The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Marcia Hofmann has a report card on transparent government measures undertaken by the Obama administration on its first day in office. The news is pretty damned good: they've reversed Ashcroft's restrictions on Freedom of Information Act requests as well as changes to the Presidential Records Act, and have adopted general principles on transparency and open government.
According to Obama's memo: "All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA."
This statement is almost certainly meant to address a controversial memo issued by John Ashcroft in the wake of 9/11, which ordered agencies to disclose information only after considering all possible reasons to withhold it, and assured them that government lawyers would defend their decisions in court unless they had no "sound legal basis." Many open government advocates believe Ashcroft's policy effectively gutted the FOIA over the past several years. Today's memo doesn't explicitly reverse that policy, but directs the incoming attorney general to issue new FOIA guidelines to agencies "reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency." This is a big step in the right direction.
The memo doesn't stop there. It goes on to say: "The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and down by their Government. Disclosure should be timely."
Help wanted: Operations Manager (personable, resourceful, and demonstrates outstanding attention to detail); Civil Liberties Legislative Counsel (advocacy, public speaking, blogging and other social media, media appearances and legislative and regulatory matters related to a variety of high technology public interest legal issues); 2017-19 Frank Stanton Fellowship (recent law school graduates or law students who will […]
China’s nightmarish “citizen scores” system uses your online activity, purchases, messages, and social graph to rate your creditworthiness and entitlement to services. One way your score can be plunged into negative territory is for a judge to declare you to be a bad person (mostly this happens to people said to have refused to pay […]
The current pre-clearance rules for Canadians being processed through US immigration at Canadian airports limit the powers of US immigration officials, preventing them from strip-searching Canadians (they can ask Canadian border guards to do it, but if the Canadian guards refuse, they’re out of luck) and giving Canadians the ability to turn around and leave […]
The Lightning port has thus far resisted the cruel fate that befell the headphone jack, and despite rumors that it may be disappearing come iPhone 8, for the present and foreseeable future, Lightning cables are a hot commodity for iPhone users. As such, we must make do in this strange time in which long, glorified […]
All the filters in the world won’t save your smartphone pics from a shaky hand. To really step up your mobile photography game, you’ll need some kind of mount to hold it steady. You could buy a smartphone attachment for a conventional camera tripod, but who wants to carry that kind of gear everywhere they […]
The forced transition from analog to digital TV signals was probably met with relative indifference from people with Netflix subscriptions and the “I don’t even own a TV” snoots. But anyone living in the vast swaths of the country that don’t have guaranteed high-speed internet, broadcast TV is a perfectly valid (and 100% free) way […]