Drivers

On being "woke"; Mexico City is crowdsourcing its new constitutions, but skeptics abound; and more.


  • Tech and politics: According to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), speaking at a Civic Hall “Innovation Breakfast” this morning, the most “tech-savvy senator” is his colleague Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). He also disclosed that Tim Cook of Apple held a fundraiser for him last year in Palo Alto, which was highlighted by his pulling out his ancient flip-phone, to everyone’s amazement and amusement. The audience of tech entrepreneurs and civic activists applauded his support for net neutrality, along with his efforts to boost local tech start-ups like the “Nerd Bus,” which will connect the tech triangle in Brooklyn with neighborhoods in Williamsburg and the new Cornell Technion campus.

  • Asked by Errol Louis of NY1 for his position on the encryption debate roiling Washington, Schumer said “there’s got to be a way for both sides to sit down and come up with something.” He warned that a terrorist attack could lead to a rush to legislate a crackdown on encryption’s use, and called for more effort to find a technological or “values-based” compromise. “There are many more discussions today between leaders of the FBI and national security and leaders of the tech industry [on this topic],” he added.

  • Speaking of the U.S. Senate, Florida senate candidates Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) are holding an unusual head-to-head “open debate” this coming Monday, answering the top-voted questions submitted by the public on an online platform hosted by the Open Debate Coalition, our Christine Cupaiuolo reports for Civicist. Right now the top questions, with several thousand votes each, cover issues like repealing Citizens United, breaking up big banks, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, voting rights, and abortion.

  • Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is steadily raising his political profile, particularly in response to the rise of xenophobia in the United States, Maria Trujillo reports for the Hill.

  • Paul Blumenthal of The Huffington Post reports on how the End Citizens United PAC has horned in on the established campaign finance reform community’s turf in Washington, executing an aggressive email fundraising strategy that has brought in $11 million in just one year, with the lion’s share of that money going to consultants and list-building expenses.

  • Wired’s Kim Zetter reminds us of one of the underlying reasons Congress is so often clueless about tech: lawmakers killed off its Office of Technology Assessment 20 years ago.

  • This is civic tech: The U.S. Digital Service’s Kavi Harshawat and Mary Ann Brody announce the nationwide launch of a new tool, Caseflow Certification, the first of many tools that they say “will begin to improve the processing of benefit claim appeals at the Department of Veterans Affairs.” They note that “the software used to track appeals both at the Board and throughout the VA was built in the 1980s, with the maintenance left largely to a single developer.” We’ve heard that these new tools may save the VA around $200 million in the next year alone.

  • The World Wide Web Foundation has released its 2016 OpenData Barometer, which finds that 55 percent of the 92 countries covered now have an open data initiative in place, but just 10 percent of government data is published as open data.

  • Mexico City is crowdsourcing its new constitution, reports Ana Campoy for Quartz. Residents can petition for issues to be included using Change.org, make their case in person if they get more than 10,000 signatures, and annotate drafts using the PubPub editing platform. “There’s a big catch,” Campoy notes. “The constitutional assembly—the body that has the final word on the new city’s basic law—is under no obligation to consider any of the citizen input.” Another big obstacle: the widespread public perception, evidenced by this online survey that accompanies the project, that corruption will prevent any useful public suggestions from being implemented.

  • Technical.ly Philly’s Juliana Reyes reports on the ins and outs of who’s in and out in the city government’s office of information technology.

  • Women still face sexual harassment at tech conferences, Joseph Cox reports for Motherboard, though at some recent gatherings like RightsCon, the problem has been both acknowledged by conference organizers and swiftly and publicly addressed. (h/t Deanna Zandt)

  • Woke? Writing for the New York Times Magazine, Amanda Hess says the humblest of social media humblebrags is over.

  • What sharing economy? Dodging a bullet, Uber has settled two class action lawsuits that could have forced it to reclassify its drivers as employees rather than independent contractors, Mike Isaac and Noam Scheiber report for the New York Times. As part of the settlement, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick admitted that “we haven’t always done a good job working with drivers,” and he announced changes in how the company will manage how they are rated and deactivated.

  • Your moment of zen: Don’t miss this hauntingly beautiful acoustic version of Prince playing “Purple Rain” just two months ago, shared by our friend Anil Dash. RIP Prince.