Today in OpenGov: The buck stops somewhere over there.


In today's edition, Facebook faces fallout from data misuse revelations, HUD Secretary Ben Carson blames his wife for excessive spending, local governments aren't so keen to disclose who they give tax breaks to, Europe embraces new data protection rules, and more. 

washington watch

Image by Alex Howard.
  • Facebook, other tech giants, face fallout over allegations of data misuse. "Revelations that a political data firm may have gained access to the personal information of as many as 50 million Facebook users drew new bipartisan calls on Capitol Hill Monday for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the heads of other social media companies to answer questions from Congress." The revelations have also sparked renewed calls for the Honest Ads Act, which would "require Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media companies to disclose who is paying for political ads that appear on their online platforms." (USA Today) Our view? We strongly support the Honest Ads Act and agree that these revelations highlight the need for more transparency and accountability for political ads on social media.
  • Federal Trade Commission opens inquiry into Facebook's third party data sharing practices. "The Federal Trade Commission is launching an inquiry into Facebook in the wake of reports that Trump-linked Cambridge Analytica misused data from 50 million Facebook accounts, according to a source familiar with the matter. The agency plans to send the company a series of questions in a letter shortly, the source said. Under a 2011 consent decree with the FTC, Facebook agreed to get express permission and notify users before sharing their data with third parties. Facebook could face massive fines if the FTC determines it violated the terms of the agreement." (POLITICO)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development chief information officer resigns amid corruption links. "One of the most senior officials in Ben Carson’s housing department has lost his job after the Guardian disclosed his link to a colleague accused of fraud and a federal watchdog received allegations of corruption in his office. Johnson Joy departed from his position as chief information officer at Carson’s Department for Housing and Urban Development (Hud) on Tuesday…Joy’s departure on Tuesday came as the Guardian was preparing a new article on a complaint filed by Joy’s former executive assistant, which alleged that she was fired from her job because she raised concerns about possible corruption in Joy’s office." (The Guardian)
  • Congress considers campaign finance rollbacks in omnibus spending bill. "Lawmakers continue to debate major changes to political money regulations as part of a year-end spending package, despite opposition from numerous congressional Democrats and campaign finance watchdog groups. Even with congressional primaries already underway, the proposals could play out in the November midterm elections if enacted, campaign finance experts on both sides of the debate say." (Roll Call)
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advances transparency, records retention bills. "The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a slate of bills aimed at preserving electronic records, improving customer experience and posting more information online." (Federal Computer Week)


  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson pins $31,000 dining set purchase on his wife. "Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday suggested in a testimony before the House Appropriations Committee that the decision to purchase a $31,000 dining set for his office was made by his wife, Candy Carson…Meanwhile, HUD's inspector general is reviewing the involvement of Carson’s family at the agency after some officials expressed concerns." (The Hill)
  • President Trump wins court fight over use of ephemeral messaging apps on technicality. "President Donald Trump defeated a watchdog group’s court challenge to his administration’s use of instant-messaging applications that automatically erase their contents…Failure to retain those communiques violated the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the organization alleged. In a ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper said CREW was likely right on the merits, but that he was nevertheless constrained to grant a government request to dismiss the suit on procedural grounds." (Bloomberg)
  • The Republican National Committee dropped more than $270,000 at Trump businesses in February. "The Republican National Committee spent roughly $271,000 at President Trump’s private businesses in February, according to documents filed Tuesday evening. The majority of the RNC’s spending at Trump’s private properties last month paid for venue rental and catering at the Trump National Doral Miami resort in Florida and the Trump International Hotel in Washington." (The Washington Post) While we're on the subject, here's your regular reminder that Sunlight is tracking President Trump's various conflicts of interest
  • White House releases the President's Management Agenda with a focus on modernizing technology, leveraging data, improving performance. Donald F. Kettl writes that "the President’s Management Agenda released by the White House on March 20, is a fascinating document, different in virtually every respect from the plans of previous administrations…Trump’s management agenda is both a world-class plan for transforming the government and, between the lines, a powerful diagnostic for what ails it. It’s an important, perhaps surprising, contribution to the public debate." (Government Executive)
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is holding up a top Trump intelligence pick over whistleblower concerns. "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is blocking President Trump's pick to be the intelligence community's top lawyer.  The GOP senator placed a little-noticed hold on Jason Klitenic's nomination to be the general counsel for Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) as he tries to pressure the agency to respond to his questions about the intelligence community's whistleblower protections." (The Hill)

states and cities

Image credit: Tax Credits.
  • Many municipalities decline to share details on the tax breaks they dole out. "Transparency advocates predicted that new rules for governments would result in a treasure trove of data on tax breaks for corporations. But so far, just half of reporting municipalities have disclosed that information. Of the local government data collected by the tax break transparency group Good Jobs First and analyzed by Governing, a little more than 600 of 1,222 governments did not disclose any revenue lost to tax incentives on their annual financial report." (Governing)
  • California data privacy campaign calls on Facebook to support upcoming ballot measure. "In a letter to Zuckerberg, emailed to the social media company and posted on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, Alastair Mactaggart, chairman of Californians for Consumer Privacy, says he was disappointed to learn Facebook has chosen not to support the privacy ballot campaign — and is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into an attempt to sink privacy advocates’ efforts…The state consumer privacy act, a proposed 2018 ballot measure, would require companies to disclose what personal information from Californians they collect, buy or share. It would allow many consumers to "opt out" from those practices and would prevent businesses from charging a higher price to those who make that choice." (Los Angeles Times)
  • A Pennsylvania state representative wants to impeach state Supreme Court members who voted against gerrymandered Congressional map. "A Pennsylvania state representative has introduced resolutions to impeach four of the five state Supreme Court justices who voted to override congressional district maps they said were unfairly gerrymandered on partisan lines." (The Hill)
  • Hawaii considers opening up policy disciplinary records for fifth year in a row. "The disciplinary records of all public servants in Hawaii  — except police officers — are available to the public. Police disciplinary records can only be made public when an officer is fired. Suspensions, even lengthy ones, are not disclosed and the public can’t find out names and other details. An amendment to House Bill 1849 passed Thursday would mandate the same disclosure of police officers’ disciplinary records as applied to other public employees." (Honolulu Civil Beat)

around the world

  • Europe prepares to implement new data protection regulations. "Web surfers know their online data is a gold mine, but what’s it really worth? They may soon find out. The European Union is introducing tougher rules for how data collectors gather and use its citizens’ information, and lets consumers control their own data. Starting May 25, all 28 EU nations will be applying the General Data Protection Regulation, which sets new standards for any holder of sensitive data, from Amazon to your local government council." (Bloomberg)
  • Canada should require public archive for online ads. Sara Bannerman argues, "Critical Canadian elections are being held in the coming months. The Ontario provincial election is this June, New Brunswick’s is in September, the Quebec election is being held in October and the federal election is just a year and seven months away, in October 2019. Companies that use social media to manipulate attitudes and behaviours are again facing scrutiny due to revelations about lax privacy practices…There’s one solution that would go a long way toward combating election manipulation and advertising manipulation more generally: A full public archive of all online ads." (The Conversation)
  • Indonesia boosts beneficial ownership transparency in wake of Panama Papers, other reports. "Indonesia beefed up corporate transparency standards this month with a decree that will require all companies to regularly disclose their true, beneficial owners – not just their legal representatives – to authorities. The new rules, introduced at the beginning of March, target those who reap financial benefits from the companies and are designed to prevent and combat corruption and other illicit activities." (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)


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