News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 12 December 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 12 December 2016

The Information Program NEWS DIGEST, published the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, aims to update colleagues in the Open Society Foundations and friends further afield about the news, opinions and events the Program team have been watching this fortnight. The views expressed in these stories do not necessarily reflect those of the Information Program or the OSF. Prepared by Wendy M. Grossman.

Our staff, advisers and major grantees tweet at Current and former grantees featured in this issue: EFF, Open Rights Group, Privacy International.

For breaking news stories, visit:

Iceland: The Pirate Party asked to form government
The Register reports that a new proclamation has asked Iceland's The Pirate Party (TPP) leader Birgitta Jonsdottir to lead negotiations with other parties to form a government. Two parties won more votes than TPP in the last election, but both have failed to secure a working majority.

Italy: Court rules embedding isn't copyright infringement
Ars Technica reports that the appeal court of Rome has overturned one of the 152 website blocks imposed a month ago and ruled that embedding - incorporating a link that displays third-party content - does not constitute a copyright infringement. The court based its ruling on that of the European Court of Justice in the recent BestWater case, where the court held that embedding is not an infringement if the material is already accessible to the general public. The battle over linking continues in Brussels, where new copyright rules are under negotiation.
Ars Technica:

Fake news leads armed man to "self-investigate" DC pizzeria
The Washington Post reports that local police have arrested a man armed with an assault rifle who visited a pizzeria to "self-investigate" a false conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign. At the Guardian, Carole Cadwalladr raises the question of platform responsibility when she uses Google's search autocomplete feature to uncover a growing, parallel universe of right-wing fake news. This universe, hidden in plain sight, is increasingly penetrating the rest of the web and is being used to track, monitor, and influence anyone who comes across its content. The resulting micro-targeting is opaque enough to evade election laws about fair campaigning. The BBC profiles a small town in Macedonia where teenagers are earning quick money from writing fake news that Americans will click on.
Washington Post:

The Gambia: President shuts down internet for election
Access Now reports that the government of The Gambia turned off internet access and international phone calls the night before the election. The sitting president, Yahya Jammeh, was seeking his sixth term using what writer Deji Olukotun describes as "Trump rhetoric" in a country where votes are cast by using marbles. Following the unexpected election of Adama Barro, the government turned internet access and international phone calls back on.
Access Now:

EU threatens social media with regulating hate speech
Reuters reports that the European Commission has said that companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Twitter, Google, and Google's YouTube will have to act faster to tackle hate speech or face regulation. The Commission is not satisfied with moves the companies have made under the code of conduct agreed six months ago, which requires action on reports within 24 hours. A recent report shows that today only 40% of reports are acted in within that time.

Attacks create million-router botnet
At Ars Technica, Dan Goodin reports that some 900,000 routers issued by Deutsche Telekom to customers were attacked during the last weekend of November, along with similar routers used by non-DT customers. Attackers exploited a flaw that left the routers open for remote management. Shortly afterwards, The Register reported similar attacks aimed at UK routers issued by TalkTalk and the Post Office. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the local MUNI public transport system was attacked by ransomware that demanded a payment of 100 bitcoin (about $73,000). Rather than pay the ransom, MUNI officials turned off the system and allowed travellers to ride for free. The Chronicle estimates the cost at about $50,000; the attack was traced to an employee who clicked on a link in a phishing email.
Ars Technica:
SF Chronicle:

Trump seeks internet shutdown capabilities
CNN reports that President-elect Donald Trump has called for shutting down the internet in some areas to stop the spread of terror and explains why he'll find it difficult. At The Intercept, Sam Biddle reports that of nine technology companies asked if they would sell their services to help Trump construct the Muslim registry he has repeatedly said he favours, only one - Twitter - issued an unequivocal "no".

For more features and analysis selected by the Program team, visit:

Colombia: Where is my data?
In this blog posting, EFF summarises "¿Dónde están mis datos?", a report recently published by leading Colombian digital rights organisation Fundacion Karisma. While Colombian telecommunications companies have not yet adopted best practices for privacy and transparency reporting, two key companies, ETB and Telefónica-Movistar, have significantly improved. The country's privacy law has not kept pace with other parts of the world, making telecommunications companies crucial players in protecting user privacy.

Elections and data-driven psychometrics
In this lengthy article (in German) at, Mikael Krogerus and Hannes Grassegger explore the connections between the election of Donald Trump and Michal Kosinski and his work on data-driven psychometrics. Kosinski's work refining his use of Facebook "Likes" to create precise personality profiles provided the underpinnings for Cambridge Analytica's approach to data-driven communications, which the company claims helped win the EU Leave campaign in Britain and elect Donald Trump. By way of comparison, in 2012 Technology Reviiew outlined the data practices that got Barack Obama elected to a second term.
Google Translate:
Technology Review:

