Today in OpenGov: Sunlight needed in transition process, open data, and the strain of “full transparency”


MORE SUNLIGHT NEEDED: On Tuesday, we gave our support to Proposition 54 in California. We think giving the public the opportunity to read legislation online for 72 hours before a vote is a good standard for every state to adopt. [LA Times]

Sunlight also joined 29 other groups in a letter calling on Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to declassify the secret government order to Yahoo to provide search of emails in 2015 for a specific symbol. [Reuters]

Last week, we joined 51 civil liberties, civil and human rights, immigrant rights, faith, digital rights and transparency organizations on a letter to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice calling for more disclosure, auditing and accountability for the use of face recognition technology by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. According to a new report, half of American adults are now in a law enforcement facial recognition network.

PAST: Former Sunlighter Richard Skinner published a 4-part series on how the presidential transition has evolved over time, from the early beginnings to when President Carter’s changes to President Clinton’s stumbles to how 9/11 improved the process. As he noted, “Sunlight has issued principles for transparency in the transition that we hope both campaigns will consider and adopt this fall. We hope that the American public will be better informed about the state of this important aspect of the democratic process through its careful implementation.” [READ MORE]

PRESENT: “Although all cities have processes for collecting and investigating complaints against their police officers, those complaints, the process for evaluating them and their consequences and follow-up, are all rarely communicated in a transparent and clear way to the public,” writes Sunlight’s Emily Shaw. “Police complaint secrecy is unacceptable at a time when we have more access to people’s concerns than we have before.” In a new post, Shaw surveys how different US cities are approaching opening up complaints data – or fighting to keep it closed. [READ MORE]

FUTURE: We’ve been living in the age of transparency for years, but the weaponization of hacks and publication of them is new. The hundreds of stories written about what’s in Podesta’s emails are providing an unprecedented window into a major political campaign, including its operations, deliberations, strategy, research and personalities. [Google News]

As Wikileaks continues to publish tranches of emails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account, staff and Democratic officials are arguing that they aren’t validated and could be doctored. While the possibility of emails with DKIM headers being altered can’t be ruled out, IT security experts say the digital signatures on the rest of them would be extremely hard to fake. [Politifact]

This strain of “full transparency” will put a new premium on the ability of organizations to secure their communications, the ethics of the people who report the leaks out, and a renewed focus on redaction practices at Wikileaks or other organizations that receive data. As Glenn Greenwald told the CBC, you’d have to be a sociopath to publish all leaked data or documents indiscriminately. Given foreign states trying to interfere with the U.S. election, these questions are central for journalists and anyone writing about the substance hacks and leaks. [ArsTechnica]


  • About $1.8 billion has been spent in the 2016 presidential race, according to an analysis of federal data. [Center for Public Integrity]
  • Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire hedge fund executive, donated $500,000 to a super PAC supporting the Trump-Pence ticket. [The Intercept]
  • An undercover investigation by reporters at the Telegraph investigation found that senior officials in the Great America PAC were willing to accept illicit campaign donations from foreign sources. [Telegraph]
  • Federal campaign finance records show that a group linked to Virginia Governor Terry McAullife donated almost half a million dollars to the 2015 state Senate candidate campaign of Dr. Jill McCabe, the wife of Andrew McCabe, now the deputy director of the FBI. [WSJ]
  • While automatic voter registration is real in many states, 2016 will be a test of whether it leads to more turnout. [Governing]
  • One thing that is clear: very, very, very few non-citizens will be voting this fall in the USA. [Politifact]
  • Less than half of the 2010 American adults polled by PRRI are confident that their vote will be accurately counted. [New York Times]
  • One thing we can be confident about: politicians will now use social media to go direct to voters, bypassing the media and the challenge and accountability that journalists once provided. #TrumpTV is now live on Facebook. [Wired]


  • The Center for Open Data Enterprise released an Open Data Action Plan for the next administration. Sunlight endorsed it but has some concerns about what wasn’t in it that we’ve shared separately on the blog. [Sunlight]
  • AT&T has been secretly selling surveillance services to the US government. [Daily Beast]
  • The General Services Administration’s inspector general released a report on 18F, the federal government’s software development shop, that found issues with accounting, project management and revenue. [Federal News Radio]
  • David Zvenyach, acting executive director of 18F, welcomed the report and its findings in an blog post: “As an organization, 18F is committed to delivering; that is the strategy. Our mission requires us to be relentlessly focused on helping our agency partners, and that means we need to ensure that we continuously improve on our controls and processes to meet that mission,” he wrote. “The oversight of GSA’s Inspector General is a critical part of how we can continue to improve, and we appreciate their review and agree with their recommendations.”
  • U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch released a memorandum providing updated guidance on charging people under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). While the CFAA still merits reform, the calibrated instruction could affect abuse of a statute that provides prosecutors with broad latitude. [PDF]
  • According to a report by the agency inspector general, the EPA stayed quiet about Flint’s bad water for 7 months longer than it should have. [GovExec]
  • Your faithful correspondent talked about the Opportunity Project with Government Matters TV. [ABC7]
  • Here’s another open priority for the next administration: map where every factory farm in the USA is so that the EPA and Justice Department can oversee them. [Inside Climate News]


  • From Anchorage to Little Rock, cities are committing to opening up police data, writes Sunlight’s Noel Isama: “Participation by the 129 jurisdictions in the Police Data Initiative shows how data can be a bridge between the police and the public. By opening police data, Little Rock and Anchorage, along with dozens of other police departments across the country, are demonstrating that information is a powerful tool for improving policing and community relations.” [READ MORE]
  • On that count, open data is fueling the fight against police misconduct in New York City. [The Intercept]
  • Data transparency can go the other way, too: Kansas ended publishing a quarterly economic report after it showed the opposite effect of its governor’s promises. [Bloomberg]
  • Data obtained under Virginia’s public records law showed that almost 80 percent of the people stopped by the Charlottesville police to date in 2016 were black. [Daily Progress]
  • Reclaim New York announced a Local Government Spending Database along with Transparency Guidelines for local governments.
  • Here’s one that could use more transparency: DC. “Secret law enforcement requests to conduct electronic surveillance in domestic criminal cases have surged in federal courts for Northern Virginia and the District, but only one in a thousand of the applications ever becomes public, newly released data show.” [Washington Post]
  • Granicus is merging with GovDelivery. [GovTech]


  • Civicus launched a global map that monitors the opening or closing of civic space. [Civicus]
  • The World Justice Project launched its annual Rule of Law Index.
  • Lydia Namubiru shared her experience developing and teaching data skills in Uganda. [Tow Center]
  • Nigeria’s Justice Minister said that the country’s economic problems are rooted in corruption. The more that a public sees open government reforms effectively fighting corruption, the most support such initiatives gain. [Premium Times]
  • The “right to be forgotten” could become a major challenge for open data in the European Union. [Medium]
  • Changing power dynamics through open data will be a key theme for open government advocates in 2017. [The Engine Room]


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