Dividends launches Change Politics; German gov’t launches smartphone app for refugees; and more.

  • A United Nations report finds that technology and the world wide web have not led to universal—or even expanded—prosperity, health, and happiness, as many hoped, Somini Sengupta reports for the New York Times. In fact, she writes, the reports warns that “innovations stand to widen inequalities and even hasten the hollowing out of middle-class employment.” The World Bank reports that countries with the resources to acquire and invest in technologies will “reap significant dividends” but that others will fall behind, and without a strong foundation technology can lead to “divergent economic fortunes, higher inequality, and an intrusive state.”

  •  The German government has released a new smartphone app designed to help refugees seeking asylum in Germany, Amar Toor reports for The Verge. The app includes a basic German language course, information on the asylum application process, suggestions for finding employment or job training, and explanations of German values and social customs.

  • Tech and the presidentials: In my latest at Civicist, I talk to’s founder and CEO Ben Rattray about the new elections platform launched today, Change Politics. The ultimate goal of the platform, Rattray says, is to undercut the influence of money in politics by raising the importance of trusted endorsements over paid advertising.

  • Yesterday was the third annual Big Block of Cheese Day at the White House, and Americans were invited to ask questions on Twitter using #BigBlockofCheeseDay. Wired’s Issie Lapowsky calls the tradition, lifted from The West Wing, “truly insipid Twitter,” and gives some convincing examples of lackluster interactions.

  • Shahid Buttar writes in the Electronic Frontier Foundation blog that President Obama’s State of the Union address failed to mention mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, and outlines how little has changed during Obama’s tenure, in spite of the Snowden revelations or Obama’s campaign promises to rethink the security policies enacted under George W. Bush.

  • co-founder Natalie Foster takes to Medium to explain what big idea she thought was buried in Obama’s State of the Union address: benefits that move with people. She lists a number of labor leaders, company execs, and venture capitalists who support the idea of portable benefits, and expresses her hope that a better, more flexible safety net is in the works.

  • The Rideshare Guy, Harry Campbell, a former aerospace engineer and a part-time Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar driver turned blogger, takes a look at Uber’s low retention rate and whether or not the company will ever run out of drivers.

  • Endings: Fred Benenson announces his departure from Kickstarter on Medium, and shares some of his data-related lessons-learned from his years as VP of data.

  • Yesterday, Al Jazeera America announced that the cable news channel and digital operations will shut down by the end of April, Glenn Greenwald reports for The Intercept.

  • A new Pew Research Center report finds that Americans are willing to share personal information or allow other intrusions into their privacy, like office surveillance cameras, if they think the tradeoff is worth it. One scenario participants were polled on was “Free social media”: “A new social media platform is being used by your former high school to help manage communications about a class reunion…if you choose to participate, you will be creating a profile using your real name and sharing a photo of yourself. Your access to the service is free, but your activity on the site would be used by the site to deliver advertisements it hopes will be appealing to you.” A whopping 51 percent of participants said this was “not acceptable.” This was not always because of the privacy infringements; one participant reported, “I have enough social media sites to manage. I’d rather they use Facebook,” and another wrote, “I have no desire to keep in contact with people from high school.” The lengthy report has lots more tidbits about when and why Americans will surrender personal information,

  • As interesting as the report is, it isn’t super revolutionary information. In 2014, an artist found 380 New Yorkers who were willing to give up everything from fingerprints to partial Social Security numbers in exchange for a cookie.