Surveillance Companies, Arizona Campaign Finance, Australia Product Recalls, More: Tuesday Afternoon Buzz, August 2, 2016


A new database aims to provide information on surveillance companies and technology. “Created in collaboration with Transparency Toolkit, the Surveillance Industry Index (SII) includes information on more than 520 surveillance companies, as well as the technology they have exported to government agencies and telecommunications companies. Privacy International has also released a report that tracks the growth and development of the global surveillance industry since the 1970s.”

Residents of Arizona have a new tool to track “dark money” spending. “Earlier this year, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill into law that loosens regulations on anonymous campaign donations, or so-called dark money. Proponents called it an extension of free speech, but many others are concerned about how it could affect the political landscape. Now, the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting has created a new tool that will monitor dark money filings with the Secretary of State’s Office.”

The government of Australia has launched a new Web site with information on product recalls. “The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says there were 670 recalls in the last financial year, an increase of 70 from 596 in the previous year. To make it easier for consumers to check the safety of products the new website – Product Safety Australia – has been launched. The website also provides information on safety education, lists the products that are managed by mandatory safety standards and explains which specialist agencies have responsibility for products that aren’t managed by the ACCC.”

Nifty: a new Web site maps old streetcar routes used in San Francisco. “The map, created by local designer Chris Arvin, combines data from four different sources to give viewers the names and photos of routes that operated in decades past, in comparison to the city’s streetcar network today.”


The FCC geospatial maps are getting an online update. “Since the launch of the original FCC maps site, a total of 53 maps have been published – including 15 this year – on topics ranging from nationwide LTE coverage to fixed broadband deployment data. To keep pace with the demand for more and improved data visualization tools, we’ve been working to update our maps site to streamline the publishing process and increase the public’s access to the maps published by the Commission.”


A tip o’ the nib to Polly A for the pointer: 16 Ideas for Student Projects using Google Docs, Slides, and Forms.


KICKSTARTER CORNER: I have to get up and go get a rag because I’ve been drooling way too much over Calculist. “Calculist is an open-source thinking tool. It’s sort of like a spreadsheet app with a tree data structure.” It’s already raised over $1500 toward its modest goal of $2000.

Can’t wait for the Olympics to start? Apparently there are already spoilers on Snapchat. “‘Save the surprise. Please no photos.’ That was the call to people inside the Maracanã Stadium in Rio at the weekend as rehearsals for Friday’s opening ceremony started up. Needless to say, no one listened.”


You know that commonly-held belief that senior citizens are more susceptible to scams than other age groups? Maybe not. “While people commonly stereotype scam victims as being senior citizens, a study conducted by the Better Business Bureau indicates that, in fact, Millennials and Generation Xers are actually much more likely to be victims of scams than are Baby Boomers, with Millennials and younger members of Generation X faring the worst of any age groups when it comes to falling prey to scams.”


Okay, it has nothing to do with research, but in these trying times I feel I must let you know that John Cleese has his own YouTube channel. Good afternoon, Internet…

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