The privacy risks of data in the cloud
In this blog posting at Privacy Surgeon, Privacy International founder and former executive director Simon Davies discusses privacy protection for data held in the cloud. Davies analyses two current cases. First, Microsoft continues to fight a court order that would force it to reveal user emails held on its Irish servers. Second, the US Congress is considering legislation that would grant law enforcement access to such data "based on mutual recognition of 'human rights standards'". In the UK, Davies says, similar plans lack transparency. In a blog posting, The Engine Room, traces the explicit links between data collection and human rights abuses.
Privacy Surgon:
Engine Room:

The anxieties of artificial intelligence
In this Guardian article, Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell discusses humans, AI, and why a technology company needs an anthropologist. Humans, she says, fear being made irrelevant. The question is not whether AIs will rise up and kill us but whether we will give them the tools to do so. Meanwhile, the Internet of Things will make some things visible that are not now; Bell's example is the discovery that cows that can milk themselves prefer to do so five or six times a day rather than once or twice. Ben Evans considers the implications of combining floods of photography with AI.
Ben Evans:

Contracts and the Internet of Things
In this Jotwell posting, Nancy Kim summarises a lengthy legal journal article by Stacy-Ann Elvy analysing whether (US) contract law is ready for the Internet of Things. The short answer: no. Elvy discusses issues such as consent, how Internet of Things devices should be regarded under the law, and information asymmetry. She makes recommendations for how courts should consider such issues, and urges the Uniform Law Commission and American Law Institute to change doctrinal rules to take the new commercial environment into account.

Fifty-two surprising lessons for 2016
In this Medium posting, Fluxx consultant Tom Whitwell lists 52 surprising things he learned in 2016. Number one is the existence of a service called Call Me Baby, which supplies human voices to scams that need them in a variety of languages.


To see more events recommended by the Information Program team, visit: If you would like your event listed in this mail, email

Privacy Camp
January 24, 2017
Brussels, Belgium
Co-organised by EDRi, Privacy Salon, USL-B, and VUB-LSTS, the fifth annual Privacy Camp brings together civil society, policy makers, and academia to discuss existing and looming problems for human rights in the digital environment.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 25-27, 2017
Brussels, Belgium
The tenth CPDP's main theme is artificial intelligence. The conference is accepting proposals for panels in April (from academic consortia, research projects, think tanks, and other research organisations) and May (from individuals wishing to present academic research papers).

Internet Freedom Festival
March 6-10, 2017
Valencia, Spain
The Internet Freedom Festival gathers the community keeping the Internet open and uncensored for a week of free-form multidisciplinary collaboration intended to help groups achieve their goals. Attendance is free and open to the public.

Rightscon 2017
March 29-31, 2017
Brussels, Belgium
RightsCon will tackle the most pressing issues at the intersection of technology and human rights. Session proposals are being accepted until November 25, 2016.

We Robot
March 31-April 1, 2017
New Haven, Connecticut
The sixth annual We Robot will be held at Yale Law School and will focus on the coming legal and policy conflicts as robots and AI become part of daily life.

TICTeC 2017
April 25-26, 2017
Florence, Italy
This will be the third mySociety conference on the impacts of civic technology.

2017 IFLA International News Media Conference
April 27-28, 2017
Reykjavik, Iceland
This conference will examine issues and challenges in collecting and preserving the news and making it available to users. Do access and preservation have different prerequisites? In addition, the conference will explore how news media is used and transformed by researchers and the public. Can we recognize variable user needs? Do we offer the most suitable APIs?

Creative Commons Global Summit
April 28-30, 2017
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
This event will gather a global community of technologists, academics, activists, creatives, and legal experts to work together on the expansion and growth of the commons, open knowledge, and free culture for all.

MetLib 2017
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The 2017 programme theme is "Partnerships: Creating a new vision for libraries". Among the subthemes will be discussions of how and why to use, form, and manage partnerships, management tools, and best practices.

4th Africa Library Summit and 2nd AfLIA conference
May 14-20, 2017
Yaounde, Cameroon
Moved from Ethiopia to the site of the second bidder due to safety concerns, this conference co-locates the fourth Africa Library Sumit and the second African Library and Information Associations and Institutions conference.

IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy
May 22-24, 2017
San Jose, California
The 38th annual meeting will present developments in computer security and electronic privacy, and for bringing together researchers and practitioners in the field.

Workshop on Technology and Consumer Protection
May 22-24, 2017
San Jose, California
Co-hosted with the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, ConPro will explore computer science topics with an impact on consumers. This workshop has a strong security and privacy slant, with an overall focus on ways in which computer science can prevent, detect, or address the potential for technology to deceive or unfairly harm consumers.

Open Repositories 2017
June 26-30, 2017
Brisbane, Australia
The annual Open Repositories Conference brings together users and developers of open digital repository platforms from higher education, government, galleries, libraries, archives and museums. The Conference provides an interactive forum for delegates from around the world to come together and explore the global challenges and opportunities facing libraries and the broader scholarly information landscape.

IFLA World Libraries and Information Congress
August 19-25, 2017
Wroclaw, Poland
The theme of the 83rd annual IFLA congress will be "Achieving a healthy future together: diverse and emerging roles for health information professionals".


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on December 14, 2016 9:31 PM.

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