[OpenSpending] How Spending Stories Fact Checks Big Brother: the Wiretappers’ Ball

Lucy Chambers lucy.chambers at okfn.org
Mon Feb 27 09:00:41 GMT 2012

Hi List, 

Thought you might be interested in reading about an innovative use of 
OpenSpending.org which could prove interesting for journalists.

*Privacy International* recently approached the *Spending Stories* team to 
ask for a search widget to be able to search across all of the government 
spending datasets held in OpenSpending. They had a list of companies which 
exhibited at the famous surveillance technology conferences in the US, the 
so-called Wiretappers' Ball, as well as a list of attendees of the 

Some attendees posed no surprises, the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement 
Administration, the UK Serious Organized Crime Agency and Interpol to name 
a few, but there are a few that are downright baffling, like the US 
department of Commerce or the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Clark County 
School District Police Department.

You can now search across all of the databases held in OpenSpending.org to 
see which of these companies actually holds contracts with governments, and 
follow up with suitable FOI procedures if necessary. There are only a few 
hits in the OpenSpending database so far, but projects like this 
demonstrate how useful it is to build up a unified, searchable database of 
international government spending records, and the search is also likely to 
be useful for other types of public procurement information.

*Help us build up the database and make this search even more powerful. 
Have a local, national or international dataset you'd like to explore? Get 
in touch!*

You can read more about the background to the story here: 

It is also cross-posted on the PBS Mediashift Idealab: 

The new data release by Privacy International was covered in the Guardian (
and the Wall Street Journal (

You can explore the data yourself on Privacy International's website: 

I look forward to seeing many more uses of OpenSpending that we hadn't 


Lucy Chambers 
Community Coordinator, 
OpenSpending & Data Journalism
Open Knowledge Foundation 
Skype: lucyfediachambers
Twitter: @lucyfedia
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