Submitted by jajacobs on Wed, 2013-06-26 05:49.
Labor Does More With Less on Streaming Data, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (June 25, 2013).
When the White House directed agencies to make at least two data services available through a streaming process known as application programming interfaces in 2012, most tech and transparency savvy agencies focused on releasing as many APIs as they could.
The Health and Human Services Department, for example, released 61 APIs connecting to 61 datasets.
The Labor Department took a different tack, releasing 175 datasets through a single API.
Submitted by jrjacobs on Tue, 2013-06-25 19:34.
According to the Huffington Post, The NSA has deleted its own published fact sheets on Section 702 of FISA and Section 215 of PATRIOT Act. Luckily someone saved the document and we've attached it here for public perusal. This is exactly the reason why FDLP libraries need to be in place to preserve public domain govt publications, even the ones that are embarrassing or describe govt illegality. Govt publications in 1200 libraries are difficult to expunge from the public record.
A day after coming under fire from congressional critics, the National Security Agency is trying to flush a controversial surveillance "fact sheet" down the memory hole.
That fact sheet was supposed to explain how the NSA interprets and uses section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the part of the law that underpins the agency's PRISM data collection program. But after Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-Colo.) asserted in a letter that the NSA's explanation contained a "significant" inaccuracy, the agency pulled the FISA fact sheet from its website on Tuesday, delivering users instead a server error.
In a letter to the senators, Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, said he "agree(d)" that the fact sheet "could have more precisely described the requirements for collection." He pointed them to the text of the law for further information on how the program works.
NSA spokeswoman Judith Emmel addressed the removal of the fact sheet in a statement. "Given the intense interest from the media, the public, and Congress, we believe the precision of the source document (the statute) is the best possible representation of applicable authorities," she said.
Submitted by jrjacobs on Fri, 2013-06-21 18:13.
[UPDATE 6/27: COL's final report is now available online. We've added a link to it below along with the draft report]
We here at FGI are all for greater access to government information and have long supported and worked toward a fully digital FDLP. When discussing the future of the FDLP, we believe it is important to create policy based on thorough fact-based analysis, to learn from FDLP history and not repeat mistakes which in the past led to benign neglect of documents collections -- many of which were borne out of trying to handle government documents collections on the cheap. For example, lack of adequate cataloging, one of our biggest current problems today, is a direct result of libraries not investing sufficiently in describing FDLP collections.
Submitted by jrjacobs on Tue, 2013-06-18 13:43.
I just received an old (historic NOT legacy) Department of Commerce publication off of the needs and offers list called "Commercial handbook of China" by Julean Arnold, commercial attaché (WorldCat record). It's actually a 1975 reprint of a 1919 publication. It's chock full of statistics relating to provinces, cities, and consular districts -- agriculture, minerals and mining, populations, exports and imports, revenues, transportation, ports and shipping facilities etc. In short, this is a gold mine of historic information and statistics from the Republic of China (pre-Communist China). The document was digitized and is available in HathiTrust as well as the Internet Archive (see book reader below).
However, in comparing the digitized version with the paper version in hand, I came upon several issues:
- there are 3 foldout maps that were not digitized. These maps are critical information on railway lines and treaty ports in China. The bibliographic record has a physical description including "2 v. fronts., plates, fold. map, tables, diagrs., fold. charts" but no content note mentioning that the maps were not digitized.
- As I mentioned, the document is chock full of statistical tables. Have you ever tried copying and pasting tabular data from a PDF? It's even worse when the tables are displayed in landscape rather than portrait. I've verified that the OCR fails on those pages.
- Lots of readability/usability issues: The table of contents is partially obscured in one copy and the tables are often blurred or faint. also, HT is using a process of OCR now where you can search but not copy or paste.
- Lastly, I find it ... uh... interesting that this book says here "Copyright: Public Domain, Google-digitized." But, if you want to download the whole book, you have to be an HT partner.
Does this digitized version increase access to this important historic material? Yes, indeed, it does. But I'm rather glad to have a bibliographic record in my catalog that links to the the digital version AND points to the paper copy in our collection.
Submitted by jrjacobs on Mon, 2013-06-17 11:07.
We at FGI have been long-time supporters and agitators for the US Census and its companions, most notably the American Community Survey (ACS) -- see for example "Fear, uncertainty, or doubt? Why the Census and ACS are critical to a well-functioning democracy." So it was a complete shock to the system to learn about the Orwellian bill H.R. 1638: Census Reform Act of 2013 making its way through Congress. And we were so happy to learn that Kathy Karn Carmichael, Documents Librarian/ Instructor of Library Science at the University of South Carolina Aiken was going to be in Washington DC and planned to drop off letters of concern to Congressman Duncan's office.
