Fabulous piece on global transparency, and US laggards…

Susan Crawford is a Bloomberg View columnist and a professor of law at Cardozo School of Law. She’s provided a nice look at global transparency movements here, as well as the lack of momentum in the United States:

When Brazil’s government buys anything from fighter jets to a fancy villa, details are available online within 24 hours. Such disclosures are a powerful way to combat corruption, and are a model for official openness that could inspire other nations.

Brazil’s online portal started in 2004. Among its contents: information about Brazilian outlays in advance of hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. The site includes an online channel for whistleblower complaints.

Because corruption is a major problem in Brazil, timely release of spending data, including daily information about the use of government credit cards, is designed to help the media and opposition politicians in Brazil reveal crooked behavior. If a minister buys a truckload of wine with her government card, or pays off a cousin, someone will notice.

Enthusiasm for open government is taking hold not just in Brazil, but in countries such asKenyaIndia and the U.K. Kenya last month became the first sub-Saharan African country to launch a government-data portal. India is a beehive of activity; it has initiated ambitious plans for providing public services with the help of mobile phones in rural areas and for electronic citizen engagement in government generally.

Wow! I wish Obama had put Raum in charge of transparency…

Rahm Emanuel, Pointing, With Chicago Flag in B...

Image by juggernautco via Flickr

Raum Emanuel, in three months as Chicago mayor, has done more to open City Hall to sunlight than any mayor in the country….from the Sun-Times:

Information on more than 90,000 city contracts dating back to 1993 will be available and easy to download on the Internet, thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest move to shine the light on City Hall.

In nearly three months in office, Emanuel has posted an unprecedented amount of information on the Internet in the name of government “transparency.”

The mayor’s office has literally released 170 “datasets” — everything from the names and salaries of city employees to information on lobbyists, crime, abandoned buildings and the list of contractors barred from doing business with the city.

 

 

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Suggest a dataset…any dataset.

Thanks to whoever sent me this on Twitter today (I completely forgot) because it is waaaaaaaaay past AWESOME:

Simply send in a suggestion for a dataset you want online, and the state of Oregon reviews it, triages it and then puts it up if it’s public information. So cool!

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See How Many Federal FOIAs are Generating Withholding, Litigation…

Details about every new court challenge to the withholding of information by the Obama Administration are now available on a new website developed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

Designed to bring more transparency to FOIA withholding decisions, the new site — http://FOIAproject.org — gives the American people a way to track all instances in which a federal agency’s decision to deny government records has become the subject of a suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) since October 1, 2009.

The site, supported with a grant from the CS Fund/Warsh-Mott Legacy, is updated daily with the latest court FOIA filings and provides extensive information about the names of withholding agency, the names of the plaintiffs, the location where the action was brought, along with the actual complaint and attachments that were filed.

TRAC sees this ground-breaking website as only a first step in a much broader community effort to expand the withholding decisions covered, and to improve the site’s features. While this first phase focuses on court challenges to withholding, later phases are planned to expand coverage to turndowns at the initial request and administrative appeal levels. The ultimate goal: to mobilize the power of public exposure to encourage a more transparent government.

Links on the new site allow the public to offer suggestions and to volunteer to help on the project. Currently under consideration is the addition of a mechanism by which requestors can post current egregious examples of FOIA withholding decisions to share with a wider audience.

TRAC, a part of Syracuse University, was established more than two decades ago to obtain detailed information from various federal agencies under the FOIA, check its accuracy and completeness and make the data available to the public through its two web sites, http://trac.syr.edu and http://tracfed.syr.edu. Over the years, this effort has required TRAC to file suits in federal court against the Internal Revenue Service, the Office of Personnel Management, the National Archives and Records Administration, and various components of the Justice Department including the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and the Civil Division.

 

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

Syracuse University

 

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