Tag Archives: Open Government

Have You Ever Heard of Data.gov? Me Neither.

Nathan Yau of @flowingdata writes about the end of Data.gov:

Data.gov in crisis: the open data movement is bigger than just one site | Nathan Yau | News | guardian.co.uk.

Here’s the part that blew me away: there is such a thing as Data.gov! Never knew it was there, but according to the article, it took $4 million a year just to run a website I never knew existed.

Now I grant you: I’m not in the data business in the sense of being any kind of researcher. But at the same time, I’ve done many searches looking for statistical data including median income levels, employment by state, by occupation and others. And in all that time, I’ve run across lots of useful information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census.gov, but never even came up with a single Google search result from Data.gov. Not one that stood out, anyway.

Open government is good. But its only good to the extent that its effective. Making each department responsible for reporting its own numbers seems like a wiser course of action. And already demonstrably more effective.

WikiLeaks is tapping P2P for secret docs? And they’re available?

Interesting and more than a little unsettling information from this article on TheRegister.com. Namely, that WiliLeaks.org may have actively sought out – and found – supposedly secret documents on P2P sites like Limewire. The evidence seems a bit circumstantial, but it does raise a few interesting questions:

The first is: why the hell are there secret government documents online and where do I get mine? Limewire, apparently. Considering the fact that I can’t get a decent-quality bootleg of Genesis on Limewire, I’m frankly put-out that I could get the plans to Marine One, the president’s helicopter, which I have utterly no use for.

There are a large number of security vulnerabilities to be discussed, here, and probably more than I’m aware of. But they’re all bad news because this is a huge breach of security from the government that not only invented the frickin’ Internet, but also invented public key encryption and a raft of other security features in common and entirely successful use on that same Internet.

But here’s another interesting question: if WikiLeaks did in fact search out and find secret government documents on P2P sites, is that even a crime? We can argue about shield laws, journalism and whistleblowers till the cows come home. But none of that is relevant in this case, because the crime of posting the stuff in a public forum was not committed by either a whistleblower or a journalist. Moreover, P2P is not a crime by itself: it’s just sharing information in a public forum. And if it’s a public forum, then the burden of illegality is on those who originally posted the items, intentionally or otherwise.

Put it another way: it’s a long-ago defunct pass-time, but they used to have bootleg conventions at the Village Gate all the time. Guys would come from all over to buy, sell and trade recordings of musicians performing live or of unreleased material. It is certainly a crime to record those musicians without their consent, but once the material is out there, it’s out there. Its public. And you can openly trade it with a bunch of other athletically-challenged nerds in the middle of a dusty former factory with clothslines for walls.

This is one worth watching. You can bet I will be! Stay tuned.