The rise of homelessness in Silicon Valley; the failings of the Open Government Partnership; and more.
Tech and the presidential: Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is now openly bragging about its use of psychographic data for voter micro targeting, as Tom Hamburger reports for the Washington Post. Using data from people’s Facebook profiles along with consumer data, the campaign tailors its outreach to individuals with care. Hamburger writes, “For example, personalities that have received high scores for ‘neuroticism’ are believed to be generally fearful, so a pro-gun pitch to them would emphasize the use of firearms for personal safety and might include a picture of a burglar breaking in to a home.” He also nicely notes this: “Cruz, a critic of excessive government data collection, has been notably aggressive about gathering personal information for his campaign.”
Hate search: Using weekly Google search data from 2004 to 2013, Evan Soltas and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz write that they “found a direct correlation between anti-Muslim searches and anti-Muslim hate crimes.” They also estimate that “negative attitudes against Muslims today are higher than prejudice against any group in any month since 2004, when Google began preserving detailed data on search volumes.” The only silver lining in all their findings: after President Obama mentioned that Muslims in America include many top athletes and soldiers, searches on those word combinations also spiked.
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, posts on Medium that “Let’s not let fear defeat our values. We must support Muslim and other minority communities in the US and around the world.”
Monica Potts’ story for The New Republic on homelessness in Palo Alto is powerful and heartbreaking.
What open government? Steve Adler, chief information strategist of IBM, writes that, despite being a “big fan” of the Open Government Partnership (OGP)—a signature international transparency initiative galvanized by the Obama Administraton—the entire project “needs a reboot.” He adds, “We are increasing membership but not increasing open government, and civil society is increasingly cynical about OGP. Many are saying it is a whitewash, lipstick on a pig, giving national governments a nice pretty facade of openness behind which they write laws restricting access to executive emails, forbidding foreign funding of journalism, empowering universal surveillance, and even worse.” And he asks some really good questions, like “Why is an organization dedicated to transparency having secret leadership meetings?”
Watching their words: Angie Drobnic Holan, a fact-checker with Politifact, offers some tantalizing evidence that the online fact-checking movement is having an impact on politicians, with some “vetting their prepared statements more carefully and giving their campaign ads extra scrutiny,” and media organizations highlighting fact-checking in their coverage “because so many people click on fact-checking stories after a debate or high-profile news event.”
This is civic tech: A boycott app named Bingdela has taken Taiwan by storm, giving Taiwanese a way to vent their anger at a court ruling clearing a major manufacturer of a food scandal, Paul Mazur reports for the New York Times.