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Fedbizopps: the US government's searchable database of defense-contractor opportunities


Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "The government often makes itself more accessible to businesses than the general public. For Sunshine Week, we compiled this guide to using FedBizOpps to keep an eye on surveillance technology contracts."

Fedbizopps is a weird, revealing window into the world of creepy surveillance, arms, and technology contractors who build and maintain the most oppressive and unethical parts of the apparatus of the US government. Everything from drone-testing of biological and chemical weapons to license plate cameras to weaponized bugs and other malware are there. The EFF post also has links to data-mining tools that help estimate just how much money the private arms dealers extract from the tax-coffers.

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NYPD claims its Freedom of Information Act policy is a secret "attorney-client communications"


The NYPD runs an intelligence agency that is even more secretive, and practically as corrupt as the NSA. They even fly their own intelligence officers to the scene of terrorist attacks overseas (and interfere with real investigations). What's more, the NYPD has invented its own, extra-legal system of "classified" documents that it has unilaterally decided it doesn't have to provide to the public in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Shawn Musgrave used Muckrock sent the NYPD a FOIA request for its FOIA manual -- the guidelines by which it decides whether or not it will obey the law requiring it to share its internal workings with the public who pay for them -- only to have the NYPD refuse to provide it, because it is "privileged attorney-client work-product."

As Musgrave says, "Handbooks and training materials hardly qualify as 'confidential communications,' particularly when the subject matter is transparency itself."

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Ralph Nader: the law must be free!


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "Ralph Nader argues that the law must be free in a piece in the Huffington Post. Great piece, I wasn't expecting it, so it was a treat to see it pop up (my mother is going to be impressed by this one!)."

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Army won't answer Freedom of Information Request on its SGT STAR AI chatbot

Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "Seven years ago, the U.S. Army launched the SGT STAR program, which uses a virtual recruiter (an AI chatbot) to talk to potential soldiers. We put in a FOIA request for a bunch of documents related to the program, including current and historical input/output scripts. So far, the Army Research and Marketing Group--which is supposed to help with transparency--hasn't responded."

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Citizen Lab calls on Canada's telcos to publish transparency report

As American telcoms operators take up the practice of publishing transparency reports showing how many law-enforcement requests they receive, Canadian activists are wondering why Canada's telcoms sector hasn't followed suit. Citizen Lab, whose excellent work at the University of Toronto is documented in lab leader Ron Deibert's must-read book Black Code, has issued public letters addressed to the nation's phone companies and ISPs, formally requesting that they publish aggregate statistics on law-enforcement requests.

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Congress requires publicly funded research to be publicly available

The new Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which Congress passed yesterday, contains an important -- and fantastic -- provision: it requires that scientific research funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education be placed in a free online repository within 12 months of their publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

There are some caveats (this only covers research from agencies with budgets of $100M or more) and it could have been better (immediate publication and all work placed in the pubic domain), but this is still a major stride forward. To be frank, it's well beyond what I'd hoped we'd get from Congress, who are traditionally more than willing to let private firms wall away pubic access from the research that tax-payers fund.

Here's the inside dirt from the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Adi Kamdar:

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Congress calls on Schneier to give it answers that the NSA won't

Congress has grown so weary of the NSA's duck-and-weave routine when asked to explain its spying that yesterday, six members of Congress called in Bruce Schneier to give it the answers that the NSA can't or won't give. Schneier, who's seen some of the Snowden leaks, called the meeting "surreal" and "extremely freaky."

Congress agrees: the law can't be copyrighted

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a 3-hour hearing on revisions to the U.S. Copyright Act. I was surprised and gratified by the number of Members of Congress who stood up and forcefully endorsed the principle that the law belongs to the people. It was a bipartisan show of force and gave me real hope."

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Judge rules TSA no-fly procedures unconstitutional

Despite a series of disgraceful dirty tricks, the TSA has lost its case against Dr Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian academic who had been wrongly put on the no-fly list. The DHS engaged in witness tampering (denying Dr Ibrahim and her witnesses access to the courtroom by putting them on the no-fly list) and argued that neither Dr Ibrahim nor her lawyers should be allowed to see the evidence against her (because terrorism).

Lowering the Bar does a great job of summing up the ruling, which held the no-fly list unconstitutional because citizens are "entitled to a remedy that requires the government to correct its lists and records... and to certify under oath that such correction(s) have been made."

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Requirements for DRM in HTML5 are a secret


The work at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on adding DRM to HTML5 is one of the most disturbing developments in the recent history of technology. The W3C's mailing lists have been full of controversy about this ever since the decision was announced.

Most recently, a thread in the restricted media list asked about the requirements for DRM from the studios -- who have pushed for DRM, largely through their partner Netflix -- and discoverd that these requirements are secret.

