Open Source Software and Public Trust in eVoting

April 14, 2009 – 9:53 am by CTI

Democratic societies of today face the challenge of upgrading public dialogue and reinforcing citizens’ participation in decision making, thus passing from an e-government to an e-governance model. eVoting is an important aspect of this effort, while at the same time is one of the most controversial issues at a technological, political and social level. A basic precondition for the maturity and acceptance of eVoting systems is the establishment of trust for their users. Read the rest of this entry »

Unsocial Networks

April 12, 2009 – 10:49 am by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

Freddi Fraudster FrogWe all know about the benefits of social networking but what about the pitfalls? The obvious one is distraction – it is estimated that social networks cost UK businesses £6.5 billion a year in lost productivity. That doesn’t mean I’m in favour of blacklisting such sites; instead I would encourage corporations and public bodies to update their IT ‘acceptable use’ policies accordingly.

However, there are more sinister forces at work. The idea of being ‘friends’ with somebody you haven’t met might be good for kudos but can you be confident of their identity? Trust is an old online problem with worryingly few checks and balances in the social networking field.

I’ve observed that people are generally less alert in these environments too – for example, more likely to click a link in a Twitter feed than in an email. I don’t think people realise that social networking accounts are increasingly attractive to scammers and hackers. For example, when Obama’s Twitter account was hacked at the start of the year it offered the perfect springboard for spam.

The nature of the beast is also the problem. Twitter is a prime example – it has an upper character limit so people tend to use short URL generators like TinyURL. This makes it easier to cloak your final destination. Facebook, on the other hand, allows ‘non-certified’ applications to be installed and as a result many have fallen foul to malicious widgets. [Firefox users’ note: there is an excellent add-on called LongURL mobile expander which can be used to reveal the final destination of web redirectors].

An experiment by IT security firm Sophos tested the integrity of Facebook users back in 2007. After setting up a profile in the name of “Freddi Staur” (an anagram of ‘Fraudster’, pictured here), they sent out 200 friend requests and waited to see what would happen. A total of 87 people responded and of these 82 leaked ‘personal’ information such as full dates of birth.

In addition to these findings, Sophos ‘poked’ a further 100 random Facebook users to see if this form of communication would elicit the same response and encourage people to let Freddi access their details. However, just eight people responded, with only five revealing personal information.

With increasing scope for security lapses in eParticipation land, PEP-NET should take note.

Let the sun shine in the EU as well - results from the Government2.0Camp

April 8, 2009 – 11:55 pm by Civil College

The USA is having a hot period of reforming the government through web2.0 and participatory models - it has become quite obvious during the last times. It does also mean, that NGO’s are helping to find the best policy through various means.

The leader of IT and transparency mashups, the Sunlight Foundation’s president, Elen Miller has collected the results in the official SunlightFoundationBlog of the mentioned Government2.0 Camp, which has been held in a Barcampstyle.

The video and the 10 points can be found below - the post is here!

Ten Measures for Transparency Success from Gov 2.0 on Vimeo.
1.    Open data: The federal government should make all data searchable, findable and accessible.
2.    Disclose spending data: The government should disclose how it is spending taxpayer dollars, who is spending it and how it’s being spent.
3.    Procurement data: How does the government decide where the money is getting spent, who gets it, how they are spending it and how can we measure success.
4.    Open portal for public request for information: There should be a central repository for all Freedom of Information Act requests that are public to that people can see in real time when the requests come in, how fast the government responds to them.
5.    Distributed data: The government should make sure it builds redundancy in their system so that data is not held in just one location, but held in multiple places in case of a disaster, terrorist attack or some other reason where the data is damaged. Redundancy would guarantee government could rebuild the data for future use.
6.    Open meetings: Government meetings should be open to the public so that citizens can tell who is trying to influence government. All schedules should be published as soon as they happen so that people can see who is meeting with whom and who is trying to influence whom.
7.    Open government research: Currently, when government conducts research, it usually does not report the data it collects until the project is finished. Government should report its research data while its being collected in beta form. This would be a measure of transparency and would change the relationship that people have to government research as it is being collected.
8.    Collection transparency: Government should disclose how it is collecting information, for whom are they collecting the data, and why is it relevant. The public should have the ability to judge whether or not it valuable to them, and giving them the ability to comment on it.
9.    Allowing the public to speak directly to the president: Recently, we saw the president participate in something called “Open for Questions,” where he gave the public access to ask questions. This allowed him to burst his bubble and be in touch with the American public directly is another measure of transparency.
10.    Searchable, crawl able and accessible data: If the government were to make all data searchable, crawl able and accessible we would go along way in realizing all the goals presented at the Gov 2.0 Camp.

