Andrew Yang proposes that your digital data be considered personal property


Michael Grothaus at Fast Company: “2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang may not be at the top of the race when it comes to polling (Politico currently has him ranked as the 7th most-popular Democratic contender), but his policies, including support for universal basic income, have made him popular among a subset of young, liberal-leaning, tech-savvy voters. Yang’s latest proposal, too, is sure to strike a chord with them.

The presidential candidate published his latest policy proposal today: to treat data as a property right. Announcing the proposal on his website, Yang lamented how our data is collected, used, and abused by companies, often with little awareness or consent from us. “This needs to stop,” Yang says. “Data generated by each individual needs to be owned by them, with certain rights conveyed that will allow them to know how it’s used and protect it.”

The rights Yang is proposing:

  • The right to be informed as to what data will be collected, and how it will be used
  • The right to opt out of data collection or sharing
  • The right to be told if a website has data on you, and what that data is
  • The right to be forgotten; to have all data related to you deleted upon request
  • The right to be informed if ownership of your data changes hands
  • The right to be informed of any data breaches including your information in a timely manner
  • The right to download all data in a standardized format to port to another platform…(More)”.

Crowdsourcing Reliable Local Data


Paper by Jane Lawrence Sumner , Emily M. Farris and Mirya R. Holman: “The adage “All politics is local” in the United States is largely true. Of the United States’ 90,106 governments, 99.9% are local governments. Despite variations in institutional features, descriptive representation, and policy-making power, political scientists have been slow to take advantage of these variations. One obstacle is that comprehensive data on local politics is often extremely difficult to obtain; as a result, data is unavailable or costly, hard to replicate, and rarely updated. We provide an alternative: crowdsourcing this data. We demonstrate and validate crowdsourcing data on local politics using two different data collection projects. We evaluate different measures of consensus across coders and validate the crowd’s work against elite and professional datasets. In doing so, we show that crowdsourced data is both highly accurate and easy to use. In doing so, we demonstrate that nonexperts can be used to collect, validate, or update local data….(More)”.

Big Data, Political Campaigning and the Law


Book edited by Normann Witzleb, Moira Paterson, and Janice Richardson on “Democracy and Privacy in the Age of Micro-Targeting”…: “In this multidisciplinary book, experts from around the globe examine how data-driven political campaigning works, what challenges it poses for personal privacy and democracy, and how emerging practices should be regulated.

The rise of big data analytics in the political process has triggered official investigations in many countries around the world, and become the subject of broad and intense debate. Political parties increasingly rely on data analytics to profile the electorate and to target specific voter groups with individualised messages based on their demographic attributes. Political micro-targeting has become a major factor in modern campaigning, because of its potential to influence opinions, to mobilise supporters and to get out votes. The book explores the legal, philosophical and political dimensions of big data analytics in the electoral process. It demonstrates that the unregulated use of big personal data for political purposes not only infringes voters’ privacy rights, but also has the potential to jeopardise the future of the democratic process, and proposes reforms to address the key regulatory and ethical questions arising from the mining, use and storage of massive amounts of voter data.

Providing an interdisciplinary assessment of the use and regulation of big data in the political process, this book will appeal to scholars from law, political science, political philosophy, and media studies, policy makers and anyone who cares about democracy in the age of data-driven political campaigning….(More)”.

Administrative Reform and the Quest for Openness: A Popperian Review of Open Government


Paper by Alex Ingrams: “Scholars and policymakers claim open government offers a panoply of good governance benefits, but it also risks political abuse as window dressing or a smokescreen. To address this risk, this article builds on the meaning of openness through an examination of closed and open society in Karl Popper’s theory. Four historic trends in open government reform are analyzed. The findings suggest a need for new attention to Popperian notions of the social technologist’s piecemeal change and mechanical engineering aimed at serious policy problems. Without appreciation of these open society linkages, open governments will continue to paradoxically co-exist alongside closed societies…(More)”.

