Thanks to 2016's trade secret law and algorithmic justice, America's courts have become AI-Kafka nightmares

In 2014, the Alice decision made it much harder to patent software in the USA; in 2016, Congress passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act, creating the first federal trade secrets statute: the result of these two developments is that software companies aggressively switched from patents to trade secrets as a means of controlling competition and limiting inspection and criticism of their products. Read the rest

Trump won't stop tearing up official papers so the White House archives employ a staff to tape them back together for the National Archives

Trump is notorious for his "filing system": when he is finished with a piece of paper, he tears it into tiny pieces and throws it away, which is fine if you're a CEO (maybe), but is radioactively illegal under the Presidential Records Act, because the President works for the public, and is required by law to archive their official papers and save them for public scrutiny. 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

Amazon has been quietly selling its facial recognition system to US police forces, marketing it for bodycam use

Amazon bills its Rekognition image classification system as a "deep learning-based image and video analysis" system; it markets the system to US police forces for use in analyzing security camera footage, including feeds from police officers' bodycams. Read the rest

Should I use an algorithm here? EFF's 5-point checklist

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jamie Williams and Lena Gunn have drawn up an annotated five-point list of questions to ask yourself before using a machine-learning algorithm to make predictions and guide outcomes. Read the rest

NSA report discloses that the agency tripled its surveillance of Americans in 2017

One effect of the Snowden leaks is that the NSA now makes an annual disclosure of the extent of its domestic surveillance operations; that's how we know that the NSA collected 534 million phone call and text message records (time, date, location, from, to -- but not the content), which more than triples its surveillance takings in 2016. Read the rest

Oakland passes groundbreaking municipal law requiring citizen oversight of local surveillance

Oakland, California -- a city across the bay from San Francisco whose large African-American population has struggled with gentrification and police violence for decades -- has a long reputation for police corruption and surveillance. Read the rest

Trump's finance watchdog wants to make the taxpayer-funded database of crooked banks go dark

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is Elizabeth Warren's gift that keeps on giving -- one of the most effective US government agencies, handing out real punishment to banks that break the law, fighting loan-sharks that prey on poor people, and maintaining a database of vetted consumer complaints against banks that have ripped them off. Read the rest

Nova Scotia filled its public Freedom of Information Archive with citizens' private data, then arrested the teen who discovered it

A 19 year old in Nova Scotia wanted to learn more about the provincial teachers' dispute, so he filed some Freedom of Information requests; he wasn't satisfied with the response so he decided to dig through other documents the province had released under open records laws to look for more, but couldn't find a search tool that was adequate to the job. Read the rest

For the first time, a US president has classified the legal justification for taking publicly acknowledged actions

It's not uncommon for legal opinions from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to be classified; whenever the President wants to do something nefarious -- like authorizing the CIA's program of torture -- he'll get a memo out of the OLC, and then classify the whole thing: the action and its justification. Read the rest

Modern NDAs are unbelievably dirty, and the same handful of sleazy lawyers is behind most of them

Non-disclosure agreements were designed to protect trade-secrets, but they've morphed into a system for covering up misdeeds, silencing whistleblowers, and suborning perjury -- often at taxpayer expense. Read the rest

FCC refuses public records request about Ajit Pai's monumentally unfunny "comedy" videos

In the runup to his execution of Net Neutrality, Trump FCC Chairbeast Ajit Pai released a video on The Daily Caller, a far-right site; as a work of comedy, it was every bit as lame as the sketch he performed for telcoms lobbyists in which he "joked" about being a shill for his former employer, Verion. Read the rest

EFF awards the Foilies to the government agencies with the worst transparency for 2018

The annual Foilie Awards are out; the Electronic Frontier Foundation hands out these sardonic "awards" to the government entities whose Freedom of Information Act responses were the most heel-dragging, kakfaesque, and pointless. Read the rest

FDAAA Trials Tracker: leaderboard for pharma companies that break FDA clinical trial rules

Ben Goldacre (previously) led a team that created the FDAAA Trials Tracker, "A live informatics tool to monitor compliance with FDA requirements to report clinical trial results." Read the rest

Motherboard files legal complaint against London police to force it to explain why an officer bought creepy, potential illegal stalkerware

Flexispy is the creepy stalkerware advertised to abusive spouses and exes that Motherboard's Joseph Cox has been relentlessly tracking; when he acquired a leaked trove of the company's files, he started to mine it to see who was buying the potentially illegal app. Read the rest

Property of the People sues the FBI for details on "Gravestone," its reassuringly named secret mass-surveillance tool

In 2016, the watchdog group Property of the People discovered a secret FBI spying program called Gravestone, a mention of which slipped into the metadata of a document on the DoJ's website. Read the rest

After a Freedom of Information lawsuit, the White House visitor logs are now available online as a free searchable database

The DC-based transparency group Property of the People successfully sued the White House to force it to disclose its visitor logs; now, in collaboration with Propublica, those logs are online as a free, searchable database. Read the rest

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