The strangest FOIA redactions (and FOIA releases) MuckRock has seen over the years

[Editor's note: We're happy to help our public record ninja friends at Muckrock celebrate Sunshine Week with this tribute to the censor's heavy hand -Cory]

After nine years and over 60,000 requests, MuckRock has been witness to some pretty impressive efforts to keep public information from the public. In the spirit of Sunshine Week, we’ve compiled some of the weirdest, wildest, and downright hilarious redactions we’ve received. Read the rest

How the payday loan industry laundered policy by paying academics to write papers that supported its positions

When Elizabeth Warren inaugurated the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of her prime targets was subprime/payday/predatory lenders; and the lenders' lobbyists went on an all-out blitz, eventually prevailing under Trump's CFPB boss Mick Mulvaney. Read the rest

Public records requests reveal the elaborate shell-company secrecy that Google uses when seeking subsidies for data-centers

It's not just Amazon and Apple that expect massive taxpayer subsidies in exchange for locating physical plant in your town: when Google builds a new data-center, it does so on condition of multimillion-dollar "incentives" from local governments -- but Google also demands extraordinary secrecy from local officials regarding these deals, secrecy so complete that city attorneys have instructed town councillors to refuse to answer questions about it during public meetings. Read the rest

Chasing down that list of potential Predpol customers reveals dozens of cities that have secretly experimented with "predictive policing"

Last October, I published a list of cities that appeared to have contracted with Predpol, a "predictive policing" company, based on research provided to me by an anonymous source who used clever methods to uncover the customer list. Read the rest

More FBI follies: civil rights groups are "terrorists" and their victims are the KKK

Following protests against a neo-Nazi rally, the FBI opened a terrorism investigation into By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a civil rights group, conducting surveillance and citing the fact that a BAMN member had been stabbed by a neo-Nazi to justify it. Read the rest

The FBI invented a fictitious "abortion extremist" movement, then warned local cops about potential acts of domestic terror from it

Anti-abortion extremists are among the most violent domestic terrorists in America, having murdered and attempted to murder dozens of people using firearms, firebombs and traditional explosives. Read the rest

In DHS tests, prototypes of Trump's chosen barrier posts were easily defeated by hacksaws

Trump isn't America's most anti-immigrant president; that honor goes to Obama, the great deporter, who also extensively tested border wall technologies while deporting 2MM undocumented people. Read the rest

The ACLU made the Border Patrol reveal its terrifying legal theories

After four years of Freedom of Information Act litigation, the ACLU has prevailed and forced the Customs and Border Patrol to release 1,000 pages' worth of training documents in which new agents learn when they can stop people and what they can do after they stop them. Read the rest

Freedom of Information Access ninjas force Gavin McInnis out of the Proud Boys

After Property of the People (previously) used clever Freedom of Information Act requests to learn that the FBI classed the Proud Boys as 'an Extremist Group with Ties to White Nationalism', the organization's founder, Gavin McInnis (the Canadian who co-founded Vice Magazine) resigned from the organization he founded. Read the rest

Here's the secret details of 200 cities' license-plate tracking programs

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Muckrock teamed up to use the Freedom of Information Act to extract the details of 200 US cities' Automated License Plate Recognition camera programs (ALPR), and today they've released a dataset containing all the heretofore secret data on how these programs are administered and what is done with the data they collect. Read the rest

Search the databases of Trump political appointees' resumes and discover their undisclosed conflicts of interest

Property of the People and Propublica used the Trumptown database of Trump's political appointees and the Freedom of Information Act to pull the appointees' resumes (chock full o' data that doesn't appear on their financial disclosure forms) and put them in a searchable database. Read the rest

Chicago police data reveals how dirty cops spread corruption like a disease

In 2009, after a successful public records lawsuit, the Invisible Institute received data on complaints against Chicago Police Department officers since 1988 -- the complaints often list multiple officers, and by tracing the social graph of dirty cops over time, The Intercept's Rob Arthur was able to show how corruption spread like a contagion, from senior officers to junior ones, teaching bad practices ranging from brutality to falsifying evidence to torture to racism to plotting to murder whistleblowing cops. Read the rest

How a civic hacker used open data to halve tickets at Chicago's most confusing parking spot

Matt Chapman used the Freedom of Information Act to get the City of Chicago's very mess parking ticket data; after enormous and heroic data normalization, Chapman was able to pinpoint one of the city's most confusing parking spots, between 1100-1166 N State St, which cycled between duty as a taxi-stand and a parking spot with a confusingly placed and semi-busted parking meter. Read the rest

English and Welsh local governments use "terrorism" as the excuse to block publication of commercial vacancies

Gavin Chait is an "economist, engineer, data scientist and author" who created a website called Pikhaya where UK entrepreneurs can get lists of vacant commercial properties, their advertised rents, and the history of the businesses that had previously been located in those spaces -- whether they thrived, grew and moved on, or went bust (maybe because they had a terrible location). Read the rest

Turning the NSA's vintage internal security posters into t-shirts

Techdirt is in the throes of a two-part revelation: 1. the US government's works are public domain and can be freely commercialized, and; 2. many of the weird things that spy agencies make can be turned into ironic, cool, and sometimes fun and/or beautiful objects of commerce. Read the rest

Judge to EPA: you are legally required to turn over Pruitt's documentary evidence for climate denial

Embattled EPA Director Scott Pruitt went on national TV to announce on behalf of the US government that "I would not agree [CO2 is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see... There’s a tremendous disagreement about the degree of the impact [of] human activity on the climate." Read the rest

Laramie County, Wyoming Sheriffs' department blocks public records requests for their prison phone monopoly deal

Every crappy thing in the world is beta-tested on people who have little or no power, perfected, and brought to the rest of us -- CCTV starts with prisoners, moves to mental institutions, then to schools, then to blue-collar workplaces, then airports, then white-collar workplaces, then everywhere. Read the rest

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