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[liberationtech] PRISM & Open Data

Yosem Companys companys at
Fri Jun 21 11:29:10 PDT 2013

From: Ted Strauss <ted.strauss at>

Here is the connection I see between Obama issuing an Open Data
directive and the exposure of PRISM.

Open data is commonly used by politicians as a way to sell themselves
as promoters of transparency, accountability, and technical
sophistication in government. If their policies end up failing to live
up to their promises, then it does harm to pursuit of openness,
because it turns into one more corruptible buzz word that can be used
for political ends. Tracy's commentary to the CBC is an example of
this line of critique.

The Obama open data directive touts the US commitment to open
principles, incuding respect for individual privacy. In the
memorandum, the word privacy is used 22 times, as here (p.9):
"Strengthen measures to ensure that privacy and confidentiality are
fully protected and that data are properly secured"

The revelations about PRISM seriously undermine the administration's
credibility with respect to valuing individual privacy, since they are
intercepting private communcations of people and using them in untold
ways. This contradicts the aims set out in the open data directive,
and in turn undermines those principles.

If a tabacco company set up a hospital to treat lung cancer, would you
go to that hospital? Would you trust the research they did?

I have posted my original message to, in case this topic is not
right for this list.

Ted Strauss
Co-founder of

I'm organizing Open Data Exchange in Montreal, April 6, 2013

On Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 11:52 AM, Glen Newton <glen.newton at> wrote:
> >it is revealed that he believes the spirit of open data should be applied to the private communications of civilians
> I do not see any connection between Prism and the spirit of Open Data.
> -Glen Newton
> On Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 11:23 AM, Ted Strauss <ted.strauss at> wrote:
> > When Obama said last week "no one is listening to your calls" he was
> > parsing his message. He has emphasized that the NSA doesn't listen
> > in on domestic US calls without a warrant from FISA. But no one has denied
> > that the NSA is being allowed to indiscriminately spy on foreign electronic
> > communictions. All the responses by US officials have treated targeting of
> > foreigners as fair game. That includes every Canadian with a facebook,
> > skype, or gmail account. (The latest leaks reported by the Guardian provide
> > new troubling details and cast doubt on Obama's defence.)
> >
> > With an open admission of mass espionage targeting hundreds of millions of
> > people worldwide, I think it's the duty of our elected officials to tell the
> > US government at the very least that Canada does not consent. Indeed, the
> > admission could violate treaties and agreements held between our
> > governments. For example, the WTO treaty TRIPS on intellectual property.
> >
> > Shouldn't this case be made to our MPs and MLAs?
> > Shouldn't we identify what are the legal implications of this admission for
> > the various agreements between Canada and the US?
> >
> > Why is this on-topic for this list?
> > One month after Obama issued an open data directive, it is revealed that he
> > believes the spirit of open data should be applied to the private
> > communications of civilians. Incidents like this give fodder to those who
> > would argue against open government. In one month, the slippery slope became
> > a precipice. That is why open data supporters should lead the way in drawing
> > the lines of right and wrong on opening information.
> >
> > Ted

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