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Government Information Awareness 211

gbjbaanb writes "Wired News is reporting about the GIA, software inspired by the TIA program. 'Researchers at the MIT Media Lab unveiled the Government Information Awareness, or GIA, website Friday. Using applications developed at the Media Lab, GIA collects and collates information about government programs, plans and politicians from the general public and numerous online sources. Currently the database contains information on more than 3,000 public figures. The premise of GIA is that if the government has a right to know personal details about citizens, then citizens have a right to similar information about the government.'"
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Government Information Awareness

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  • Coincidence? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:13PM (#6368853)
    I wonder if it's just a coincidence that this site was put up on the 4th of July?
    • "I wonder if it's just a coincidence that this site was put up on the 4th of July?"

      Bloody good idea regardless! This is the kind of thing which gives you hope for the country once more.

      How well's it going to scale? With a few million people putting input into this, it could become a fantastic piece of kit.
    • Re:Coincidence? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bigjocker ( 113512 ) * on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:33PM (#6368963) Homepage
      What I wonder is how long before the government pulls the plug on this one. Considering the practices shown, the government could argue almost anything from the Patriot Act to "information in the hands of terrorists", no matter how idiotic it is, and the big media (ala CNN) will repeat it to death so Joe Moron will believe it and feel comfy when the plug gets pulled.

      This project has the potential to show the big players the dangers and possible consequences of the Total Awareness Act (or whatever is named).

      Anyways, a great idea nontheless, and here's hopes for it to live long enough to make a difference. Projects like this, the EFF and the few others make you hopeful.
      • Re:Coincidence? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by onthefenceman ( 640213 ) <szoepf AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday July 04, 2003 @05:02PM (#6369081)
        This site is a godsend to all those interested in learning more about their government but who might not have the time or inclination to go wading through the public courthouse or library to find information.

        Also of interest is the fact that the MIT Media Lab receives vast amounts of funding from government and corporate donors. While I can't think of any legal means this site could be shut down, it could practically be accomplished by financial pressure either directly from these donors or indirectly from the Media Lab/MIT if it feels the squeeze of the purse strings. Let's hope that if this comes to pass the creators of this project stand strong.
        • Charles Vest, the president of MIT, published a statement in September of 2002 which dealt directly with the issue of openness in universities, particularly regarding scientific research. Although this particular endeavor doesn't specifically fit that category, his words still pertain. I've copied the most notable ones below; the entire statement may be found here [].

          "By and large, the academic community has treated this as a reasonable approach and, of course, will comply with the law. But even this seem
      • Re:Coincidence? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Drakonian ( 518722 )
        I think it would be outrageous if they took it down. What kind of country doesn't let its citizens read up on the government? Possibly a dictatorship?
    • Re:Coincidence? (Score:3, Informative)

      by RobotWisdom ( 25776 )
      There's a Wiki-style Disinfopedia [] that's a lot farther along.

      Also, the MIT site should put the dang searchbox on the dang frontpage, dang it.

  • Things like credit card purchases, phone bills, personal contact information, organizational affiliations, travel history, books checked out from the library -- you know, things you wouldn't want to hide unless you were a criminal?
    • Awfully curious... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FredFnord ( 635797 )
      ...was that serious, or sarcastic?

      It was pretty straighfaced, if it was sarcastic. But if it was serious, it was just plain scary.

    • by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) * on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:23PM (#6368908) Journal
      "Will it include the same information they collect? "

      I think individuals pushing for massive data collection should be the most heavily looked-at people on there. People like John Poindexter, John Ashcroft, and any Congresscritter who shows support for anything like the TIA needs to be followed, reported on, have their every purchase logged, their every movement cataloged, their every affair made public, and have every habit at the fingertips of the world. Let's show these people just what it is we don't like about programs like the TIA. Let's show them what it's like to have strangers turning your life into a database entry. Something like GIA could very easily turn into a platform for opposing programs like the TIA with actions instead of words. I'm not saying we should be in-you-face harassing these people; I'm saying we should simply find out every bit of possible information about them on a continuing basis until they drop support for 1984-inspired programs. If anyone who lives near these people would like to help out, then all the better.

