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Paul Merrell

Most Agencies Falling Short on Mandate for Online Records - 1 views

  • Nearly 20 years after Congress passed the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA), only 40 percent of agencies have followed the law's instruction for systematic posting of records released through FOIA in their electronic reading rooms, according to a new FOIA Audit released today by the National Security Archive at www.nsarchive.org to mark Sunshine Week. The Archive team audited all federal agencies with Chief FOIA Officers as well as agency components that handle more than 500 FOIA requests a year — 165 federal offices in all — and found only 67 with online libraries populated with significant numbers of released FOIA documents and regularly updated.
  • Congress called on agencies to embrace disclosure and the digital era nearly two decades ago, with the passage of the 1996 "E-FOIA" amendments. The law mandated that agencies post key sets of records online, provide citizens with detailed guidance on making FOIA requests, and use new information technology to post online proactively records of significant public interest, including those already processed in response to FOIA requests and "likely to become the subject of subsequent requests." Congress believed then, and openness advocates know now, that this kind of proactive disclosure, publishing online the results of FOIA requests as well as agency records that might be requested in the future, is the only tenable solution to FOIA backlogs and delays. Thus the National Security Archive chose to focus on the e-reading rooms of agencies in its latest audit. Even though the majority of federal agencies have not yet embraced proactive disclosure of their FOIA releases, the Archive E-FOIA Audit did find that some real "E-Stars" exist within the federal government, serving as examples to lagging agencies that technology can be harnessed to create state-of-the art FOIA platforms. Unfortunately, our audit also found "E-Delinquents" whose abysmal web performance recalls the teletype era.
  • E-Delinquents include the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, which, despite being mandated to advise the President on technology policy, does not embrace 21st century practices by posting any frequently requested records online. Another E-Delinquent, the Drug Enforcement Administration, insults its website's viewers by claiming that it "does not maintain records appropriate for FOIA Library at this time."
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  • THE E-DELINQUENTS: WORST OVERALL AGENCIES In alphabetical order
  • The federal government has made some progress moving into the digital era. The National Security Archive's last E-FOIA Audit in 2007, " File Not Found," reported that only one in five federal agencies had put online all of the specific requirements mentioned in the E-FOIA amendments, such as guidance on making requests, contact information, and processing regulations. The new E-FOIA Audit finds the number of agencies that have checked those boxes is now much higher — 100 out of 165 — though many (66 in 165) have posted just the bare minimum, especially when posting FOIA responses. An additional 33 agencies even now do not post these types of records at all, clearly thwarting the law's intent.
  • The FOIAonline Members (Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Merit Systems Protection Board, National Archives and Records Administration, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Department of the Navy, General Services Administration, Small Business Administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Federal Communications Commission) won their "E-Star" by making past requests and releases searchable via FOIAonline. FOIAonline also allows users to submit their FOIA requests digitally.
  • "The presumption of openness requires the presumption of posting," said Archive director Tom Blanton. "For the new generation, if it's not online, it does not exist." The National Security Archive has conducted fourteen FOIA Audits since 2002. Modeled after the California Sunshine Survey and subsequent state "FOI Audits," the Archive's FOIA Audits use open-government laws to test whether or not agencies are obeying those same laws. Recommendations from previous Archive FOIA Audits have led directly to laws and executive orders which have: set explicit customer service guidelines, mandated FOIA backlog reduction, assigned individualized FOIA tracking numbers, forced agencies to report the average number of days needed to process requests, and revealed the (often embarrassing) ages of the oldest pending FOIA requests. The surveys include:
  • Key Findings
  • Excuses Agencies Give for Poor E-Performance
  • Justice Department guidance undermines the statute. Currently, the FOIA stipulates that documents "likely to become the subject of subsequent requests" must be posted by agencies somewhere in their electronic reading rooms. The Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy defines these records as "frequently requested records… or those which have been released three or more times to FOIA requesters." Of course, it is time-consuming for agencies to develop a system that keeps track of how often a record has been released, which is in part why agencies rarely do so and are often in breach of the law. Troublingly, both the current House and Senate FOIA bills include language that codifies the instructions from the Department of Justice. The National Security Archive believes the addition of this "three or more times" language actually harms the intent of the Freedom of Information Act as it will give agencies an easy excuse ("not requested three times yet!") not to proactively post documents that agency FOIA offices have already spent time, money, and energy processing. We have formally suggested alternate language requiring that agencies generally post "all records, regardless of form or format that have been released in response to a FOIA request."
  • Disabilities Compliance. Despite the E-FOIA Act, many government agencies do not embrace the idea of posting their FOIA responses online. The most common reason agencies give is that it is difficult to post documents in a format that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, also referred to as being "508 compliant," and the 1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act that require federal agencies "to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities." E-Star agencies, however, have proven that 508 compliance is no barrier when the agency has a will to post. All documents posted on FOIAonline are 508 compliant, as are the documents posted by the Department of Defense and the Department of State. In fact, every document created electronically by the US government after 1998 should already be 508 compliant. Even old paper records that are scanned to be processed through FOIA can be made 508 compliant with just a few clicks in Adobe Acrobat, according to this Department of Homeland Security guide (essentially OCRing the text, and including information about where non-textual fields appear). Even if agencies are insistent it is too difficult to OCR older documents that were scanned from paper, they cannot use that excuse with digital records.
  • Privacy. Another commonly articulated concern about posting FOIA releases online is that doing so could inadvertently disclose private information from "first person" FOIA requests. This is a valid concern, and this subset of FOIA requests should not be posted online. (The Justice Department identified "first party" requester rights in 1989. Essentially agencies cannot use the b(6) privacy exemption to redact information if a person requests it for him or herself. An example of a "first person" FOIA would be a person's request for his own immigration file.) Cost and Waste of Resources. There is also a belief that there is little public interest in the majority of FOIA requests processed, and hence it is a waste of resources to post them. This thinking runs counter to the governing principle of the Freedom of Information Act: that government information belongs to US citizens, not US agencies. As such, the reason that a person requests information is immaterial as the agency processes the request; the "interest factor" of a document should also be immaterial when an agency is required to post it online. Some think that posting FOIA releases online is not cost effective. In fact, the opposite is true. It's not cost effective to spend tens (or hundreds) of person hours to search for, review, and redact FOIA requests only to mail it to the requester and have them slip it into their desk drawer and forget about it. That is a waste of resources. The released document should be posted online for any interested party to utilize. This will only become easier as FOIA processing systems evolve to automatically post the documents they track. The State Department earned its "E-Star" status demonstrating this very principle, and spent no new funds and did not hire contractors to build its Electronic Reading Room, instead it built a self-sustaining platform that will save the agency time and money going forward.
Paul Merrell

