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Category Archives: Freedom of Information

Reining in the Big Promise of Big Data: Transparency, Inequality, and New Regulatory Frontiers

Hacker, Philipp and Petkova, Bilyana, Reining in the Big Promise of Big Data: Transparency, Inequality, and New Regulatory Frontiers (May 2, 2016). Available for download at SSRN:

“The growing differentiation of services based on Big Data harbors the potential for both greater societal inequality and for greater equality. Anti-discrimination law and transparency alone, however, cannot do the job of curbing Big Data’s negative externalities while fostering its positive effects. To rein in Big Data’s potential, we adapt regulatory strategies from behavioral economics, contracts and criminal law theory. Four instruments stand out: First, active choice may be mandated between data collecting services (paid by data) and data free services (paid by money). Our suggestion provides concrete estimates for the price range of a data free option, sheds new light on the monetization of data collecting services, and proposes an “inverse predatory pricing” instrument to limit excessive pricing of the data free option. Second, we propose using the doctrine of unconscionability to prevent contracts that unreasonably favor data collecting companies. Third, we suggest democratizing data collection by regular user surveys and data compliance officers partially elected by users. Finally, we trace back new Big Data personalization techniques to the old Hartian precept of treating like cases alike and different cases – differently. If it is true that a speeding ticket over $50 is less of a disutility for a millionaire than for a welfare recipient, the income and wealth-responsive fines powered by Big Data that we suggest offer a glimpse into the future of the mitigation of economic and legal inequality by personalized law. Throughout these different strategies, we show how salience of data collection can be coupled with attempts to prevent discrimination against and exploitation of users. Finally, we discuss all four proposals in the context of different test cases: social media, student education software and credit and cell phone markets.  Many more examples could and should be discussed. In the face of increasing unease about the asymmetry of power between Big Data collectors and dispersed users, about differential legal treatment, and about the unprecedented dimensions of economic inequality, this paper proposes a new regulatory framework and research agenda to put the powerful engine of Big Data to the benefit of both the individual and societies adhering to basic notions of equality and non-discrimination.”

The Guardian – How the Pentagon punished NSA whistleblowers

Mark Hertsgaard – The Guardian – “By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people across the world, collecting the phone calls and emails of virtually everyone on Earth who used a mobile phone or the internet.Continue Reading

Free Seminar – What Happens When Laws Become Open Data?

Center for Data Innovation – “Since President Obama’s first day in office, open data has been a major priority for the administration, and the United States has established itself as a world leader in open data. But until recently, legislative data—information about legislative activities, including bills and their status, lawmaker votes, committee meetings, public communicationsContinue Reading

CIA allegedly destroyed sole copy of Senate torture report

The Independent: “The CIA inspector general’s office has said it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a comprehensive Senate torture report, despite lawyers for the Justice Department assuring a federal judge that copies of the documents were being preserved. The erasure of the document by the spy agency’s internal watchdog was deemed an “inadvertent” foul-upContinue Reading

The Intercept announces greater access to Snowden archive

Via The Intercept: The Intercept Is Broadening Access to the Snowden Archive. Here’s Why – “Today, The Intercept is announcing two innovations in how we report on and publish these materials. Both measures are designed to ensure that reporting on the archive continues in as expeditious and informative a manner as possible, in accordance with theContinue Reading

The Rise of Dark Money in US Elections

“Dark Money Watch, a project of MapLight, is a hub for information about dark money in U.S. elections. Our goal is to support investigations of dark money in order to help the public understand how hidden donors can influence our political system….Dark money comes from groups that are not required to disclose their donors. ItContinue Reading

Voices in Danger and Journalists in the line of fire

Via UK Independent – Voices in Danger, A platform for stories of journalists killed, kidnapped, jailed or threatened just for doing their jobs See also Journalists in the line of fire and Reporters Without Borders – Help defend freedom of information every day

Greenpeace Netherlands Releases TTIP Documents

Via Greenpeace – Annie Leonard. May 2, 2016: “Greenpeace Netherlands released to the public secret documents from the United States’ current trade negotiations with the European Union. The deal is called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP for short) and once it’s agreed upon it will govern the U.S.-European economic relationship for years. YouContinue Reading

Facebook Government Requests Report

Report, July 2015-December 2015: “United States Law Enforcement Requests for Data – We respond to valid requests relating to criminal cases. Each and every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency and we reject or require greater specificity on requests that are overly broad or vague. Total Requests – 19,235 Users / Accounts RequestedContinue Reading

Economist and Time Websites blocked in China

New York Times: “The Economist and Time have joined the list of foreign news websites currently blocked in mainland China. The sites appear to have been censored as a result of recently published cover articles in the magazines critical of the growing power of China’s president, Xi Jinping. According to, a website that tracksContinue Reading

Saving Government Email an Open Question with December 2016 Deadline Looming

Via National Security Archive: “The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Department of the Treasury’s Comptroller, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) are among a handful of agencies that have already admitted they will not meet the December 31, 2016, deadline for electronic management of official government email – like Hillary Clinton’s – in their mandatory,Continue Reading

Site aggregates for search thousands of federal government oversight documents – “The US government has many dozens of offices dedicated to keeping the government honest and efficient through strong, independent oversight. They produce a lot of good work, but the results are scattered all over the internet. Sometimes they get the attention they deserve, and many times they don’t. It would be a shameContinue Reading