    • "Will it include the same information they collect? Things like credit card purchases, phone bills, personal contact information, organizational affiliations, travel history, books checked out from the library..."

      There's always hope. After all, it only takes a few people who work in bars, restaurants, etc. to get the travel history, eating habits, partners' descriptions, etc. of the entire congress...
    • by Brushfireb ( 635997 ) * on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:28PM (#6368937)
      While I am not sure if you are serious or not, your logic is flawed. The simple fact that the government has ACCESS to those files should not be legal. This is about challenging your government. Its what happens in fascist and dictator states.

      "Oh Look, he checked out an article by Locke, or Marx, or Lenin, Or an Islamic Text.....he MUST be doing something illegal. Kill him". While this is extreme, the government knowing what people are doing, seeing, reading, and learning allows them to find and target those with different political beliefs than they. The whole point of a free democracy is to prevent such things.

      The MIT cause hopes to prevent the government from having all the info and all the power, and returns some power to the people. The simple fact is, that behind every bad decision in government, there is a person responsible. The MIT site helps us to pinpoint who, so we (the PEOPLE, the CITIZENS) to not elect next time, or to ask our reps to fire.

      • Well, I think his point was if we, the people, demand 'tit-for-tat' information awareness, then they, the government, might start to realize that it SHOULD be illegal. Ie., when push comes to shove, they will want to protect their privacy, and so will give us ours.

        Mind you, that probably won't happen, but the point was this is a tactic we can use to at least TRY to have a government that protects our rights.
        • Well, I think his point was if we, the people, demand 'tit-for-tat' information awareness, then they, the government, might start to realize that it SHOULD be illegal. Ie., when push comes to shove, they will want to protect their privacy, and so will give us ours.

          Well except they'll probably just make it illegal for us, and write in an exception for their own total information awareness programes
  • Excellent. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mmm coffee ( 679570 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:17PM (#6368876) Journal
    People like these are the true patriots. Unlike my neighbors who never flown a flag until 9/11.
    • by Dr Reducto ( 665121 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:55PM (#6369056) Journal
      Even worse, theyre probably the same neighbors who show no respect for the flag. To them it is just a symbol of blind conformity. I see that so many peopl who just started being patriotic after 9/11 do such un-patriotic things like:

      1. Leave their flag out at night(without a light).
      2. Leave their flag out during rainy weather and storms.
      3. Don't properly dispose of flags that prematurely age because the above abuses.
    • Re:Excellent. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @05:14PM (#6369116) Journal
      Actually, I don't consider it bad not to have flown the flag. I don't consider it bad to stand with your fellow citizens. If flying their flag is how they choose to do it, then so be it.

      However, I do consider it bad to blindly follow a flag like Roman soldiers following a Roman standard. You really need to look at who is waving that flag before you run off and lynch someone, or kill someone, or help ship them off to Cuba, or invade someone else's country.

      Read Stephen King's "Through the Eyes of the Dragon" and "The Stand" if you want to know what he thinks of the Grand Ol' (Randall) Flag (Flagg)
      • Re:Excellent. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elmegil ( 12001 )
        I think one of the main points is, if you're going to fly the flag as a matter of "solidarity", you need to educate yourself and show the flag some respect. I'm not a flag waver; never have been and likely never will be. But I know enough of the proper procedures to know that if I change my mind, I can get the information to do it right. Like lighting the flag at night (or taking it down), etc. I have a fair amount of respect for my neighbors who do it right (one guy does indeed have a light on his flag
    • Why is it that protesters burning a flag to make the point that the government is suppressing free speach is unpatriotic, but marketers using it to decorate clothing and sell crap isn't?

