Thursday.

  • Want to help develop collective intelligence tools? Loomio is inviting participants in a research project using the Litemap and Assembl tools on the theme of "what should web-based tools for direct democracy look like in the future."