My colleague Kris Kasianovitz and I hastily wrote a letter (attached PDF and below), sent it to our University Librarian for approval, and were extremely grateful that he approved it and agreed to add his name to it. We sent a PDF copy to Kathy who added it to her own letter (attached PDF and below), and then sent paper copies to Congressman Duncan, the 14 co-sponsors of the bill, the Chairs and ranking members of the 3 committees taking up the bill, as well as to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, [D-CA18], Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, [D-CA19] and our 2 Senators Feinstein and Boxer.
But a bill like this demands more than a letter of concern. So we're posting our letter here on FGI for others to copy/crib and otherwise use as a template for letters of your own and to pass around to friends, family and colleagues, especially to those in districts represented by Congressman Duncan and the other 14 co-sponsors. Kathy has also generously allowed us to post her letter as well. We'd be happy to post copies of others' letters as well. Help us assure that HR1638 "Census Reform Act of 2013" does not move beyond committee and does not rear its ugly head again.
June 13, 2013
The Honorable Jeff Duncan
116 Cannon House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Representative Duncan:
I am writing regarding H.R. 1638, the Census Reform Act. As a librarian in the Federal Depository program, I am opposed to eliminating the various censuses targeted in this legislation. This data provides valuable, free information, not only to the citizens of South Carolina and the entire country, but to local, state, and federal governments so that they may assess the needs of their constituents. Furthermore, it provides information which is not available elsewhere to business leaders, entrepreneurs and researchers.
In addition to my responsibilities as the FDLP coordinator, I am also a reference and instruction librarian at University of South Carolina Aiken. As a frequent user of this data I am able to assist students, faculty, and citizens in this community with their government information research needs. Additionally, I work with clients of the South Carolina Small Business Development Center to help them access government information to prepare business plans or market analyses. Only last week, I was assisting one of their clients with her market analysis. The American Community Survey provided access to data which helped demonstrate the need for a type of healthcare service which is unavailable in our small community and would prevent patients from seeking treatment across the state line in Georgia. You, as a former small business owner, are aware of the challenges in beginning a new business. The ability to access demographic and economic data at no cost which might help these entrepreneurs better understand their target market is vital to ensure their future success.
According to your website, this legislation is in response to complaints by South Carolinians who feel these censuses, in particular the American Community Survey, are too intrusive. Living in the age of social media and electronic information and given the recent revelations regarding the government’s access to private information of its citizens without our knowledge, asking questions about the size of your property or the distance of your commute seems trivial. Eliminating these data collection programs impact all Americans. If implemented it would severely limit the ability of all librarians to assist the constituents of the other 434 members of Congress with accessing timely demographic information. I hope you will reconsider moving forward with this legislation and look for alternative methods to resolve the concerns of your constituents.
Kathy Karn-Carmichael, MLS
University of South Carolina Aiken
Aiken, SC 29801
June 17, 2013
The Honorable Jeff Duncan
116 Cannon House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Congressman Duncan,
We are writing to express our grave concern regarding 113 HR 1638, the “Census Reform Act of 2013,” the bill you introduced on April 18, 2013. This bill, rather than “reforming” the Census, will eliminate the collection of the nation’s most critical statistical instruments and cause the nation irreparable harm in negatively affecting public policy planning, scientific and academic research, and the economy. As we understand it, HR 1638 calls for:
1) The repeal and cancellation of certain census activities including the census of agriculture, census of governments, economic census, etc.;
2) curtailing the Census Bureau from conducting any census, survey, sampling or questionnaire including the American Community Survey (ACS) and rescinding any unobligated moneys to carry out the ACS;
3) prohibiting surveys or questionnaires and limiting statistics collected in a decennial census;
4) Repeal of the Census of Agriculture act of 1997.
The US Census is enshrined in the US Constitution (Article I, Section 2) and was a significant act by our founders of empowering the people over unruly governments. The legality of the Census has been repeatedly affirmed by the courts. The gathering of information is done in accordance with the US Constitution under the authority of Congress and is regulated by other laws and regulations. The various Census instruments – including the American Community Survey (ACS) – are implemented in a careful, public way under the Constitution, the U.S. Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations – all with the approval of the courts.
Today the data gathered by the Census Bureau is used by US citizens, businesses, and researchers and students across the hard- and social sciences and humanities – many of whom access current and historic data in Federal Depository libraries across the country – to measure our economy, know how to adjust spending for and develop social, financial and economic programs, and ensure that we are producing crops and livestock to support consumption and trade.
Here are just some of the uses for Census data :
• Attracting new businesses to state and local areas.
• Forecasting future transportation needs for all segments of the population.
• Planning for hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and the location of other health services.
• Designing public safety strategies.
• Making business decisions.
• Economic development of rural areas.
• Planning urban land use.
• Creating maps to speed emergency services to households in need of assistance.
• Planning investments and evaluating financial risk.
• Facilitating scientific research.
• Providing evidence in litigation involving land use, voting rights, and equal opportunity.
• Drawing school district boundaries.
• Assessing the potential for spread of communicable diseases.
• Drawing federal, state, and local legislative districts and re-apportioning seats in the House of Representatives.