      US Code 36, Article 176 says, among other things:

      i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary us
  • Finally.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr Reducto ( 665121 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:18PM (#6368878) Journal
    Politicians don't like it when they are held to the same standard as everyone else. It will be *really* funny when some unethical "contributions" are discovered. When Politicians see just how bad stuff like this is, maybe they will think twice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:18PM (#6368879)
    In a democratic republic, WE are the government. And, if you don't feel you are, take a more active role and make it so.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:30PM (#6368946)
      People who donate to political parties are the closest that a regular citizen can get to being the government.
      The rest of us just have our one vote.
      • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) * on Friday July 04, 2003 @08:56PM (#6370092)
        >The rest of us just have our one vote.

        This is the wrong attitude to have; keeping silent until election day out of cynicism of the system because the wealthy have better access than you.

        Join a political organization, the ACLU and NORML could always use more members. *two organization I'm part of.

        Local government: There are many opportunities to make your voice heard. *I've done a little regarding the local school system, but I hope to exploit this more

        Keep in touch with your congress person: fax and phone them over issues and pending legislation. *A little ackward at first, but now I feel very comfortable calling up and saying "Yes I'm a constituent and I would like my congressman to vote against ..."

        Cyber-politics: web-based form letters, forwarding emails/links, mature discourse on poltics on web forums, etc *this is probably the most accessible way to get involved and will probably change government/citizen interaction in considerable ways in the next couple years.

        I do all of the above, and yes it has its downsides, but en masse getting involved in politics is very healthy for a democracy and when real results come out of it (and they do) then it hard to justify the complete apathetic stance of 'all we get is a vote, they're in charge.' Why not become "them?"

        Regardless of all the examples of cronyism and corruption you can think of, X amount of government will be little people making their voices heard. The question is do you want to be part of that X amount, thus influencing it with your views, or not?

        Lastly, all of the above really doesn't take much time. I think at one time the apathetic stance could have been defended a bit more easily, but with advances in politics on the web its almost a crime not to do something as simple as point-and-click donate or point-and-click fax.
  • by xombo ( 628858 ) * on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:18PM (#6368880)
    I think that the government has done way too much for the sake of secrecy against its own citezens. Perhaps they should reconsider much of their classified data, especially that which is not-vital or threatening to the American nation as a whole.
    However, personal information should be kept secret. Displaying the data of as many government officials as possible just as "proper compensation" for the data they collect about us is not only unfair to the politicians but unfair to us (how dare them think we would be so stupid). Thousands of politicians vs. millions of people with their data harvested. It's arrogance on the government's part to think such a thing.
    • "Perhaps they [government] should reconsider much of their classified data"

      Perhaps normal people should start classifying their data. Plaintext emails indeed...

      Who's got google cookies?

  • 1984? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jimmer63 ( 651486 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:20PM (#6368890)
    Did George Orwell ever imagine a world where the populace itself would become the Big Brother of the government? It's 1984 in reverse. Quite ironic really. I wonder how the politicians will react. Increased privacy laws? We'll see. Maybe not in my lifetime though...
    • ... It's 1984 in reverse ...

      You mean 4891?

    • Re:1984? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rectum2003 ( 686009 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:29PM (#6368941)
      This is exactly how should work a democracy. With power comes the duty to be transparent and subject to critic.
    • They have this chip they recovered from a furturistic robot a few years ago, and they reverse engineered it to the point where they could create a nearly sentient machine.

      This machine is now in charge of our entire country. It makes laws for us, fires nuclear warheads for us, etc.

      Anyways, the chip is pretending to send billions of dollars in foreign aid money while it is really ordering hundreds of millions of pizzas for its cyborg creations.
    • Re:1984? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Shackleford ( 623553 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @05:20PM (#6369142) Journal
      Did George Orwell ever imagine a world where the populace itself would become the Big Brother of the government? It's 1984 in reverse.

      I wouldn't go that far. It only seems to be there to allow people to have fairly easy access to information that they can already get from other sources. They'd just need to try harder to get it from those other sources. From the article: GIA allows people to explore data, track events, find patterns and build profiles related to specific government officials or political issues. Information about campaign finance, corporate ties and even religion and schooling can be accessed easily. Real-time alerts can be generated when news of interest is breaking.

