Nieman Lab: FOIA the Dead uses The New York Times’ obituaries to shine a light on FBI surveillance, for the living. “A person’s FBI file becomes available to the public at the moment they die. [Parker] Higgins wrote a script that lets him automatically send a FOIA request for the FBI file of every public figure listed in The New York Times’ obituary pages (not the paid death notices). So far, he has sent 1,300 requests, roughly two-thirds of which have been processed so far. Higgins got back FBI files for about 29 of them, and in a roughly equal number of cases, he was told he’d need to file a second request because the files had been moved to the National Archive.” He is posting the files he receives to a Web site.
Washington Post: Could Google rankings skew an election? New group aims to find out.. “A researcher who long has argued that rankings on Google and other search engines can skew elections will announce plans on Tuesday to establish a global monitoring system to detect and counter the political effects of such alleged bias.”
The Guardian: Tim Berners-Lee: I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to save it. “Today marks 28 years since I submitted my original proposal for the worldwide web. I imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries. In many ways, the web has lived up to this vision, though it has been a recurring battle to keep it open. But over the past 12 months, I’ve become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool that serves all of humanity.”
The Other Animal-Welfare Documents APHIS Deleted. “They did it again. At the beginning of February, the USDA’s animal-welfare division (APHIS) suddenly deleted tens of thousands of documents. This led to a media firestorm and a national outcry, including demands from Senators and Representatives that the database be restored. So what did APHIS do? While this was happening, they quietly deleted another set of documents from their website.”
Google’s DeepMind plans bitcoin-style health record tracking for hospitals. “Google’s AI-powered health tech subsidiary, DeepMind Health, is planning to use a new technology loosely based on bitcoin to let hospitals, the NHS and eventually even patients track what happens to personal data in real-time.”
Techdirt: State Supreme Court Says California Officials Can No Longer Hide Documents In Personal Email Accounts And Devices. “Public servants discussing public business. Should be public records, right? California politicians don’t think so. The city of San Jose has spent eight years litigating the issue, hoping for the state’s courts to find it permissible for public officials to hide official communications in personal email accounts and personal devices.”
The FBI’s new FOIA portal has gone online. “For the FBI, a popular target for FOIA requests, the new online portal replaces the standard email system. According to the bureau, the new online portal transitions the agency from a manual system to an automated system that will help it handle its large volume of requests, though detractors argue that the new web portal creates additional barriers to those seeking information from the FBI and makes tracking the paper trail more difficult.” Getting FOIA requests filled by the Obama administration was notoriously bad – I can’t imagine this administration will be better.