Sending Wi-Fi beacons out to help Syrian refugees; differing opinions on Lawrence Lessig’s bid for president; and more.

  • This is civic tech: One way that the Civil Society and Technology Project at the Central European University in Budapest is helping refugees navigate their difficult journeys: they’re setting up volunteers as “walking Wi-Fi beacons,” reports Aviva Rutkin for the New Scientist. She writes, “For about $100, you can pick up a ready to use Wi-Fi hotspot and prepaid SIM cards, pop it all into someone’s backpack, and send them out into the crowd. The networks last for about six hours before needing to be recharged, and can support around a dozen users at a time.”
  • A “We the People” petition on the White House website calling for a big increase in the number of Syrian refugees resettled here is now halfway to the 100,000 signatures needed to prompt an official response.

  • Our Jessica McKenzie reports for Civicist on how the city of Austin, Texas, is using online engagement tools to poll city residents about an initiative to delete the box on job applications that asks applicants about prior convictions. Featured: HeartGov, a text-based tool developed by Civic Hall member Asher Novek.

  • Tech and the presidentials: Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, a leader of the free culture movement and author of several seminal books on the internet, has announced that he is running for the Democratic nomination for President, having garnered a million dollars in backing Kickstarter-style online. He’s running as a “referendum” candidate seeking to only pass substantial campaign finance and election reform legislation.

  • Lessig’s friend Ethan Zuckerman, the director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media, blogs about his reasons for supporting his run, arguing that he can “win by losing, so long as his referendum attracts sufficient attention.”

  • Taking a somewhat less optimistic (and more realistic?) view of Lessig’s chances, his friend David Weinberger, another Harvard scholar and author of seminal internet books, blogs that he worries that rather than demonstrating widespread support for democracy reforms, Lessig’s bid will “make [campaign] finance reform look more marginal than it actually is.” He calls this the “lose-by-losing outcome.”

  • At least two emails received by Hillary Clinton on her private server while she was Secretary of State contained highly classified information, Michael Schmidt reports for the New York Times.

  • Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina recently told a New Hampshire audience that if elected, she would ask Americans to respond to questions during her weekly radio address, The Economist reports. “For instance, she explained, she might ask whether the federal government should have the right to sack employees who fail to do their jobs, or whether it is important for Americans to know where their federal tax dollars go. Press 1 for Yes, and 2 for No.”

  • Brave new world: Apple and Microsoft are butting heads with government authorities more and more over demands for private and/or encrypted customer data, report Matt Apuzzo, David Sanger, and Michael Schmidt for the New York Times.