Wood Chips

AlGOVrithms; why campaign security stinks; GDPR at 1; and much more.


  • This is civic tech: The annual Code for America Summit is underway today and tomorrow in Oakland. Follow along with the agenda here or via the hashtag #CFASummit.

  • Our friends at Poland’s ePantswo Foundation (along with several other European partners) have a new report out on alGOVrithms, which they define as automated selection or filtering processes used by government authorities.

  • Are big tech funders welcome saviors for journalism or new forms of trouble? That’s the question mulled by Mike Scutari of Inside Philanthropy, who uses the recent blow-up of The Markup as a jumping off point for a balanced look at the pros and cons.

  • Tech and politics: MoveOn, the giant digital organizing group, has named Rahna Epting, its current chief of program, as its next executive director, as Juana Summers reports for the AP. As a black and Iranian woman, she will be the first person of color to run MoveOn in its 20-year history.

  • Related: Eight of the Democratic candidates running for president — Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren — will be appearing at a forum hosted by MoveOn Saturday. To submit a question, go here.

  • Ryan Grim of the Intercept has a new book coming out on progressive politics called We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement, and in this excerpt he sheds fresh light on how the distributed digital organizing team that built a niche inside the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign has seeded a wave of new efforts from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s longshot run for Congress to the Green New Deal.

  • Speaking of new books, our old friend Cheryl Contee, who co-founded the Jack and Jill Politics blog, co-founder of Fission Strategy, and chair of Netroots Nation, has a new book out called Mechanical Bull: How You Can Achieve Start-up Success. (And she’ll be giving a keynote talk about the book at Personal Democracy Forum next week–a few tickets are still available!)

  • Johnny Yubikey, aka Maciej Ceglowski, spent most of last year helping deliver basic security training to 41 Democratic congressional campaigns, and shares the results here. Dolefully, he notes, “as you will see there is plenty to lose hope about just in this corner of the problem space.” He also says, “Practical campaign security is a wood chipper for your hopes and dreams.” And: “Trying to secure a modern campaign is like doing surgery with a scalpel made out of anthrax spores.” He’s a funny writer, but the whole post is worth a read for all the serious advice on offer.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Writing in the Atlantic, Ian Bogost parses Facebook’s response to the Nancy Pelosi “shallow fake” video, and the results are clarifying. Just remember this: Facebook does not have a policy “that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true.”

  • Alexios Mantzarlis, a TED fellow working with Clair Wardle of First Draft, tweets four useful recommendations for how Facebook could respond more productively to the spread of this type of misinformation.

  • A research team at NYU has built a way to adapt the processers inside a regular smartphone camera or SLR that would place watermarks in the code of photos and thus make indelible markers that could be used by analysts to identify authentic images from fakes, Lily Hay Newman reports for Wired.

  • Google has more temp workers than full-time employees, and as Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for The New York Times, this shadow workforce is treated nowhere as well as company regulars.

  • Privacy, shmivacy: While most advocates argue that tech should start with privacy by design instead of making users pro-actively opt-in, we are definitely entering the era of cosmetic privacy improvements. To wit, Amazon has announced that Alexa will now respond to “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” as Nicole Lee reports for Engadget. But this is something users will have to turn on from their privacy settings page, she notes.

  • Apple says its phones protect user privacy, but this investigation by Geoffrey Fowler in the Washington Post shows that the apps on most users’ pones are “guzzling” tons of personal data 24-7. He writes, “IPhone apps I discovered tracking me by passing information to third parties — just while I was asleep — include Microsoft OneDrive, Intuit’s Mint, Nike, Spotify, The Washington Post and IBM’s the Weather Channel. One app, the crime-alert service Citizen, shared personally identifiable information in violation of its published privacy policy.”

  • One year into the implementation of Europe’s General Data Privacy Regulation, here’s some highlights of its impact, courtesy of Matthew Wall of the BBC.

  • Food for thought: Of the 5.3 billion humans over the age of 15 in the world, 5 billion have a mobile phone, with 80% of those owning a smart-phone, according to some rough estimates from Benedict Evans of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.

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