These data that HR 1638 seeks to destroy underpin and are critical to sound policy-making. Without it, the US Congress, State and local governments, businesses, academia, the American people and the libraries which serve them will be flying blind in terms of public policy, planning and ensuring that the US is on sound economic footing. We strongly urge you to reconsider and withdraw HR 1638.
Michael A. Keller, University Librarian*, Stanford University
James R. Jacobs, FDLP Coordinator, Government Information Librarian*, Stanford University
Kris Kasianovitz, Government Information Librarian*, Stanford University
123D Cecil H. Green Library
Stanford, CA 94305
*title and address used for identification purposes only.
cc Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, [D-CA18] Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, [D-CA19]
Bill co-sponsors: Jason Chaffetz [R-UT3]; Andy Harris [R-MD1]; Walter Jones [R-NC3]; Steve Pearce [R-NM2]; Reid Ribble [R-WI8]; Steve Southerland [R-FL2]; Raúl Labrador [R-ID1]; Thomas Massie [R-KY4]; Bill Posey [R-FL8]; Steve Stockman [R-TX36]; Howard Coble [R-NC6]; Todd Rokita [R-IN4]; Jim Bridenstine [R-OK1]; Austin Scott [R-GA8]
Chairman Steve King and Marcia Fudge, ranking member, House Committee on Agriculture: Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition
Chairman Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers [R-KY5] and Ranking Member Rep. Nita Lowey [D-NY17], House Committee on Appropriations
Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa [R-CA49] and Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings [D-MD7]
Senator Diane Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer
Submitted by jajacobs on Sat, 2013-06-15 05:49.
Security expert Bruce Schneier makes a strong case, with lots of links to background material:
- Government Secrets and the Need for Whistleblowers by Bruce Schneier Crypto-Gram Newsletter (June 15, 2013).
The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.
Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal -- or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law -- but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we're living in a police state.
[This essay originally appeared in The Atlantic.]
CRYPTO-GRAM is written by Bruce Schneier. Schneier is the author of the best sellers "Liars and Outliers," "Beyond Fear," "Secrets and Lies," and "Applied Cryptography," and an inventor of the Blowfish, Twofish, Threefish, Helix, Phelix, and Skein algorithms. He is the Chief Security Technology Officer of BT, and is on the Advisory Boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He is a frequent writer and lecturer on security topics. See http://www.schneier.com.
Submitted by jrjacobs on Wed, 2013-06-12 12:47.
Davita Vance-Cooks (short biography (PDF)) sat today for her confirmation hearing to be the 27th Public Printer of the United States. Here's the video of the full hearing.
Committee Chairman Senator Charles Schumer, who could not attend the hearing, in a statement, praised Vance-Cooks for her leadership and urged colleagues to confirm her as the 27th Public Printer.
If confirmed, Vance-Cooks would be the first woman and first African-American Public Printer of the United States.
More from the GPO press release (PDF):
The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Rules and Administration held the confirmation hearing of Davita Vance-Cooks to be Public Printer. The hearing was chaired by Senator Angus King and attended by ranking member Senator Pat Roberts and Senator Amy Klobuchar. Senator King read into the record an introduction of Vance-Cooks submitted by Senator Mark Warner. Vance-Cooks answered questions on her leadership, accomplishments and experience in the private sector and while holding executive positions at the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). Vance-Cooks explained how GPO is no longer just a printing operation, but has transformed into the digital information platform for the Federal Government. “I have an unwavering belief in the vital mission of GPO—Keeping America Informed,” said Vance-Cooks. “I will ensure that GPO stays dedicated to that mission.”
Submitted by jajacobs on Tue, 2013-06-11 05:57.
Barbara Fister writes about privacy and government secrecy in the wake of the exposure of the government's "Prism" program and other surveillance activities.
The effects of government secrecy on the privacy of Americans and its overlap with libraries and the Right to Read has a long history. In recent decades we have had the FBI's "Library Awareness Program" (See Surveillance in the Stacks The FBI's Library Awareness Program By Herbert N. Foerstel, Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn. 1991), the "PATRIOT" Act with its library-records clause, the "Total Information Awareness" program, the "Terrorist Surveillance Act," and more.
Fister quotes from the Church committee hearings of the 1970s. Her article is worth a read.
See more about privacy here on FGI:
Submitted by jrjacobs on Mon, 2013-06-10 08:11.
Library Journal has just published "Notable Government Documents of 2012: Looking Back, Moving Ahead." Every year a panel of judges from the ALA's Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) receive submissions and compile a list of notable state and local-, Federal-, and international documents -- including links to and distributors for all of the documents. Check out the amazingly diverse topics covered by govt documents including bees, FOIA, the space shuttle, zombies (yes zombies!!), CA high speed rail, birds and dragonflies and damselflies (oh my!), Documents.OK.gov, cannabis, water and many more. Great job by the community and the committee. Every library should have all of these items in their collections at the very least.
FYI, The 2013 process will soon begin. You too can submit your favorite new documents to committee.