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Steve Ballmer's Secret $10M Site on Gov't Spending Debuts

Ex-Microsoft CEO has been compiling monster database for 3 years

(Newser) - Ask Steve Ballmer about the project he's been quietly working on since he retired as CEO of Microsoft , and he starts gushing with the "excitement of a child showing off a new toy," per the New York Times . That three-year project is , a "first... More »

New Database Gives Tree Scientists an Important First

They know how many different species exist: about 60K

(Newser) - Tree lovers, take note: A new database called GlobalTreeSearch has for the first time provided a tally of all the world's tree species. The answer: 60,065. Scientists from Botanic Gardens Conservation International in the UK spent two years compiling the database, relying on information from 500 published sources... More »

Why the FBI Wants to Collect 100K Images of Tattoos

Opponents are concerned about profiling

(Newser) - The FBI plans to compile a database of some 100,000 tattoo images, sourced from the Michigan State Police, Tennessee Department of Correction, and Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in Florida—and the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes the effort is "so fraught with problems" and such a threat to... More »

Doctor Database Abused by Users Seeking Opioids

ProPublica admits problem with "Prescriber Checkup"

(Newser) - Looks like a freely available online database that reveals which doctors are prescribing what pills has partly backfired. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief at ProPublica—which unveiled Prescriber Checkup in 2013—admits as much. "Thousands of the people ... viewed the 'reporting recipe' we wrote to help local journalists identify doctors... More »

FBI: We're Going to Start Counting Deaths by Cop Better

New system will list deadly encounters by gun, Taser, physical force

(Newser) - The FBI is finally on the case: The agency is revamping its data-collection system to more accurately portray how many deaths come at the hands of police officers each year, the Guardian reports, giving itself a pat on the back as part of the impetus behind the initiative. Officials say... More »

$5M Gun Database Never Solved a Single Crime in 15 Years

Maryland program finally nixed

(Newser) - Since 2000, more than 300,000 bullet casings have piled up in an old fallout shelter in Pikesville, Maryland, the result of an ambitious program launched to catalog the casings in a database, which would then be used to help solve crimes, per the Baltimore Sun . But 15 years and... More »

The Feds Are Probably Tracking Your Car

Database of license-plate readers is steadily growing

(Newser) - Attention highway drivers: Smile, the DEA is watching. The feds are making use of license-plate reading technology to run a database that tracks millions of cars in real time around the US, report the Wall Street Journal and the ACLU . The agency makes use of its own readers on major... More »

'Grandma Brigade' Gathers Data on Minnesota Voters

ProPublica: Nosy seniors keep Democrats' database up to date

(Newser) - It's no secret that both political parties are compiling as much info as they can on voters for their databases. But ProPublica has details on the unusual way Democrats get the job done in Minnesota, thanks to a group called the Grandma Brigade. "These women, in their 50s,... More »

To Fix Gun Crisis, All We Need Is Data

Setting up tracking system would be simple: Marc Parrish

(Newser) - How can we battle our mass-shooting epidemic? "Simple math" could help, "even without new restrictions on the guns anyone can buy," writes Marc Parrish at the Atlantic . We track all kinds of behavior in the US: Purchases of cold medicine, last-minute airline tickets bought with cash, and... More »

America's Terror Center May Be Analyzing You

National Counterterrorism Center given access to almost any gov't database

(Newser) - If you've sought treatment at a VA hospital, applied for a government-backed mortgage, or gotten on a plane recently, be warned: The little-known National Counterterrorism Center may be analyzing you. The Wall Street Journal used documents accessed through Freedom of Information Act requests to report on counterterrorism rules that... More »

Obama Fan? His Voter Database Is Watching You

ProPublica is a little worried about how much we don't know about it

(Newser) - President Obama's re-election campaign has by all accounts an impressive voter database that is getting more comprehensive by the day. But exactly how much information it is storing about supporters and what it intends to do with the cache remain big unknowns because the campaign won't talk about... More »

Koch Bros. Pump $2.5M Into Right-Wing Database

Billionaires aim to repeat Democrats' success

(Newser) - Extending the reach of corporate power into next year's elections , the Koch Brothers are drawing on a wide range of right-wing groups to establish a database of conservative voters, the Guardian reports. Oil billionaires David and Charles Koch pumped $2.5 million into the voter file, called Themis, which... More »

China to Post Marriage Records to Snag Cheaters

Databases should be up nationwide in 5 years

(Newser) - One byproduct of the rising standard of living in China has been an explosion of infidelity—more than a few businessmen have secret mistresses and even second wives. To clamp down on the trend, the government plans to post marriage records online so people can check on suspected cheaters. Databases... More »

US Agencies Link Up to Spy on ... You

Thousands deemed 'suspicious' appear on giant database: WaPo probe

(Newser) - Aiming to fight home-grown terrorism, the US is linking local, state, FBI, and military resources to gather information about American citizens: It’s “the largest and most technologically sophisticated” domestic intelligence system the country has ever assembled, write Dana Priest and William Arkin after a Washington Post investigation that’... More »

Nazi Records Help Victims Get Stolen Art Back

New database contains details on some 20K pieces

(Newser) - Some 20,000 works of art looted by the Nazis are one step closer to being returned to their rightful owners. Today marks the launch of an online database of art taken in Germany-occupied France and Belgium between 1940 and 1944, allowing survivors, their relatives, art collectors and museums to... More »

UK Halts Anti-Pedophile Database

'Draconian' plan would have registered anyone working with kids

(Newser) - Britain has halted work on a massive pedophile database just weeks before it was to be introduced. Government ministers say the vetting program—which would have required gathering information on 9 million people—will be scaled down and redesigned along "common sense" lines, the Telegraph reports. More »

TSA Database Tracks Surly Air Travelers

Throw a tantrum and the feds will make note of it

(Newser) - Mind your manners at the airport or it's going on your permanent record. The TSA has a 3-year-old database with information on passengers who pitch a fit during screening by threatening employees or, say, kicking equipment, reports USA Today . So far it's logged 240 incidents, and privacy advocates are predictably... More »

Through Sheer Power, Google Translate Gets It Right

Similar programs use 1B words, while Google plugs in 100B+

(Newser) - Score one for Google’s “don’t be evil” side as Web surfers reap the benefits of its excellent translation program—thanks to the sheer force of Google's web dominance. Machine translation is a particularly tricky computer problem that programmers now agree is most easily solved by feeding massive... More »

Database Takes Scholars to Medieval Battlefields

Free searchable database includes facts on salary, health, knighthood

(Newser) - British researchers have posted records of some 250,000 medieval soldiers in a searchable online database, the BBC reports. Now, interested parties can easily learn about the lives of fighters in the Hundred Years’ War, including salary, health, and knighthood information—for free. The “remarkable” records, says one researcher,... More »

Scotland Yard Secretly Tracking Activists

Civil liberties groups believe database on peaceful protesters may be illegal

(Newser) - British human rights advocates have been alarmed to discover that Scotland Yard keeps a secret database on political activists, the Guardian reports. Surveillance teams have tracked and gathered information on protesters, including thousands of people not suspected of any crime. Personal information on the activists—including their political affiliation—is... More »

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