Facebook of Crime

Palantir pushes its way into law enforcement; political divisions reemerge in Silicon Valley; and more.


  • Why, oh, why: In a new article for Civicist, Tom Steinberg asks why civic technologists don’t often explain—to themselves or to others—why we need user-centered, digital government, and writes about his own motivations.

  • Hacking homelessness: Houston is considering ways to use apps to divert residents’ generosity away from individual panhandlers standing at well-trafficked intersection to established organizations dedicated to supporting homeless residents, Jason Shueh reports for State Scoop. It seems they have quite a bit to figure out still—like how to create a push notification system that won’t distract drivers and cause car accidents, and how they might persuade residents to download an app with such a narrow purpose.

  • Rachel Dodell interviewed Erie Meyer about helping found the Technology and Innovation team at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the most important lesson she learned while working in government, what she’s doing in her new position at Code for America, and more.

  • Code for America is among the recipients of a new grant from Google, part of a $50 million initiative to help people face the “changing nature of work.” The National Domestic Workers Alliance is also among the grantees.

  • Creating a Healthy Public: How do you promote a better culture of health? That’s the same question Civic Hall Labs was trying to solve at their Civic Health Ideation Retreat. This week they’ve published the details of that meeting, what they learned, and how they plan to take utilize these insights for future attempts at creating a healthier public.

  • ICYMI: R. James Woolsey and Brian J. Fox argue in The New York Times that the best way to protect U.S. elections from hacking is to use open-source balloting software.

  • Mark Harris reports for Wired on how Peter Thiel’s data company pushed its way into law enforce agencies around the country. “These documents show how Palantir applies Silicon Valley’s playbook to domestic law enforcement,” Harris writes. “New users are welcomed with discounted hardware and federal grants, sharing their own data in return for access to others’. When enough jurisdictions join Palantir’s interconnected web of police departments, government agencies, and databases, the resulting data trove resembles a pay-to-access social network—a Facebook of crime that’s both invisible and largely unaccountable to the citizens whose behavior it tracks.”

  • Nick Wingfield reports for The New York Times on the political divisions in Silicon Valley that have be (re-)opened with the firing of the software engineer who questioned women’s biological fitness in the tech industry, using it as an opportunity to go over once again the blowback that Peter Thiel and Palmer Luckey faced for their support of candidate Trump.

  • Opportunity: The Participatory Budgeting Project is seeking part-time interns for fall 2017. Apply by August 31. Learn more here.

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