In the Mood for Democracy? Democratic Support as Thermostatic Opinion


Paper by Christopher Claassen: “Public support has long been thought crucial for the survival of democracy. Existing research has argued that democracy moreover appears to create its own demand: the presence of a democratic system coupled with the passage of time produces a public who supports democracy. Using new panel measures of democratic mood varying over 135 countries and up to 30 years, this paper finds little evidence for such a positive feedback effect of democracy on support. Instead, it demonstrates a thermostatic effect: increases in democracy depress democratic mood, while decreases cheer it. Moreover, it is increases in the liberal, counter-majoritarian aspects of democracy, not the majoritarian, electoral aspects that provoke this backlash from citizens. These novel results challenge existing research on support for democracy, but also reconcile this research with the literature on macro-opinion….(More)”.

Introducing the Partner State: Public-Civil Partnerships for a Better City


Blog by Dirk Holemans: “Imagine: an urban politician wants to insist that some streets become car-free during summer. Even if there are good reasons – better air quality, kids get room to play – the result is quite predictable. The residents of those designated streets would revolt, for different reasons. Some would feel ignored as citizens, others would stand by their right to drive their car to their door, etc. Result: the politician has to withdraw the proposal, disappointed by these negative reactions. So, the gap between politics and people widens further.

But what happens if an independent network of collaborating citizens, businesses and local organisations, supported by the city government, develops a positive narrative for the idea of a Living Street? If they emphasise that a Living Street will be the sustainable place that inhabitants have always dreamed of? What if they offer people who are interested and want to test the idea on their street the possibility to do just that, if they can convince their neighbours to support this potentially great idea? In the city of Ghent we know the answer to this question. Since 2013, in the summer several streets have been transformed into car-free ‘places’ for the community, creating room for picnic benches, playgrounds for children, etc.

The Living Streets is not a top-down project, nor a bottom-up citizens’ initiative. It’s a form of co-creation between residents, the city and other organisations. Residents join forces, get to know each other better and go to work on the challenges of their street (more meeting space, isolation of older residents, traffic, unsafe street layout etc). For the city government, Living Streets are a testing ground for parking solutions, street furniture and the search for new forms of resident participation. The civil servants also roll up their sleeves. They seek solutions, help mediate in conflicts, make their expertise available and translate experiences into new policies.

Living Streets are one of the examples of how the city of Ghent, just as other cities like Bologna and Barcelona, is changing the traditional top-down politics of our modern society. In the latter approach, the provision of services, the introduction of innovations or management of resources, tend to be presented as a stark choice between state organisations or market mechanisms. This binary division ignores a crucial third possibility – that of interventions by autonomous citizens – and underestimates the many possibilities of citizens and (local) authorities working together….(More)”.

Open Parliaments Around the World. Open Parliaments’ Tools in Comparative Perspective


Book by Rafael Rubio and Ricardo Vela: “…over the past few years Parliaments across the world have started to explore new forms of developing their traditional functions, assuming what some consider new functions, to try and respond to these demands. In this regard information and communication technologies have show their capacity to support and modernize institutional activity. In the past few years there are very few countries who have not experienced technological advances in the parliamentary realm. It is possible to discover new ideas, new tools, new practices and an increasing number of parliaments use technology to carry out their representative tasks with greater efficiency, drawing them closer to citizens. It still remains to be seen as to whether they have created a real change in parliamentary practice….

Born to be mirrors of public opinion, Parliaments are places in which national sovereignty resides and as such, communication is a key aspect of its DNA. It is thus not surprising that new technologies have special weight in the configuration of Open Parliament. However, the model for Open Parliament is not only about increasing the technology used by and in the Parliament, nor just about its implementation. When they are implanted in a passive way, new technologies often end up being used to replace representation, which constitutes one of the most frequent errors in the initial process of adapting to technologies: putting reality at the service of the tool and not the other way round. Not everything that is possible to carry out is interesting or appropriate, even if it is new and innovative. It makes no sense to start developing functions that adapt to what technology is capable of doing, and losing sight of the needs that technology serves….(More)”.