I have to say, this is for the USA. But how about the EU?

What do we have from here? I assume, not much - the recently adopted transparency initiative is really weak - this means, that there is a significant need to have an entity, that draws the light into data formats, standardization and citizen requirements. In this continent, this is a hard stuff. Since we have many organizations, from Mysociety to Transparency International, and the cooperation, the common project developments has just been started recently.

But how do we feel inside ourselves, as a group of people, who already know, how important transparency is for real e-participation?

What kind of transparency do the e-participation players require here- keeping in mind, that real, non-e and e-participation can only based on real and accurate information- the basis of accountability and transparency.

(get some inspiration at , EU related issue hereTransparency on Euractive)

eGovernment Workshop, Danube University Krems Austria

April 8, 2009 – 9:37 am by ZEG

Workshop „ePolicy-Making“: legal requirements, preconditions, solutions.
Join us for 2-day workshop (please note: in German!) with Austrian eGovernment experts at the Danube University Krems, 7 and 8 May 2009.

Special rate for PEP-NET Members and Associates (75EUR)

More information:

In Passing: The German Federal Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble

April 7, 2009 – 6:52 pm by Politik-Digital

For the video-feature “In Passing”, the Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble reveals that he is filing his tax return online, explains the role of the state in the world of digital communication and hopes that more citizens will participate in democracy. How do you use the internet privately?

Wolfgang Schäuble: Once in a while I take a look at [one of the two main public TV stations] or Besides, I use modern communication technology. I don’t use email a lot myself, but sometimes together with my children. Apart from that, my office is helping me. I conduct my banking activities online. I also file my tax return on the internet… What else? I try not to spend too much of my time only with the modern communication technologies.

How do you use the internet for the election campaign?

Schäuble: Of course, for political communication, we need to use those ways of publicity that are being used today. And modern communication technology is constantly becoming more important. We also use modern information technology a lot for administration purposes. As the Minister of Interior I am responsible for that. For this reason, I was at the CeBIT last week, where we always have a section for Civil Service. We have advanced a lot of things, like the standardized telephone number for Civil Service. We are working on a citizen’s portal, De-Mail – safe email. By the way, the much criticized law „Safety in information technology“ is also an element. As the state, it is our role, and my responsibility, to guarantee the safety of the web, that also means the reliability of communication. Nowadays, when you want to send a contract by email, you still have to send it also by paper mail. With De-Mail you won’t have to do that any longer. So we deal a lot with this. At the same time we also have to see to that communication is safe, especially with issues that are sensitive in terms of safety policy.

How much „e“ can democracy bear?

Schäuble: We will see. It will be sorted out in one way or another. At the moment I also hope that the new media will result in more people participating in democratic discussions and in democratic decision-making. In America, this seems to have been the case during the presidential election campaigns. But also in France, when Nicolas Sarkozy won against Ségolène Royal, this played an important role. I wish something similar will happen in Germany as well. However, every progress entails risks and opportunities. We have just seen this with innovative financial products. Similarly, modern information technology is not without risks, as we have seen with the issue of the increasing tendency to violence at the other end or at the beginning of our debate.

Do you feel hit by the allegation: Schäuble = Stasi [former GDR secret police] 2.0

Schäuble: Well, I took it rather ironically. You have to bear some jokes at your own expense. What I’d find bothering is, if more and more young people are misled to believe that our Order of Freedom has a similarity with the system of injustice that the Stasi represented. That is not funny anymore. And look, when the same people who now, after the massacre of Winnenden, say we should hand over all our guns to the police, or we should have entrance control in schools – when those people are saying at the same time we’d be living in a surveillance society, this is such a contradiction, that I hope that modern information technology will not lead to the loss of all sanity/rationality, but that we can keep a certain degree of temperance when we level criticism.

