By Patrice McDermott & Jesse Franzblau*
The President’s pledge issued on his first day of office to usher in a “new era of openness” stands in stark contrast to his Administration’s secretive approach to trade negotiations. Most alarmingly, the public has been denied critically important information on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations while representatives from over 500 business interests have had direct access to the texts and the ability to influence the agreement.
The United States is the largest single provider of foreign assistance, but the majority of US government donors still fail to publish data in a timely and detailed manner.
Last week, the World Justice Project published the Open Government Index, an examination and ranking of governments’ openness. Notably, the index used public surveys to and “in-country expert questionnaires” to score countries. It’s an interesting approach. After all, the theoretical strength of the Freedom of Information Act matters little if the public does not find it to be an effective, useful tool. On the Open Government Partnership blog, WJP’s Alejandro Ponce uses the Index data to illustrate that “OGP participation indeed linked to more transparent, participatory, and accountable government in practice.”
Describing the US Federal Courts’ approach to technology, Chief Justice John G. Roberts invoked the Supreme Court building’s engraving that illustrates the fable of the tortoise and the hare. In the 2014 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, Roberts defended the judiciary’s slow adoption of modern technology, citing funding, cybersecurity concerns, and equality of access. “Unlike commercial enterprises,” Roberts notes, “the courts cannot decide to serve only the most technically-capable or well-equipped segments of the public.” It’s a worthy but bewildering concern from a court that restricts access to its history-making arguments to approximately 50 members of public.
The following analysis is from Khaliah Barnes, Director of the Student Privacy Project and Administrative Law Counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
The Obama Administration’s Second Open Government National Action Plan aims to “use big data to support greater openness and accountability.” The Administration has committed to:
- Enhance sharing of best practices on data privacy for state and local law enforcement;
- Ensure privacy protection for big data analyses in health; and
- Expand technical expertise in government to stop discrimination.