It's hard to overstate how weird this is.

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Carl Malamud's testimony on copyrighting the law

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "On Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 10AM, the House Judiciary Committee will be holding hearings on the Scope of Copyright Protection. I will be testifying on the subject of Edicts of Government, including copyright assertions over state laws and federally-mandated public safety codes. My prepared statement is available and I would like to express my appreciation to the Committee for giving me the opportunity to testify."

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Hospitals will happily tell you the cost of parking; procedures, not so much

Fourteen-year-old Jillian Bernstein got herself published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by comparing the transparency of medical costs at Philadelphia hospitals with the transparency of parking rates at the same hospitals. Out of 20 hospitals, 19 were happy to provide information on the cost to park a car. Only three, however, were willing to tell her how much it would cost an uninsured person to get an electrocardiogram, and those prices were ridiculously variable — $137, $600 and $1,200, depending on the hospital.

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership sucks: short, funny animation

Spocko sez, "Here's a short animated video explaining why the Trans-Pacific Partnership sucks. starring my imitation of Ross Perot! Remember, Ross knew all about the 'Giant sucking sound from the South' that became NAFTA. I pulled concepts from both the left and the right to inform this video."

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Harper government wants lifetime gag agreements from Canadian parliamentary staffers

Robbo sez, "In order to receive their negotiated raises and any holiday bonus, Parliament Hill staffers are being required to sign a lifetime confidentiality agreement, with hefty penalties for any breach, designed to thwart whistleblowers. So much for transparency in government."

(Not?) Coincidentally, the Harper government is embroiled in a potentially fatal scandal involving the Prime Minister's Office conspiring to cover up hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of expenses fraud by prominent Tory senators, and the only reason the PM is still in office is that none of his staffers have directly fingered him (yet?).

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Glenn Greenwald on what he's learned

Esquire's profile of Glenn Greenwald, the American-born, Brazilian-based journalist at the center of the Snowden leaks, is a terrific, insightful piece that lets Greenwald's own reflections on power, bravery, secrecy and justice speak for themselves: "I think the real Obama reveres institutional authority. He believes that it might need to be a little more efficient, but he has zero interest in undermining the powerful, permanent factions that have run Washington."

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AT&T to transparency-seeking shareholders: shut up and take what you're given

Alan writes, "In a formal response to a motion by shareholders to get a vote requiring AT&T to publish a transparency report the telecom giant has said, essentially, it's none of your business."

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Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide 2013

Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!


Electronic Frontier Foundation
Could there be a year that's more relevant to the EFF? As Edward Snowden has made abundantly clear, there is a titantic, historic battle underway to determine whether the Internet is there to liberate us or to enslave us. EFF's on the right side of history, and I figure giving them all I can afford is a cheap hedge against the NSA's version of the future. —CD



Creative Commons
CC continues to make a difference -- this year, they released the 4.0 version of their flexible licenses, a major milestone. More than anyone else, CC has reframed the way we talk about creativity and copyright in the Internet era, providing practical, easy-to-use tools to make it possible for creators and audiences to work together in a shared mission of creating and enjoying culture.—CD

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DHS stalls no-fly list trial by putting witness on no-fly list

Phil writes, "Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project is doing a fantastic job of reporting on-site from Ibrahim v. DHS, the first legal challenge of United States government's no-fly list that has ever seen a courtroom. On the first day of trial, the judge learned that the plaintiff's daughter, scheduled to testify, was delayed because she had been denied boarding of her flight because she was put a Department of Homeland Security no-fly list. DHS staff deny this. The government's lawyers told the judge that the daughter is lying. The airline provided documentation of the DHS no-fly order. The subject matter of this trial is intense---restriction of movement based on blacklists---but there's no sign of an end to the jaw-dropping entertainment."

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How the TPP will gut environmental protection


I've posted a bunch about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a shadowy, secretive trade deal that will have a disastrous effect on the Internet, privacy and free speech, thanks to the brutal copyright provisions the US Trade Rep has crammed into it. But that's not the whole story.

Michael sez, "You might be interested to know the TPP looks terrible for environmental protection too, due to a proposed mechanism called 'investor-state arbitration'. Basically this'd allow investors to sue countries for passing legislation detrimental to the financial interests of those investors. Yep, think environmental protections, workers' rights laws and any other kind of public protection that might reduce a profit margin.

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ACTA about to be quietly written into Canadian law


Widespread, global protests killed ACTA, the secretive, over-reaching "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," which imposed brutal copyright rules on its signatories. But now, the Canadian Conservatives have introduced Bill C-8, which turns ACTA's provisions into Canadian law, and they're fast-tracking it through with little debate or public input.