State of Internet Freedom – Report

April 7, 2009 – 2:31 pm by Bengt Feil

Citizen freedoms are at the very heart of functioning democratic and civil societies and the amount of freedom citizens have while being online is certainly important in this regard. In the last years and months governments have passed laws and regulations which have restricted internet freedom: A recent example would be that ISPs and telecoms have started to store details of email and net phone calls since Monday following an EU directive which was formulated as a reaction to the 2005 bombings in London. But companies also harm their costumers privacy and freedom without being pressed by governments. Under these circumstances a closer look at online freedom seems reasonable.

On April 1st Freedom House, a US based advocacy group for political freedom, human rights and democracy, published its first “Freedom on the Net”-Report describing the state of internet freedom in fifteen different states. Alongside this report they also introduced the Freedom on the Net Index. The full report can be found here.

The report includes detailed information on the situation in the fifteen named countries. Hopefully the index will also get used to evaluate other countries and helps to raise awareness for the potential issues related to online freedom.

Reconnecting citizens with politics and policy making – what is happening now and what should be done in future

April 7, 2009 – 9:53 am by Evika

A joint workshop between the European eParticipation study and the Demos@Work project will take place in the framework of the

7th Eastern European eGovernment Days, the 22nd of April 2009

in Prague (15.30-18.00 pm)



This workshop will present initial results from these two initiatives, giving participants an opportunity to learn at first hand what the research is demonstrating and how future work should be designed.

The European eParticipation study has undertaken a comprehensive review of eParticipation across Europe at all levels, including the European level. It now has a very good understanding of the main shaping factors, the benefits and barriers, as well as who is doing what, how and with which impacts.

To exemplify in more detail some of the above issues, the Demos@Work project will provide a detailed illustration of how European-wide discussion between elected representatives and civil society on emerging policy issues can have a potential impact on all countries within the European Union. The issue selected is the harmful effects of smoking. Real-life demonstrations and analyses will be given, accompanied by relevant contributions from policy-makers and MPs.

In order to register please contact
Evika Karamagioli
T: +30-210-6121340

Praha, Hybernská 18, Justiční Akademie

For more information please refer to the following website




PEP NET Workshop at the EDem 2009 Conference, Vienna

April 6, 2009 – 12:48 pm by ZEG

“Participatory planning: conflicts, context and cooperation” with Daniel van Lerberghe, Dan Jellinek, Rolf Luehrs, Bengt Feil, and representatives from the CEE Citizens’ Network and ASAEL, Spain.

During this workshop, the PEP NET members will present and disuss cases in participatory planning, but ppt.s are forbidden!

More info about the conference and the cfp (deadline for papers is 17. May 2009):

EDem and EPart Workshop Brussel 12.06.09

April 6, 2009 – 12:06 pm by ZEG

An upcoming workshop on eDemocracy and eParticipation organised by the EC, very few seem to have heard about it, so I am posting the workshop link here as its target audience addresses the PEP NET members and readers!

Tell Barroso

April 3, 2009 – 5:48 pm by Politik-Digital

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A new web-survey – labeled with the telling name „“ - invites all EU-citizens to post their opinion about the EU policy areas. The survey suggests that the messages go all the way up to José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission. It seems odd though that the institution behind the survey is a party-affiliated think tank.

The distance to Brussels has never been shorter: The website suggests the direct interaction between you, the EU-cititzen, and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Barroso invites you to post your opinion about the policy areas of the European Union and how it can “improve your“ life. And he promises, that is a „simple, non-partisan web poll“.

It is indeed simple. In a first step, you have to tick some social indicators, most likely for statistical reasons. In a second step, the user is invited to name a policy area and post his/her opinion about it. The third step constitutes a nice clickable feature, which is a sort of opinion-dartboard. By drag-and-drop the user arranges a random selection of statements around the bullseye. The distance to the centre of the board thereby indicates the importance of the particular statement.

However, the non-partisan bit of the poll is quite questionable. The institution behind this service is the Centre of European Studies, a think tank affiliated with the European People’s Party EPP, which constitutes the largest faction in the European Parliament. It is not so much a disturbing fact that Barroso, an EPP member himself, offers his image and his name for an interactive process which generates EU-citizens’ opinion about the EU and its work. Yet it becomes an issue if such poll is marked as non-partisan whereas the party-links appear that obvious.