      So calling it "1984 in reverse" would be too much of an exaggeration. If it actually, were 1984 in reverse, then wouldn't that be funny? Seeing politicians on telescreens, commanding them to do whatever you want to tell them to do.

      "Bush! Number 437859! I don't see you touching your toes!" We could've gotten Clinton into shape that way. And I suppose I could make a joke about how Clinton's telescreen would've sometimes been a pornographic broadcast.

  • At first, I thought sure, this'll work, those politicians are too smart to get caught doing their shady stuff out in the open.

    Then I realized NO THEY AREN'T.

    So, this should be fun. Wonder how long before this site quietly goes away.

    Just remember folks, this is the government you are talking about. If they want, they can make you disapp... /NO CARRIER
  • The Name (Score:3, Informative)

    by Valen0 ( 325388 ) <michael AT elvenstar DOT tv> on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:26PM (#6368929)
    The name and concept is supposed to be a spin of the Government's TIA (Terrorist Information Awareness) program that spys on citizens for terrorist activity. More information on TIA is available at DARPA [] and a story [] that Wired ran.
  • Great idea.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CokoBWare ( 584686 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:30PM (#6368949)
    This idea is phenomenal. Finally a way for people to do a search on some meaningful information about their government officials. Hopefully, it will support more government databases in the future, as I believe that there are more than 3,000 government officials in the US.

    Unfortunately, I can't search on anything cuz the site just got /.ed ;-)
  • A Few Thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shackleford ( 623553 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:31PM (#6368952) Journal
    I actually submitted this article this afternoon. Apparently, it was rejected because another user submitted it. Well, I'm not sure why, exactly. Anyway, I suppose I'll just dicuss a few thoughts that I had after I read the article and checked out the GIA website.

    Here, on the 4th of July, Americans have been presented with something that many of them would certainly like to have. Information on the individuals that have power over them. But is it not true that much of the information is available to the general public? The information in the database, which now contains information on more than 3,000 public figures, seems to be accessible enough. It would include information about campaign finance, corporate ties, etc. I suppose that this website would facilitate finding such information, which certainly is good. But it is all information that already seems to be avilable to us, as it can be submitted by people like you and I (and anonymously: good news for those who like to post as ACs here.)

    But what I'm sure many people would want is a more open government. One that does not keep as many secrets. One that does not do as much behind our backs. One in which there is less "classified information" although that may be a pipe dream. I understand that much information was removed from sites with the .mil TLD as a cetain terrorist organization was allegedly getting much useful information from it.

    But this stil seems to be a good idea. It'll make much information accessible to U.S. citizens, and, perhaps, if nothing else, hold up a mirror to those in power who want as much information on us as possible.

  • I like it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Whammy666 ( 589169 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:32PM (#6368955) Homepage
    After all, it's supposed to be an open and transparent government despite Dumbya's efforts otherwise. But I wonder if it will survive. Some years ago, video rental outfits leaked a list of porno movies that members of congress and high-ranking justices were watching. Congress instantly passed legislation making it illegal to do that. It seemed that they didn't like people probing their personal viewing and reading habits. However, these same bunch of baffoons have no problem doing the same to Joe Public ala the Patriot Act and TIA.

    Keep this in mind in 2004 and vote.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:33PM (#6368960) Homepage
    In true foil-hat fashion, I can't help but think that the GIA will only cover a fraction of what our government really does.

    If people start using the GIA as a standard for truth, if they say "It's in the GIA, it must be true," then the government will have an incredibly convenient way to encourage the belief in whatever information or misinformation it feels like. This would certainly have more clout than mass media outlets, which obviously have their own credibility issues.

    No government tells its citizens everything, and of what it does tell them, it's never the whole truth. What I do hope for from the GIA is at least apparent accountability that, while not touching upon all the madman's deeds that go on in secret subterranean complexes, will at least raise the public consciousness with regard to elected officials and get them (both the public and the officials) to act a little more responsible.
    • "I can't help but think that the GIA will only cover a fraction of what our government really does."