If passed, C-8 will further criminalize infringement (that is, put Canadians in jail for watching TV or listening to the radio the wrong way), turn the police into private copyright enforcers for the American entertainment industry, and interfere with the trade in legal generic drugs and other products.

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Studios increase MPAA funding to $66.8M

The latest tax-filings by the MPAA show that the studios have increased their membership dues to $66.8 million -- up 50 percent. Former Senator Chris Dodd, the architect of the failed SOPA law, has gotten a raise to $3.3M/year. MPAA staffing levels are still down 20% after 2011's layoff of 44 people.

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Sign the ACLU petition to reform American electronic spying laws

Sandra from the ACLU writes, "As the scope and depth of the NSA's spying continues to grow, we cannot forget about similar privacy violations committed by state and local police. The primary law protecting against such violations -- The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) -- was passed in 1986. Technology has evolved quite a bit since then, as you may have noticed. ECPA, unfortunately, has not, allowing local, state, and federal law enforcement to access our sensitive data in the cloud without a warrant."

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Germany threatens to jail Carl Malamud for making the law available for free


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "One of the most important public safety laws in Europe is Dir. 2001/95/EC which regulates general product safety. Public.Resource.Org, in our ongoing quest to make legally-mandated public safety codes available, purchased the German instantiation of 40 of these essential codes and made them available on the Internet. Every country in the EU is required to implement and publish these standards.

"Imagine our surprise when we were served notice to appear in Hamburg District Court in Germany."

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NSA Primary Sources: a catalog of leaked NSA files


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has rounded up an interactive, filterable chart of leaked NSA docs, putting all the material leaked through many media sources and over several months into one place. As EFF's staff explain:

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Data visualization shows US isolation in pushing for brutal Trans-Pacific Partnership


Gabriel Michael, a PhD candidate at George Washington University, subjected the IP Chapter of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaked by Wikileaks last week to statistical analysis. The leaked draft has extensive footnotes indicating each country's negotiating positions. By analyzing the frequency with which the US appears as the sole objector to other nations' positions, and when the US is the sole proponent of clauses to which other nations object, Michael was able to show that TPP really is an American-run show pushing an American agenda, not a multilateral trade deal being negotiated to everyone's mutual benefit. Though Canada is also one of the main belligerents, with even more unilateral positions than the USA.

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NSA FOIA requests up 988%

No surprise that the NSA is facing its largest-ever increase in Freedom of Information Act requests: up 988 percent. Don't worry, though: the agency has a strategy for coping with the floodtide of queries about warrantless spying: it just denies all of them.

City of Chicago and public-spirited hackers unveil the Chicago City Code


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "Something pretty rare happened last week. City officials of Chicago got together with hackers from around the country to unveil a vastly better new online version of the Chicago City Code. Public.Resource.Org worked with the City to make bulk data available, the folks at the OpenGov Foundation turned that into the popular States Decoded format that folks are using in DC, Virginia, San Francisco, and other locations around the country. The code, the data, and the formats are all open source and we were there to celebrate the unveiling and encourage volunteers in Chicago to take it even further."

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UK Tories send "WebCameron" YouTube channel down the memory hole, too

Yesterday, we learned that the UK Conservative party had purged its website of 10 years' archives of David Cameron speeches and set a robots.txt file in place that triggered purges on Google and Archive.org's caches. Today, the Guardian reports that the party has removed the videos from the "WebCameron" YouTube channel, that were originally billed as "behind-the-scenes" access to Cameron, and marketed as part of his campaign for political transparency. The party has declined to comment on the deletions.

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TPP's worst evil: making all future copyright reform impossible

In an excellent editorial, Michael Masnick explains what's so nefarious about the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- the secretive trade treaty whose IP chapter leaked yesterday. As Masnick explains, the worst aspect of this treaty is that it locks in all of our present, overreaching copyright rules, effectively making it impossible for Congress and the Copyright Office to continue their present work on modernizing copyright for the digital age, and ensuring that they can never do so in future:

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Punk Freedom of Information Access ninja learns how to beat FBI obfuscation, so they shut him out


Mike sez, "In Mother Jones, Will Potter profiles Ryan Shapiro, a punk rocker-turned-PhD student who wanted to study how the FBI monitors animal-rights activists. Through trial and error, and a lot of digging, he devised a perfectly legal, highly effective strategy to unearth sensitive documents from the bureau's 'byzantine' filing system.

In short, he got too smart for the feds, so they've cut him off. Now Shapiro has sued the FBI to release some 350,000 documents he's requested under FOIA. If the court buys the FBI's argument here, open-government groups say it could make it harder for scholars and journalists to keep tabs on federal agencies. Potter explains:"

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