The UN Releases Plan to Push for Worldwide Internet Censorship | Global Research - Centre for Research on Globalization - 0 views

  • The United Nations has disgraced itself immeasurably over the past month or so. In case you missed the following stories, I suggest catching up now: The UN’s “Sustainable Development Agenda” is Basically a Giant Corporatist Fraud Not a Joke – Saudi Arabia Chosen to Head UN Human Rights Panel Fresh off the scene from those two epic embarrassments, the UN now wants to tell governments of the world how to censor the internet. I wish I was kidding. From the Washington Post: On Thursday, the organization’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development released a damning “world-wide wake-up call” on what it calls “cyber VAWG,” or violence against women and girls. The report concludes that online harassment is “a problem of pandemic proportion” — which, nbd, we’ve all heard before. But the United Nations then goes on to propose radical, proactive policy changes for both governments and social networks, effectively projecting a whole new vision for how the Internet could work. Under U.S. law — the law that, not coincidentally, governs most of the world’s largest online platforms — intermediaries such as Twitter and Facebook generally can’t be held responsible for what people do on them. But the United Nations proposes both that social networks proactively police every profile and post, and that government agencies only “license” those who agree to do so.
  • People are being harassed online, and the solution is to censor everything and license speech? Remarkable. How that would actually work, we don’t know; the report is light on concrete, actionable policy. But it repeatedly suggests both that social networks need to opt-in to stronger anti-harassment regimes and that governments need to enforce them proactively. At one point toward the end of the paper, the U.N. panel concludes that“political and governmental bodies need to use their licensing prerogative” to better protect human and women’s rights, only granting licenses to “those Telecoms and search engines” that “supervise content and its dissemination.” So we’re supposed to be lectured about human rights from an organization that named Saudi Arabia head of its human rights panel? Got it. Regardless of whether you think those are worthwhile ends, the implications are huge: It’s an attempt to transform the Web from a libertarian free-for-all to some kind of enforced social commons. This U.N. report gets us no closer, alas: all but its most modest proposals are unfeasible. We can educate people about gender violence or teach “digital citizenship” in schools, but persuading social networks to police everything their users post is next to impossible. And even if it weren’t, there are serious implications for innovation and speech: According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, CDA 230 — the law that exempts online intermediaries from this kind of policing — is basically what allowed modern social networks (and blogs, and comments, and forums, etc.) to come into being. If we’re lucky, perhaps the Saudi religious police chief (yes, they have one) who went on a rampage against Twitter a couple of years ago, will be available to head up the project. What a joke.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

The incoming European Commissioner Andrus Ansip declares his support for free software | April - 0 views

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    "Paris, October 8th, 2014, press release. During the course of his European Parliament hearing, Andrus Ansip, the designated EU Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, expressed his support for free software several times. April hopes that this is a sign towards the implementation of proactive policies in favour of free software."
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    "Paris, October 8th, 2014, press release. During the course of his European Parliament hearing, Andrus Ansip, the designated EU Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, expressed his support for free software several times. April hopes that this is a sign towards the implementation of proactive policies in favour of free software."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

