UK Parliament to hold inquiry into algorithmic transparency

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee put out a public call for suggestions on subjects it should investigate and one of the three winning pitches came from Stephanie Mathisen, campaigns and policy officer at Sense about Science, who suggested an inquiry into transparency in algorithmic decision-making. Read the rest

Lawsuit forces DoJ to admit that Obama administration sneakily killed transparency bill

The Freedom of the Press Foundation's lawsuit against the DoJ has resulted in the release of documents showing that a bill with that was nearly unanimously supported in Congress and the Senate was killed by behind-the-scene lobbying by the Department of Justice, which feared that they would lose the ability to arbitrarily reject Freedom of Information Act requests if the bill passed. Read the rest

Federal courts resist transparency, but the Free Law Project fights back

In the age of Internet, discussions about the federal government and its functions are informed by and rely on our unprecedented access to federal documents. Anyone can freely view public records online, such as proposed Congressional legislation and presidential executive orders. Accessing public court documents, however, is a bit trickier. As Katherine Mangu-Ward wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 2011, "no aspect of government remains more locked down than the secretive, hierarchical judicial branch."

What America loses when the USDA nukes its taxpayer-funded records of animal cruelty

Immediately upon assuming office, the Trump administration directed the US Department of Agriculture to take down the extensive records of its publicly funded investigations of animal cruelty in America; now, Americans can only access their own data by paying for expensive, unweildy, and slow Freedom of Information Act requests to the USDA. Read the rest

Chris Christie vetoes unanimous bill that would make NJ cops disclose what they seize through asset forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture is the bizarre American practice of seizing peoples' property without charging its owner: instead the property is charged with being the ill-gotten gains of a crime, and if the owner doesn't pay their property's legal bills, the police get to keep or sell the property. Read the rest

Contribute to the Chelsea Manning Welcome Home Fund

Chelsea Manning's lawyer Chase Strangio has set up an official Chelsea Manning Welcome Home Fund. Please join those of us who have contributed to help with her living and healthcare expenses. As a reminder of what she's endured: Read the rest

Trump's FBI doubles down on hostility to transparency, switches to fax and snailmail for FOIA requests

The FBI has always been hostile to Freedom of Information Act requests: it habitually violates the law by allowing these requests to go more than 30 days without a response, and maintains a lab full of 1980s-vintage computers that it uses to (badly) fulfill public records request, so that it can reject requests on the basis that it lacks the technology to respond to them. But it's about to get a whole lot worse. Read the rest

Google quietly makes "optional" web DRM mandatory in Chrome

The World Wide Web Consortium's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) is a DRM system for web video, being pushed by Netflix, movie studios, and a few broadcasters. It's been hugely controversial within the W3C and outside of it, but one argument that DRM defenders have made throughout the debate is that the DRM is optional, and if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. That's not true any more. Read the rest

The secret to success in local politics: steal from the people, but not too much

In a new paper in Progress, Oxford economist Vuk Vukovic argues that the key to re-election in local politics is to be just corrupt enough: giving lucrative contracts and other benefits to special interests who'll fund your next campaign, but not so much that the people refuse to vote for you. Read the rest

Haldeman's papers show Nixon conspired to extend the Vietnam war to improve his presidential chances

A newly discovered collection of notes written by Nixon aide HR Haldeman reveals that during Nixon's 68 presidential campaign, he illegally conspired to convince the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, to scuttle the peace talks run by Nixon's political rival, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. Read the rest

More than 4,000,000 attempts to read US law have failed since a court ordered Public Resource to take it down

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "In keeping with best practices for major Internet providers to issue periodic transparency reports, Public Resource would like to issue two reports. Read the rest

William Gibson on individual privacy, governmental secrecy and the future of history

In a thoughtful New York Times editorial, science fiction giant William Gibson mediates on the difference between the privacy that individuals have and deserve, the privacy that governments assert ("What does it mean, in an ostensible democracy, for the state to keep secrets from its citizens?"), and what this will mean for the historians of the future. Read the rest

In Africa, British spies target allied leaders, executives, and telcoms engineers

Le Monde has published a new collection of documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, showing that the British spy agency GCHQ targeted the leaders of allied countries in Africa, as well as business executives and employees of telecommunications companies, whose accounts were a means to gaining access to communications infrastructure across the continent. Read the rest

Virginia State cops have blown a fortune on useless cellphone spying gear

Muckrock has been sending Freedom of Information requests to state police forces to find out how they're using "cell-site simulators" (AKA IMSI catchers/Stingrays), and they hit the motherlode with the Virginia State Police. Read the rest

EFF battles misleading, sloppy, secret FBI warrants aimed at the Internet Archive and CREDO

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has disclosed that it has won two key victories for clients who'd received the FBI's notorious, gag-ordered National Security Letters -- a form of secret warrant that has become the go-to way for law enforcement to avoid scrutiny since the Patriot Act's passage. Read the rest

America's "most prolific" transparency advocate is crowdfunding to force disclosures from Trump

Ryan Shapiro, the punk Freedom of Information Access ninja, is crowdfunding a warchest to fund his inevitable lawsuits against the Trump government when he subjects it to the same relentless bombardment of transparency requests he visited upon the Obama administration. Read the rest

Tax Inspectors Without Borders: poor countries send each other ninja tax collectors to nail looting multinationals

This week on the Tax Justice Network's podcast (previously), they profile (at 20:40) the OECD's Tax Inspectors Without Borders, through which poor countries loan each other their most effective tax collectors to help catch the tax-dodging multinational corporations who drain the countries' economies -- and the organization transfers tax enforcement expertise in the process. Read the rest

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