ARCHIVE ALL THE THINGS. Over the last month, many of you have asked what will happen with open government data under a Trump administration or with government transparency writ large. The honest answer is that we don’t know, but there’s sufficient reason for concern and cause for action now, as FreeGovInfo explains:
Here at FGI, we’ve been tracking the disappearance of government information for quite some time (and librarians have been doing it for longer than we have; see ALA’s long running series published from 1981 until 1998 called “Less Access to Less Information By and About the U.S. Government.”). We’ve recently written about the targeting of NASA’s climate research site and the Department of Energy’s carbon dioxide analysis center for closure.
But ever since the NY Times last week wrote a story “Harvesting Government History, One Web Page at a Time”, there has been renewed worry and interest from the library- and scientific communities as well as the public in archiving government information. And there’s been increased interest in the End of Term (EOT) crawl project — though there’s increased worry about the loss of government information with the incoming Trump administration, it’s important to note that the End of Term crawl has been going on since 2008, with both Republican and Democratic administrations, and will go on past 2016. EOT is working to capture as much of the .gov/.mil domains as we can, and we’re also casting our ‘net to harvest social media content and government information hosted on non-.gov domains (e.g., the St Louis Federal Reserve Bank at www.stlouisfed.org). We’re running several big crawls right now (you can see all of the seeds we have here as well as all of the seeds that have been nominated so far) and will continue to run crawls up to and after the Inauguration as well. We strongly encourage the public to nominate seeds of government sites so that we can be as thorough in our crawling as possible.
Scientists and researchers around the United States and beyond are now crawling and archiving data. For more information about this effort, and ways you can help, read FreeGovInfo and participate in the End of Term Crawl. [READ MORE]
GOOD NEWS: New Jersey passed what looks to us like a landmark open data law. If you agree or disagree, please let us know.
SPRECHEN SIE DEUTSCH? Germany has published a draft of a proposed open data law. Keep an eye on this one.
TO WATCH: A privatized security force employed directly by a President would be a threat to public accountability, as John Wonderlich warns: “Is Trump’s security team going to be paid through a government contract? Or is this a private arrangement that contradicts Secret Service roles? Trump’s security team is presumably paid through one of Trump’s corporate vehicles, not his personal account, no? Privatized POTUS security is Presidential security that lives further from public protections, FOIA, and the rule of law. Trump’s failure to divest is also an assertion that he can act unilaterally outside the law. Like with a private security force.”
WEIGH IN: As we highlighted in August, the Office of Information Policy asked for feedback on a proposed “release to one, release to all” policy for the Freedom of Information Act. This month, the Justice Department published an official Request for Comments on the draft, including an description of the “release to all presumption” and a draft memorandum for federal agencies. The Project on Government Oversight supports the proposed “release-to-one, release-to-all” policy for the Freedom of Information Act, with caveats. So do we, as you’ll read tomorrow. We encourage you to comment — but don’t wait: the deadline is tomorrow. [Federal Register]
EDITOR’S NOTE: This will be the last Today in OpenGov of 2016, as Sunlight staff takes time off to rest, travel and spend time with family over the holiday break. As the year comes to a close, we are also saddened about remarkable colleagues moving on after making extraordinary contributions to Sunlight and to open government in the United States. We are deeply grateful to them and you, our community. Thank you for reading, commenting, corresponding and holding us accountable, too. We hope you will consider making a tax-deductible donation as part of your year-end giving. We will see you in the new year. –Alex
— Mike Allen (@mikeallen) December 19, 2016
- 148 days. The last press conference President-elect Donald J. Trump held was on July 27. He has held none since Election Day. News organizations are starting to respond appropriately by highlighting the violation of this fundamental democratic norm but are still not adjusting to this new reality, as Poynter’s report that White House correspondents are fretting over their dinner suggests. The deeper problem is what the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) dinner — aka “nerd prom” — “looks like” now, and has for years: journalists too cozy with power and worried about losing access. A majority of the public doesn’t trust the press. Reporters should worry about Trump’s lack of press conferences. “Engaging with the press” is not a sufficient commitment by the President-elect or his team. Our suggestion to media organizations and the WHCA: suspend the dinner until Trump holds press conference and commits to holding them in office.
- Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is involved in filling health, technology and science appointments in the transition, including roles that would have conflicts of interest with some of his investments. [Stat News]
- Activist investor Carl Icahn is to play a role in choosing new SEC chairman, who oversees regulation of investors. [New York Times]
- Vetting billionaires nominated for public service takes time. Process shouldn’t be rushed, nor disclosure diminished. [New York Times]
- The National Archives and Records Administration proactive published the transition materials it prepared for the transition team. This is a commendable open government bar for all federal agencies!
- Looking back through the history of the United States, former Sunlighter Zephyr Teachout, a law professor ran for governor and Congress in New York, concludes that Trump could be the “most corruptible President ever.” [Politico Mag]
- The Trumps are taking steps to address conflicts of interest. [New York Times]
- The President-elect is going to have to decide whether he will put the people’s business or his business interests first. [Diane Rehm Show]
- A piecemeal approach to resolving conflicts of interest journalists report won’t work. A “discretionary blind trust” won’t work. A President of the United States should disclose his tax returns, divest from his businesses, invest the proceeds into a blind trust, and hold a press conference to discuss it all.
- The Obama administration is “dismantling a dormant national registry program for visitors from countries with active terrorist groups — a program that President-elect Donald J. Trump has suggested he is considering resurrecting.” Read the Federal Register. [New York Times]
- In a new report, the House Judiciary Committee concluded that “Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest.” Notable conclusion, that.
- In a historic moment of progress for Americans with disabilities, The FCC voted 5-0 to require US wireless carriers & device manufacturers to support RTT: real-time text messaging. [Motherboard]
- The White House announced iOS and Android apps for regulatory information. While we’re glad to see improvements in making the regulatory process more easy to understand to smartphone-toting nation, should government agencies focus on shiny apps or making .gov websites mobile-friendly and responsive first? [WhiteHouse.gov]
- Separately, the White House shared an update on “We the People,” its e-petition platform. As U.S. chief digital officer Jason Goldman notes, “While we’ve taken every step possible to make it easy for future administrations to carry on this tradition, it’s ultimately up to the incoming team.” Please let Sunlight know if you think this is a platform worth defending. [Medium]
- Oh yeah! Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute is officially the co-owner of oyez.org, the wonderful website that publishes audio and context for oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. [InfoDocket]
- Despite data problems and oversight, the IT Dashboard continues to give us some sense of how long federal IT projects take and how much they cost. A new analysis by Federal News Radio digs into that data to come up with some averages across agencies, documenting continued challenges in delivery. [FedNewsRadio]
- Price transparency will bring down health care costs if and when the data finds the public through tools and platforms when and where they make decisions. Today, far too many people don’t know where to go to compare or find data. [New York Times]
- Speaking of transparency, the Department of Veterans Affairs is now releasing health care quality data. [USA Today]
STATE AND LOCAL
- A federal monitor found multiple problems with the Cleveland Police Department’s bodycam program. [Cleveland.com]
- As the City of Chicago settles a public records lawsuit, Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged that he hid city business using personal email accounts. [Chicago Tribune]
- Civic Hall will be the anchor tenant of a new $250 million “innovation hub” in New York City’s Union Square, set to break ground in 2018. Congratulations to former Sunlight advisors Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej on this further validation of their vision. [Fast Company]
- The United States reached the biggest settlement ever – by far – under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, penalizing two Brazilian companies. “On December 21st America’s Department of Justice (DoJ) reached a $3.5bn settlement with Odebrecht, Brazil’s biggest builder, and with Braskem, a petrochemical joint venture between that firm and Petrobras. The DoJ alleges that since 2001 Odebrecht and Braskem paid $788m in bribes to officials and political parties in Brazil and in 11 other countries. Most of these are in Latin America. They include Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina and the Dominican Republic (see chart). Two Portuguese-speaking African countries—Angola and Mozambique—are also on the list.” [The Economist]
- Researcher Jonathan Gray published a new paper on “datafication” and democracy. [IPPR]
- The World Bank published a new post on their work to determine the cost of open government reforms: “Once finished, the costing framework will be made freely available for governments and other interested parties to cost out specific open government reforms under consideration. It will also position this framework as an accessible, “do-it-yourself” (DIY) tool that can be utilized by generalists — including officials in low and middle-income country governments — seeking to understand the full costs of starting and sustaining open government reforms over time.” [World Bank]
- The lingering feeling from the Anti-Corruption Summit and Open Government Partnership Summit was that “the usual responses are inadequate,” writes Tom King. [GIJN]