      The real question is how it balances the accuracy of information with the amount of information it wants. It could become The authority for information, with carefully researched and triple-checked data, like the FAS of government details. At the other extreme, it could become a wiki of rumours where much more gets published (think "I saw Ashcroft talking to..." type of reports) which would give a lot more
  • Potential (Score:5, Funny)

    by Proaxiom ( 544639 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:33PM (#6368962)
    SELECT name FROM FederalPoliticians WHERE name.bimbo<>name.wife
  • Hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by jeffkjo1 ( 663413 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:33PM (#6368964) Homepage
    This project has scant little information on the various politicians I searched for. John Ashcroft's entry [] merely has his position, and who appointed him to it. Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but.... CONSPIRACY!

    In all seriousness though, this actually seems like a good thing, but it needs more meat to fill up the information pages.
  • (Score:3, Informative)

    by ManDude ( 231569 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:37PM (#6368979) [] is a good site as well. It isn't the easiest site to get around, but its comprehensive. Maybe there can be a marriage of the two. It would be beautiful.
  • Taking Any Bets? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Coffee Warlord ( 266564 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:39PM (#6368986)

    If this takes off, how long you think it'll last online before the gov't declares it a 'terrorist informational tool' and starts (pardon the pun) terrorizing the masterminds of this one?

    Helluva idea, but I have a feeling it'll highly piss off our lovely government.
  • by shivianzealot ( 621339 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:39PM (#6368989)
    I must say, this site is rather tame. Age, place of birth, religion... its all really only information one might find in an encyclopedia. This is hardly intrusive, though a happy step forward. Perhaps my fellow commenters would care to post some ideas regarding new "features?"
  • by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:39PM (#6368991)
    According to the wired article, information about politicians is posted anonymously, and the politician always has a chance to refute the claim. The claim and the reply are always kept together, no information is removed.

    There is system to rank the credability of the contributors to keep things in check, similar to epinions' trustworthiness ranking system.

    However, this could still be open to widespread abuse with a coordinated effort. A person posting a comment could be backed up by hundreds of people vouching for his or her integrity, and even if the politician replies denying the claim, the damage is already done, which is the whole point behind a smear campaign.

    The lesson is, be weary of all information you receive from anywhere. Everything is suspect and most of the details of information you receive about things you did not witness in first person is probably 90% incorrect. Did you ever do that experiment in school where you whisper a phrase around in a circle of people and by the time it comes back to you it's completely different?

    It will be interesting to see how this page plays out, to see if it is compromised by hundreds or thousands of people with an ajenda. It's hard to pick up on subtle slanting of information until it's too late.

    "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." -- Winston Churchill


  • by Two99Point80 ( 542678 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:40PM (#6368996) Homepage
    Looks like the fact-checking needs a little work, as shown here []...
  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nepheles ( 642829 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:41PM (#6369000) Homepage

    This is an excellent idea, and one which deserves to do well. The delicate system of checks-and-balances has been become skewed of late, and our privacy has been steadily eroded.

    The balance needs correcting, and this is a good way to set about it, by affecting the decision-makers personally.

  • Not Very Deep (Score:4, Informative)

    by ipour ( 177686 ) * on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:48PM (#6369027)
    I like the premise, but this is a very superficial first effort. The site is slow, and you can get just about all of the same information at Knowing several public officials, I tried to use the site to see just what dirt I could dig up. I have to say I was pretty disappointed. I couldn't even get an official bio on all but the most prominent elected officials.

    If TIA does nothing more than this, then we have very little to worry about.

    • If TIA does nothing more than this, then we have very little to worry about.

      With the added exposure (slashdot). The site will grow to be a lot more detailed.

    • Re:Not Very Deep (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jpaz ( 512242 )
      Remember, though, that it is *just* the first effort. The site just went up. And of course it'll be slow on its first day, when slashdot got to it. Give it time.
  • Open secrets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by poptones ( 653660 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:57PM (#6369061) Journal
    I saw this last night and thought of submitting it, but after looking it over I blew it off because all it seems to be is a differently organized mirror of the website. Every single "fact" I found was collected from there.