Three Companies Innovating Democracy


Matt Harder at Beyond Voting: “….Below, we’ll explore three websites that allow citizens to communicate better with their governing systems.

Countable.us makes it easier to know what your representatives are voting on, and to tell them how you think they should vote. For each upcoming bill, you can suggest a yea or nay to your representative via email or can even send video messages. Each bill also has a lively debate section so the yeas and nays can share, upvote their opinions and learn from each other. The result is seeing more informed and better arguments in favor of your preferences, and perhaps more importantly, against.

IssueVoter.us is similar to Countable in that you give your opinions to your representatives. But IssueVoter puts a different spin on it by giving you a “scorecard” highlighting how closely your representatives votes align to your preferences. The site is still new, so the functionality is not as great as it could be, but the concept is worth note.

Bang the Table focuses on engagement at a local level. They create civic engagement dashboards for cities that allow residents to stay informed and share opinions about city projects. They offer several levels of engagement, from simply dispensing information for the city to engaging citizens in collective discussions and decision making. Fayetteville, AR used them to make the engagement page Speak Up Fayetteville, which informed citizens about projects such as the Cultural Arts Corridor.

While none of these are driving massive change just yet, it’s easy to imagine how they could be enormously impactful if embraced at scale. First, they will all have to figure out how to design websites which are appealing enough to bring the masses, yet meaningful enough to benefit decision-makers. We’re stuck in the in-between phase where the internet is the most powerful communication medium, but we haven’t learned to utilize it for productive democratic purposes….(More)”.

Techno-optimism and policy-pessimism in the public sector big data debate


Paper by Simon Vydra and Bram Klievink: “Despite great potential, high hopes and big promises, the actual impact of big data on the public sector is not always as transformative as the literature would suggest. In this paper, we ascribe this predicament to an overly strong emphasis the current literature places on technical-rational factors at the expense of political decision-making factors. We express these two different emphases as two archetypical narratives and use those to illustrate that some political decision-making factors should be taken seriously by critiquing some of the core ‘techno-optimist’ tenets from a more ‘policy-pessimist’ angle.

In the conclusion we have these two narratives meet ‘eye-to-eye’, facilitating a more systematized interrogation of big data promises and shortcomings in further research, paying appropriate attention to both technical-rational and political decision-making factors. We finish by offering a realist rejoinder of these two narratives, allowing for more context-specific scrutiny and balancing both technical-rational and political decision-making concerns, resulting in more realistic expectations about using big data for policymaking in practice….(More)”.

Here’s a prediction: In the future, predictions will only get worse


Allison Schrager at Quartz: “Forecasts rely on data from the past, and while we now have better data than ever—and better techniques and technology with which to measure them—when it comes to forecasting, in many ways, data has never been more useless. And as data become more integral to our lives and the technology we rely upon, we must take a harder look at the past before we assume it tells us anything about the future.

To some extent, the weaknesses of data has always existed. Data are, by definition, information about what has happened in the past. Because populations and technology are constantly changing, they alter how we respond to incentives, policy, opportunities available to us, and even social cues. This undermines the accuracy of everything we try to forecast: elections, financial markets, even how long it will take to get to the airport.

But there is reason to believe we are experiencing more change than before. The economy is undergoing a major structural change by becoming more globally integrated, which increases some risks while reducing others, while technology has changed how we transact and communicate. I’ve written before how it’s now impossible for the movie industry to forecast hit films. Review-aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes undermines traditional marketing plans and the rise of the Chinese market means film makers must account for different tastes. Meanwhile streaming has changed how movies are consumed and who watches them. All these changes mean data from 10, or even five, years ago tell producers almost nothing about movie-going today.

We are in the age of big data that offers to promise of more accurate predictions. But it seems in some of the most critical aspects of our lives, data has never been more wrong….(More)”.