Start of Open Data Portal by the Vienna University of Economics and Business

This month, January 2015, the Vienna University of Economics and Business launched a new OpenData portal. It is part of the ongoing project “OpenData@WU”. Currently it contains 86 datasets which includes Courses (41) and Organizations (29). There is a REST API available and weekly updates announced. The data is licensed under Creative Commens Attribute.

With these steps being forward towards a more open und accountable university, I would wish for two more things:

  1. Opening the university with publishing research results as open access and allowing open collaboration has more potential than floor plans.
  2. Allow direct participation in administrative decisions. This can include feedback on facilities, services or equippement (perhaps a “student budgeting”) and even decisions on new additional courses.


As a conclusion, it’s indeed a big step into an open university. Still, the more interesting questions stays within different fields. The foundation is set. Now the next steps need to be looked at carefully.

Civil Society and Data Politics in International Diplomacy

Vienna was the centre of nuclear disarment in December 2014. The  Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons brought the new process of humanitarian consequences an important step forward.

Not just on the political stage, it made new ground. It allowed a new level of civil society particpation and openess which is strongly missing in international politics. Whereas the use of social media and other internet services is an already established in new approaches of Diplomacy, the live reporting of ICAN and ICAN Austria set a new benchmark.

The core is a webtool consisting of two parts:

Reporting about the conference online and at the venue itself on large touch screens is indeed something new. The diplomates itself were standing around the screens, attensively checking on their own county assessment and quotes from their statements. And also complaining if their intension is not reflected as desired. The response to this installation shows that there is a need. Having it online that the whole world can follow creates much more credibilty and transparency than a simple video streaming.

Visualising such data is only a first step. In each policy field there is a lot of data from historic archieves, geo data and other open data. Arranging this around political decisions, processes and events will create complete new possibilities. It is hard to predict what impact this can have on the political outcome itself. The only thing we know is that this will change the process itself.

Visualising information for your campaign

The Tactical Tech Collective just published their guide “visualising information for advocacy” on their website.

Using information in nothing is nothing new and widely used to argue and reason. Current technologies are very much supporting it. This book is ago advocates and activists use visual elements in their campaigns. It will explore how to influence issues using the right combination of information, design, technologies and networks.

The first edition of Visualising Information for Advocacy was published in October 2013 and to mark the one year anniversary they have released the second edition for free. Of course, you can still order a physical copy of the bookand if you write a blog post about the book, they will send you a copy for free!

Disclaimer: I bought the book last year already and write about it only I really recommend it. This post is not done to get a free printed book.

Year one after Snowden – reviewing global surveillance

On July the 3rd, I got invited to talk at the International Summer University from the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence about the topic “The Surveillance Society and what to do about it!” together with Jackson Barlow, Christian Eichenmüller and James M. Skelly. The following points are a brief summary of my input.

Titel: Year one after Snowden – reviewing global surveillance

Connections between public and private secture

The first Snowden document to be published by the Guardian was a secret court order showing that the NSA was collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers.

Private infrastructure are importants targets. Not just networks, also data centres and data services. We all create a large digital trail. For example: Facebook. They never delete anything. Old messages, deleted pictures, removed friends – they are all still in their data base and connected to our profiles.

All together, the support by tech companies like Google in joining Civil Society against state mass surveillance is duplicitously. The best thing they could do against state mass surveillance is less collection of user data.

Global surveillance: NSA & Co
The spying programm X-Keyscore consists of several sub-programms (heavily simplefied to illustrate the scope of surveillance):

  • Fairview: US based to collect from other countries like Mexico or Germany.
  • Prism: US based with data connections to webservices like AOL, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype, Microsoft, Youtube, Apple.
  • Tempora: UK based with connections to network opporators like Verizon or Vodefone.
  • EvilOlive: US based with connections to network opporators like Verizon or at&t.


  • The chancellor Merkel was outraged, but only after she became herself the target.
  • No-spy-agreement failed.
  • Parliamentary investigation committee is slowed down by the government. No decision on Snowden invitation.
  • Attorney general is investigating surveillance of Merkels’ mobile, not general mass surveillance. Not enough evidence.

European Union
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) made an investigation after the leaks. The results in the report:


  • Questioning the legality of NSA mass surveillance
  • Accuses the NSA of economic espionage
  • Condemns mass surveillance in general
  • Has a long list of demands towards EU and Non-EU countries.

Additional they are naming five reasons not to act (page 37 of the report) which are often used by governments:

  • The ‘Intelligence/national security argument’: no EU competence
  • The ‘Terrorism argument’: danger of the whistleblower
  • The ‘Treason argument: no legitimacy for the whistleblower
  • The ‘realism argument’: general strategic interests
  • The ‘Good government argument’: trust your government


The UN General Assembly adopted an anti-spy resolution in Dec 2013. It was drafted by Brasil and Germany. Legally not binding and very weak due to diplomatic intervention of the US and UK.
“deeply concerned at the negative impact that surveillance and/or interception of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance and/or interception of communications, as well as the collection of personal data, in particular when carried out on a mass scale, may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights.”

NETmundial conference in April 2014

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff invited in April 2014 to a conference banning global mass surveillance. The result was a desaster. See my other blog post about it.


One year after Snowden there was much talking, some reporting and no real actions to condemn and prevent further global mass surveillance. The whole topic is a big disllussion and disappointment for human and civil rights world wide.

Since the start of this input, the NSA has selected

  • 525 terabytes of data for review (selected for review, NOT collected).
  • 15 minutes with 35 terabytes per Minute. 1 Terabyte = 1024 Gigabyte