    One thing I did find interesting was looking at campaign contributions. The amount of money behind Liddy Dole and Hillary Clinton is fucking astounding. More then Ed Kennedy, more than Fritz Hollings - more than anyone else I looked at (and I looked at many).

    aside from campaign money there's just not that much there. No corporate holdings (which would be a helluva lot more interesting than donations), no special interest alliances - not much of nothing.

  • Model (Score:3, Funny)

    by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:57PM (#6369063)
    If you read about the data collection method [] it seems that they are creating a database that is a cross between what you could find on google and information submitted by anyone ala IndyMedia.

    Hopefully it results in solid information and not this [] type [].

    • Why would you hope that? I could probably find more dirt on Hillary Clinton by hitting the drudge site than I could via this open secrets mirror. If this site is to serve as an open dossier on our politicos I would hope it would have exactly this sort of information - from all sides of the spectrum.
  • by chef_raekwon ( 411401 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @04:58PM (#6369064) Homepage
    the humour is this: in the US, or any "democratic" state these days, the people ARE the government. An elected official should *in theory* be there for the people who elected him/her. So, because the official represents the people, the people, again *in theory* should make sure the official has full reports of his/her doing. Ie - no hidden secrets....

    why then, are there secrets in Government?

    i think it has something to do with money, business, and money....(and maybe money)
    what do the US citizens feel about this, seeing as how they are the pentultimate of Democracy?

  • Seems to me that this database could only provide information that we already know... cause when someone does something really stupid like get a DUI or smoke up, it makes it into the news right away anyway.

    Yeah, maybe with this database we can get credit card reciepts or ISP logs... what does that prove? that gov. employees watch porn or drink booze?? oh wait - so does everyone else.

    BFD, I say.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2003 @05:08PM (#6369101)
    In A.D. 2003, war was beginning.

    GWB: What happen?

    JA: Somebody set up us a website.

    GWB: We get e-mail.

    JA: Outlook Express turn on.

    MIT: How are you gentlemen?

    MIT: All your information are belong to us.

    GWB: What you say?

    MIT: You are on the way to major scandals.

    MIT: You have no chance to deny cocaine use allegations, make your time.

    GWB: For great justice, take off every DDoS attack!

  • by PingXao ( 153057 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @05:14PM (#6369117)
    The premise of GIA is that if the government has a right to know personal details about citizens, then citizens have a right to similar information about the government.

    This is all fine and dandy except for one small thing: the government does not have a right to know personal details about citizens with the force of Big Brother's dream come true: TIA. I think it would be more beneficial to channel the energy that goes into GIA into making sure we elect leaders who will kill TIA before it really gets rolling. And un-electing those who permitted it to be born in the first place. Besides, if Big Brother has anything to say about it, this MIT Media Lab project will last only until the first time MIT is unexpectedly denied a government research grant or contract.
  • I encourage you to also check out InfoWars [] as well as Prison Planet [], or any number of related sites. Most of these things that come up in YRO segments here on slashdot have been predicted or commented on weeks or months in advance by these folks.

    A healthy dose of paranoia or cold hard facts, you be the judge. But at any rate, they do their best to avoid speculation and point directly to the house & senate bills and underscore text of scary things like the Patriot Act. Much like Slashdot they are a
  • Well, in the Alan Moore Book it was Rorschach.

    But in a free and Democratic society, it is us.
    It had better be us. If not us, then the democracy will fail.

    This is an excellent step towards accountability in profoundly corrupt times. Another site that can help you "Follow the Money" is

    To find out where your tax billions are going, try searching on: Halliburton, Bechtel, Brown & Root on either and both sites.


  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @05:44PM (#6369261) Homepage
    This belongs to the family of "blogs with delusions of grandeur". The scheme depends on large numbers of people voluntarily going to the trouble to carefully put info into the right slots of the system.

    Ted Nelson's Xanadu, which was sort of like an overcentralized World Wide Web with revision control and micropayments, was the first attempt in this direction. The "Wiki" crowd has the same idea.

    This works well for popular culture and badly for almost everything else. To work, it needs a fan base. Slashdot is about as good as this idea gets.

