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An interesting thing happened today in the debate over US and UK berserker surveillance practices. In a collective protest, human rights, civil rights and accountability groups sent a letter to the Open Government Partnership calling on member countries to "overhaul privacy laws, protect whistleblowers, and increase transparency on surveillance mechanisms."The way OGP works, governments submit "action plans" with a roster of commitments to improve transparency, accountability and citizen participation. Many of the plans emphasize improved Freedom of Information, open data and rule of law mechanisms. OGP has generated a lot of energy. It has kickstarted a conversation about accountability on the international stage and among the 62 participating countries. But it has yet to prove its power to unleash change. Declarations are easier than prosecutions. Open data portals look good, but data means little without a community of data-savvy reformers.So it is interesting to see that more than 100 groups and…

Cross-posted from the #TABridge blog What if data published by governments had tracked changes and comments turned on like a Word document--for every user? That is basically the question asked the other day by Gov 2.0 evangelist Ben Balter. It's a valuable idea, driven by several urgent needs in the open data world: more usable government data, more engaged data users, and a more fluid, accountable dialogue between data publishers and data users. And Balter stands at the forefront of the issue, having pioneered the federal government's earliest uses of GitHub, the socially-oriented software platform, and now working with GitHub to help lead its new focus on state, local and federal government usage. The vision in his post is lucid and compelling, but the proposal is off the mark. We need better conversations more than we need better annotations. More precisely, we'll get more users to give more feedback that is more useful to more…

cross-posted from the #TABridge and Open Government Partnership blogs Advocates inside and outside government are working hard to embrace open data practices. International bodies, governments and even rock stars have moved past the question of why we need open, shared systems of government data to questions about how to build and maintain those systems. As we form new alliances and secure new policies to enable efficient sharing of data on financial flows, international aid, public services and related sectors, organizations and coalitions must work to link our activities as effectively as we hope to link our data sets. Transparency and accountability groups like our own are investing staff time, research, and money to join this open data revolution. This moment of innovation may resemble earlier milestones for technology and advocacy, but we need to keep the particular challenges of open data in mind, and to clearly define our responsibilities in the creation of a vibrant, reliable open data ecosystem.The digital revolutions…

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