All Your Data

Alexa's gossip (and privacy) problem; a manifesto for civic tech; and more.


  • This is civic tech: Marking the implementation of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation today, a group of organizers in Barcelona have published a “Civic Technology Manifesto” and announced that they are building a “Civic Tech House” in the city to bring together ethically-minded engineers, social scientists, privacy-positive nonprofits and companies, and funders. In an important step forward for the civic tech field, the manifesto lays out a set of practices related to a group’s mission, values, product and impact in order to better define whether the tech one is doing is civic tech.

  • Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems has already brought official GDPR complaints against Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, David Meyer reports for Fortune. Schrems is arguing that the “consent boxes” popping up on everyone’s screens are more like “forced consent” and thus violate the new law.

  • In a win for Civic Hall member organization HeatSeekNYC, members of the New York City Council have introduced legislation that would force landlords with the worst history of hazardous heat violations to install heat sensors like the ones HeatSeek makes, Erin Durkin reports for The Daily News.

  • Data For Democracy is partnering with Amnesty International on its Troll Project, which works with volunteer digital activists to monitor and expose online abuse.

  • There are lots of new speakers and a full schedule up for Personal Democracy Forum 2018, which is happening in two weeks. Get all the details and your tickets here.

  • Immigration watch: “A weeping mother has been forced to wear a yellow insignia (bracelet) as she is ripped away from her children indefinitely. In the United States. By policy.” So tweets Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News, commenting on this story from Arizona, where ICE has implemented a “fast-track” pogrom (ahem, program) that is punishing families crossing the border. The Department of Health and Human Services admitted to Congress yesterday that it has lost track of almost 1,500 migrant children that it has placed with sponsors from October to the end of last year.

  • The ACLU has filed a FOIA request to learn how government agencies like the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are collecting and analyzing content from social media sites. As Hugh Handeyside, a senior staff attorney, explains, “there’s no evidence that social media surveillance improves our security. Research contradicts the notion that reliable indicators exist to identify would-be terrorists or other security threats. In the absence of such indicators, officials inevitably scrutinize and penalize speech, religious affiliation, or other constitutionally protected conduct.” Right now, the Department of Homeland Security has a social media screening service, ICE is spending $100 million on a new project to monitor the social media activity of visitors to the US, the State Department has announced it will require millions of people who apply for visas to submit their social media identifiers, and the FBI is reportedly establishing a task force to monitor social media.

  • April Glaser of Slate explains why we shouldn’t ignore Elon Musk’s babyish ranting against investigative reporting organizations like Reveal and Consumer Reports, which have criticized his labor practices and product quality. (Full disclosure: I’m on Consumer Reports’ board.)

  • It looks like dirty trickster Roger Stone misled Congress when he testified that he didn’t have contact with Wikileaks seeking damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Shelby Holliday and Rob Barry report for The Wall Street Journal. Newly uncovered emails show Stone specifically asking an intermediary, Randy Credico, for particular emails from Julian Assange.

  • Internet of Shit: An Amazon Alexa sent a recording of a household conversation to someone in the owner’s contact list, without them knowing, Gary Horcher reports for KIRO-TV. Amazon says it was “an extremely rare occurrence” and that it “takes privacy very seriously.” As noted earlier this week, it also sells facial recognition technology to police agencies.

  • Are the folks at the Bad Idea Factory behind these terrible new Kickstarter projects aimed at dealing with the need to make phones calls in crowded offices?

  • First Post will be offline Monday in observance of Memorial Day. Have a good weekend and see you Tuesday!