  • by jordandeamattson ( 261036 ) <> on Friday July 04, 2003 @05:54PM (#6369307) Homepage
    I submitted this article at 10:00 AM PST, 1:00 PM EST, this morning, but it was rejected. I don't know why that was the case, except I didn't take the standard /. twist to these issues.

    I believe this is actually an extremely positive step, for I am in agreement with David Brian and the arguments he makes in The Transparent Society [], saying that we should realize that there is no privacy, and that we should focus on building transparency in our society.

    When we struggle to preserve annonimity and privacy, we are actually playing into the hands of those that would be despots, by building a system where they don't have to be accountable for their actions. For a small example of this one, think of how many times you have heard a government official state, when speaking of some action that is being challenged, "We can't discuss this matter do to privacy issues." Whose privacy are they protecting? The person that is challenging a wrongful firing or the child that claims they were abused in the local youth facility? No, they are protecting themselves, but they are using (and abusing) our focus on privacy at all costs to protect themselves and their positions.

    Bring on the transparent society. Let's work to end this situation!
    • You don't mind everyone in the world knowing everything about you. That's fine. But you saying that everyone else should feel that way, and that it will make everybody happier? That's where I draw the line. Don't you tell me what I want, what will make me happier. People not digging around in my business makes me happier.

      And if an absolute lack of privacy about who I'm having sex with, or who I'm helping get through college, or what interesting sex toys I bought last week is what you would consider es
  • by ClarkEvans ( 102211 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @06:04PM (#6369363) Homepage
    While this may be useful, it will die a horrible death; too much information at a high-level and not enough depth. Someone seems to be taking snapshots of CSPAN and associating these with names. Really, a person shouldn't be added unless quite an initial file can be made for them, such as name, associations, etc. Just their name and picture isn't a good start and will only serve to hurt the process.

    This needs to be more like open source "meritocracies", where anyone can send stuff to a "patch-list" but only committers who have proven themselves get access to change the database. Any other mechanism will be flooded by garbage.
  • by The Master Control P ( 655590 ) <ejkeever@neDEBIA ... com minus distro> on Friday July 04, 2003 @06:12PM (#6369398)
    Politicians have always been open relays to anyone who offers up money. A large majority of them are scum, whether by their own choice or by having to be scum because they are the proxies of scum. For most of history, they've been able to keep this under the carpet, because the ordinary people couldn't really make ripples; They didn't have the means of distribution available to them. Now the 'net has turned that on it's head.

    For a long time, politicians have wanted to and usually succedded in trying to control the people because they were the only ones who had the means of distribution available to them. Now here comes the internet and turns that around and kicks it soundly out the door. Now anyone can make their opinions available to millions in a matter of minutes or seconds.

    I suppose what I'm getting at is that GIA is backlash, to remind our politicians that they no longer control information or it's distribution. And you can bet they'll be screaming and kicking like spoiled little brats from hell. However, try all you want to put this magnesium-and-sodium candle out. It'll always come back, and if you douse it with water it'll only burn hotter.

    Interestingly, most current politicians haven't played with this kind of fire yet, and they haven't learned that you'll get burned.
  • I wonder whether this will lead to the verification of what many people have long suspected:
    Severing of the corpus collosum in key government officials divides them into groups according to sinistrality or dextrality.
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Friday July 04, 2003 @06:24PM (#6369460) Journal
    Pandora's box is open, but there, fluttering on the bottom, is hope. We can't stem the flood of information that is about to wash away every vestige of the notion of privacy, but we can make sure that it washes over the rich as well as the poor, the powerful as well as the weak. I think the weak will bend before the flood, while the powerful, who have more to hide, will break.
  • by Valar ( 167606 )
    That's what I have to say. Yay! How long until le gouvernement songe puts pressure on the people/institutions that support this, though? I can see some funding/people being hurt already...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Only terrorists would attempt to discover information regarding their elected officials. You have been warned.
  • When I saw the headline, I thought this was going to be a project that would help give our government *some* kind of understanding of modern technology. Too bad, because that would really be a useful project.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN