News Digest: Data Journalism Boosts Voter Registration in Kenya

The Information Program works to increase access to knowledge and protect civil liberties in the digital environment. The following is a roundup of news and analysis that the program team has been watching in the past week. This week’s top story demonstrates the power open data and journalism have to increase voter registration in Kenya.

You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.

Kenya: data journalism boosts voter registration
The International Center for Journalists reports on a small, low–cost data journalism experiment run by the Code4Kenya project, a six–month experiment by the Africa Media Initiative and the World Bank. Last week, Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission published the location of voter registration centers around the country for the first time as a large and unwieldy PDF. Code4Kenya scraped the data into a spreadsheet and built the GotToVote website in 24 hours to help voters find where to register and vote. More than 2,500 people visited the website in the first few hours, and traffic continues to grow as news of the site spreads.

Facebook asked to retract privacy policy changes
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy have asked Facebook to withdraw the changes the company announced this week. These include ending the system of voting on privacy policy changes implemented in 2009 and combining personal information held by Facebook with Instagram, the photo–sharing service Facebook bought in April. The groups argue that the changes may violate the terms of Facebook's settlement with the FTC, which block the company from changing privacy settings without affirmative consent from the user base.

Thailand: FBI to help set up national DNA database
The Forensic Genetics Policy Initiative reports that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is to help Thailand's Justice Ministry set up a DNA database. DNA samples are currently collected on a case–by–case basis. Populating the database, whose stated purpose is to help solve violent crimes, will begin with taking samples from the country's 100,000 prison inmates over the next three years. The FBI's database system, CODIS DNA, is used in 39 countries.

Treaty for the Visually Impaired nears agreement
Benetech, the World Blind Union, EFF, and Knowledge Ecology International all report on the just–concluded session of the World Intellectual Property Organisation's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights to consider the Treaty for the Visually Impaired. Considerable progress has been made towards a final treaty, however some weaknesses remain, including: limited direct access for consumers rather than organizations; requirements for checks on commercial availability of works; and others.
Press Release | Conclusions | Analysis | Weaknesses

Latin America: social media
The Atlantic reports on the use of social media in Mexico City and other areas of Latin America as a means of communication between citizens and their local governments, speeding up repairs and response times. Writer Luis Moreno argues that social media will have a highly disruptive but largely positive effect, improving participation and accountability.

Exposing the secrets of offshore companies
The Guardian, working with the Washington, DC–based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, is publishing a series of reports as part of a worldwide investigation into offshore secrets: the shadow side of the financial industry. Among them is an investigation into "sham directors": a group of 28 nominee directors who sell their names for use on the documents of more than 21,500 companies, helping to keep secret hundreds of thousands of commercial transactions. The companies are often registered anonymously in the British Virgin Islands, also in Ireland, New Zealand, Belize, and the UK. The practice of using nominee directors is not illegal under UK law.

The World e–Parliament Report 2012
This report from the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament documents the state of current efforts of legislatures around the world since 2010 to use ICT to support their constitutional functions based on research carried out between February and May 2012. Despite the lack of resources forced by the recession, technology can improve efficiency and effectiveness throughout the legislature's operations while improving transparency, accountability, and accessibility. The technology gap between the richest and poorest parliaments has closed by over 25 percent in the past two years.

Studying leaking websites
In this posting, M. C. McGath reports on the progress of a project at the MIT Center for Civic Media to study websites that publish leaked documents such as Cryptome, the Associated Whistleblowing Press, and others. McGrath is publishing interviews and case studies as they are completed on the LeakWiki. Results to date show considerable variation in the goals, processes, and tools of these sites.

Implementing Open Access mandates in Europe
In this study, Birgit Schmidt and Iryna Kuchma, respectively the scientific manager and the coordinator of Eastern European activities for the OpenAIRE project and EIFL–OA program manager, provide highlights of open access policies in Europe and an overview of publishers' self–archiving policies; it also looks at the strategies needed to implement these policies. More than half of the European countries covered in this report have already established national repository infrastructures.

Neil Gaiman explains the Open Rights Group's platform
In this video clip, part of a campaign by the Open Rights Group to raise funds for a full–time legal officer, ORG's patron, the science fiction/fantasy author Neil Gaiman, outlines ORG's work and explains why he supports it. On November 20, ORG won Liberty UK's Human Rights Campaigner of the Year award (shared with 38 Degrees). The clip is one of a series that includes offerings from Becky Hogge, Ben Hammersley, and others.

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