@POTUS

potus

Introducing @POTUS: President Obama’s Twitter Account. Alex Wall, The White House Blog (May 18, 2015).

Today, with a tweet from the Oval Office, President Obama launched @POTUS, the official Twitter account of the President of the United States.

Other Twitter accounts you might want to know about:

The White House: @WhiteHouse
Vice President Joe Biden: @VP
First Lady Michelle Obama: @FLOTUS
Dr. Jill Biden: @DrBiden
Live coverage from the White House: @WHLive
Press Secretary Josh Earnest: @PressSec
Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett: @VJ44
Communications Director Jen Psaki: @Psaki44
White House updates in Spanish: @LaCasaBlanca
Chief Official White House Photographer: @PeteSouza

Full list of White House Twitter accounts at twitter.com/WhiteHouse/lists/whitehouseaccounts/members.

In act of cognitive dissonance, House Renews Ban on public access to CRS Reports

In a remarkable example of ironic short-sightedness, the House Appropriations Committee again banned public access and dissemination of publications from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) according to Secrecy News’ Steven Aftergood, “House Renews Ban on CRS Publication of Its Reports.”

I find this particularly frustrating in light of the House recently holding its fourth annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference (LDTC). Danial Schuman Reported significant successes from the LDTC including modernization efforts around House committee hearing reports and the new “legislative lookup and link” tool as well as Government Publishing Office (GPO) about to release in bulk bill status and summary information for Senate legislation and Library of Congress moving to update Congress.gov on a more frequent basis.

With all this great work on Congressional transparency, how can Congress continue to ban the distribution and access to CRS reports? It reminds me of something Adam Gopnik recently wrote in a New Yorker article The Plot Against Trains, saying sadly that ideology “give[s] you reasons not to pursue your own apparent rational interest.” He was talking about trains, but I would add schools, libraries, post offices, and yes government information to that list.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) will continue to be barred from releasing its reports to the public, the House Appropriations Committee said yesterday in its report on legislative branch appropriations for the coming year.

“The bill contains language which provides that no funds in the Congressional Research Service can be used to publish or prepare material to be issued by the Library of Congress unless approved by the appropriate committees,” the House report said….

…In a move that is perhaps even more worrisome for CRS, “The Committee directs the Library of Congress to commission an independent survey of all Members and committees of the House of Representatives to ascertain their fundamental and optimal requirements for services and support from the Library of Congress and especially the Congressional Research Service.”

The problem here is that the CRS services that congressional offices are likely to find most “useful” are not necessarily those that are most “valuable.”

The race to preserve disappearing data

Here’s a good piece in the Boston Globe, “The race to preserve disappearing data”. While primarily focusing on the film industry, it also mentions link rot, disappearing government information in the form of Supreme Court decisions and other issues on which government information librarians should be working. I’ve said it often and I’ll say it again, when documents librarians focus on digitizing historic government publications, they ignore the far greater danger of the disappearance of born-digital government information. We need the entire documents community to step up and work on the issue of born-digital collection development lest we risk becoming a “digital dark age.”

The problem of preservation is not unique to the film industry. It spans the digital artifacts of our age — from photos to music to scientific research data. One study of more than 500 biology papers published from a 20-year span found that as time passes, less original research data can be found; it suggested that up to 80 percent of raw data collected for studies in the early 1990s is lost. A crucial virtue of science is that researchers can reproduce findings or correct them over time by reevaluating original data. Fields from epidemiology to education to climate change require records that span decades or longer.

Lost data also plagues the legal world. A 2013 study of Supreme Court decisions by Harvard University Law School professors found that so-called link rot is eroding intellectual foundations of legal scholarship: Nearly half of all Supreme Court decisions up to that date and more than 70 percent of law journals from 1999 to 2012 referred to Web pages that no longer existed…

…What was once a race to rescue information from going-extinct media (think of old files trapped on floppy disks) has morphed into a mounting need to copy and curate massive troves of data, says Dr. David Rosenthal, the founder of a library-led digital preservation network run out of the Stanford University libraries. Digital information decays over time and files grow corrupt from “bit rot,” which Rosenthal says is best fended off by creating copies of data in multiple virtual and physical locations…

…“Digital preservation is essentially a hot potato problem, where everyone wants to pass responsibility onward,” said Berman, also a professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She notes that in the private sector, companies invest in preserving data that give them a competitive advantage. The larger challenge is preserving those digital artifacts that have broad societal relevance for the future, but no urgent private interest.

Publicly funded archives such as the National Archives and those supported by federal R&D agencies fulfill only a fraction of the preservation needed to pass on society’s knowledge to the future. Less than 1 percent of the Library of Congress’s 1.4 million archived videos and film reels were born digital. While the Library of Congress can preserve digital films if filmmakers share their unencrypted files, less than a dozen filmmakers and studios have done so, and the library has yet to preserve a single born-digital feature-length film.

Appeals court ruling on the NSA collection of phone records

UPDATED (5/8/2015) Concurring opinion added. News of the recent ruling by a federal appeals court that the National Security Agency’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records violates the Patriot Act is widely available. Below are the links to a couple of good accounts of the ruling and the ruling itself.

  • N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Is Illegal, Appeals Court Rules, By CHARLIE SAVAGE and JONATHAN WEISMAN, New York Times (May 7, 2015).
  • NSA program on phone records is illegal, court rules By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post (May 7, 2015).
  • Case 14-42, Document 168-1, 05/07/2015, 1503586 United States Court Of Appeals For The Second Circuit August Term, 2014 (Argued: September 2, 2014 Decided: May 7, 2015) Docket No. 14‐42‐cv American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Plaintiffs‐Appellants, v. JAMES R. CLAPPER, in his official capacity as Director of National Intelligence, MICHAEL S. ROGERS, in his official capacity as Director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Central Security Service, ASHTON B. CARTER, in his official capacity as Secretary of Defense, LORETTA E. LYNCH, in her official capacity as Attorney General of the United States, and JAMES B. COMEY, in his official capacity as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defendants‐Appellees. SACK and LYNCH , Circuit Judges, and BRODERICK, District Judge.
  • SACK, Circuit Judge, concurring.

Not Your Grandmother’s Librarian

cover0525

The Cover story of The Nation this weeks is about librarians battling for privacy.

Amy Sonnie, a librarian and activist in Oakland, told me that there’s a debate within the profession about whether librarianship is, or should be, politically neutral. “I can and should be an advocate around issues that impact our ability to fulfill our mission, and privacy is one of those issues,” she said. Sonnie and Macrina both see privacy as not just an issue of intellectual freedom, but also of social justice. “We serve members of communities who have been historically under greater surveillance than the rest of the population: immigrants, Muslim-Americans, people of color, political dissidents,” Macrina explained.

The article recounts some recent history of how individual librarians and libraries and the ALA have advocated for privacy for readers — one of ALA’s core values since 1939 — and gives examples of recent battles against the NSA and Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.

Archives

Subscribe to FGI posts

By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.