7 steps to proactive security | Network World - 1 views

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    "The key to securing against this threat lies in a common metaphor-if a ship has a hole, it is better to patch the breach than bail the water Network World | Oct 21, 2016 4:00 AM P"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

YouTube Doesn't Have To Police Piracy Proactively, Court Rules | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Ernesto on July 2, 2015 C: 20 Breaking A court in Hamburg, Germany, has ruled that YouTube is not required to actively monitor user uploads for pirated content. The court found that YouTube is not liable for what users upload, but did stress that Google's video platform has to do more to combat copyright infringement. "
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Grooveshark Publishes Proactive Anti-Piracy Policy | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Andy on April 3, 2015 C: 0 Breaking After a judge handed down a summary judgment in its case against EMI this week, embattled music streaming service Grooveshark has published a new anti-piracy policy."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Music Group Wants ISPs to Spy on Customers to Stop Piracy | TorrentFreak [# ! Note] - 0 views

    • Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.
       
      # ! #WARNING: '#Spying' goes far beyond of 'combating' 'Piracy' # ! it is connivence with political and economical powers to # ! #snoop citizens' lives...
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    [ Andy on March 24, 2015 C: 0 Breaking In a response to the draft code tabled to deal with the Australian online-piracy problem, some of the world's largest music publishers have presented a set of draconian measures. ISPs should not only use technology to spy on their own customers, but also to proactively block access to infringing content and websites. ...]
Paul Merrell

Federal smartphone kill-switch legislation proposed - Network World - 0 views

  • Pressure on the cellphone industry to introduce technology that could disable stolen smartphones has intensified with the introduction of proposed federal legislation that would mandate such a system.
  • Pressure on the cellphone industry to introduce technology that could disable stolen smartphones has intensified with the introduction of proposed federal legislation that would mandate such a system.
  • Senate bill 2032, "The Smartphone Prevention Act," was introduced to the U.S. Senate Wednesday by Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat. The bill promises technology that allows consumers to remotely wipe personal data from their smartphones and render them inoperable. But how that will be accomplished is currently unclear. The full text of the bill was not immediately available and the offices of Klobuchar and the bill's co-sponsors were all shut down Thursday due to snow in Washington, D.C.
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  • The co-sponsors are Democrats Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. The proposal follows the introduction last Friday of a bill in the California state senate that would mandate a "kill switch" starting in January 2015. The California bill has the potential to usher in kill-switch technology nationwide because carriers might not bother with custom phones just for California, but federal legislation would give it the force of law across the U.S. Theft of smartphones is becoming an increasing problem in U.S. cities and the crimes often involve physical violence or intimidation with guns or knives. In San Francisco, two-thirds of street theft involves a smartphone or tablet and the number is even higher in nearby Oakland. It also represents a majority of street robberies in New York and is rising in Los Angeles. In some cases, victims have been killed for their phones. In response to calls last year by law-enforcement officials to do more to combat the crimes, most cellphone carriers have aligned themselves behind the CTIA, the industry's powerful lobbying group. The CTIA is opposing any legislation that would introduce such technology. An outlier is Verizon, which says that while it thinks legislation is unnecessary, it is supporting the group behind the California bill.
  • Some phone makers have been a little more proactive. Apple in particular has been praised for the introduction of its activation lock feature in iOS7. The function would satisfy the requirements of the proposed California law with one exception: Phones will have to come with the function enabled by default so consumers have to make a conscious choice to switch it off. Currently, it comes as disabled by default. Samsung has also added features to some of its phones that support the Lojack software, but the service requires an ongoing subscription.
Paul Merrell

Google will 'de-rank' RT articles to make them harder to find - Eric Schmidt - RT World News - 0 views

  • Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, says the company will “engineer” specific algorithms for RT and Sputnik to make their articles less prominent on the search engine’s news delivery services. “We are working on detecting and de-ranking those kinds of sites – it’s basically RT and Sputnik,” Schmidt said during a Q & A session at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada on Saturday, when asked about whether Google facilitates “Russian propaganda.”
  • “We are well of aware of it, and we are trying to engineer the systems to prevent that [the content being delivered to wide audiences]. But we don’t want to ban the sites – that’s not how we operate.”The discussion focused on the company’s popular Google News service, which clusters the news by stories, then ranks the various media outlets depending on their reach, article length and veracity, and Google Alerts, which proactively informs subscribers of new publications.
  • The Alphabet chief, who has been referred to by Hillary Clinton as a “longtime friend,” added that the experience of “the last year” showed that audiences could not be trusted to distinguish fake and real news for themselves.“We started with the default American view that ‘bad’ speech would be replaced with ‘good’ speech, but the problem found in the last year is that this may not be true in certain situations, especially when you have a well-funded opponent who is trying to actively spread this information,” he told the audience.
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  • RT America registered under FARA earlier this month, after being threatened by the US Department of Justice with arrests and confiscations of property if it failed to comply. The broadcaster is fighting the order in court.
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