News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 13 January 2017

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 13 January 2017
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: EDRi, OKFN, R3D.
The report on an OKFN blog posting on the Open Government Partnership in the NEWS DIGEST for the week ending December 23 2016 misspelled Mor Rubinstein's last name and misreported her gender. We apologize for the error.
Life in a Quantified Society
The Open Society Foundation has published a basic guide to its work on the Quantified Society, explaining the underpinning technologies and their impact on individuals' everyday lives. Topics include pervasive data collection, algorithmic decision-making, and the problems these pose for accountability and open access to information.
For breaking news stories, visit:
US formally accuses Russians of hacking the November elections
Writing for the NYU Law School Just Security blog, Ronald Deibert calls the joint FBI-Department of Homeland Security report on Russian cyber interference in the 2016 US election "badly constructed". Deibert complains that the White House fails to present the evidence linking the cyber espionage operations to Russia and that much of the critical evidence vital to the public interest is being kept secret, either by the National Security Agency or by private cyber security firms. At Esquire, Kings College professor Thomas Rid outlines the background of 20 years of Russian hacks of the US and discusses the role Wikileaks played in publishing the results. The New York Times calls the situation the realisation of "Julian Assange's years-old vision". Bruce Schneier discusses the problem of attribution in cyberspace. 
NY Times:
EU: European Commission launches e-privacy directive
EDRi reports that the European Commission has released its proposals for the e-privacy directive, which EDRi argues needs substantial improvement. It consists of three elements: a legislative proposal for replacing regulation 2001/45; a communication on the "data economy", and a communication on exchanging and protecting international data flows in a globalized world. The EC's press conference to discuss the announcement will be live-streamed on January 17.
EC (press release):
EC (regulation):
EC (data economy):
EC (data flows):
US: Police subpoena Amazon Echo data in murder case
The Center for Democracy and Technology reports that police investigating a murder in Bentonville, Arkansas ended 2016 by issuing a warrant to Amazon to demand that the company turn over audio recordings from an Echo home automation device. Amazon has refused to comply, and it is not clear which aspects - wiretap, stored communications, or trap and trace - of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act apply to the snippets of voice recording retained by the company. The Register reports that when a TV reporter, discussing the story of a child who accidentally ordered her family's Alexa device to order her a dollhouse, repeated on-air the command, "Alexa, order me a dollhouse", Echo devices around the country began attempting to fulfill the order. Online purchasing is turned on by default on these devices. 
Australia: Commission recommends adoption of fair use
InfoJustice summarizes the report issued at the end of December 2016 by the Australian Government Productivity Commission has recommended the introduction of fair use into copyright law, along with other changes on patents, copyright, and enforcement. The Commission has warned that copyright is too restrictive, in both scope and length of term, and proposes introducing a system of user rights. TechDirt lists the main points and reposts the entire 766-page report, which was released under a CC-BY license.
New York proposes mandating passenger GPS coordinates
Freedom to Tinker reports that New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed a new rule that would require car service platform companies such as Lyft and Uber to add GPS coordinates of customers' drop-off and pick-up points to existing requirements. New York's Freedom of Information law would make the bulk data subject to full public release. The stated justification is to combat "driver fatigue" and improve safety; however, the rule does not match the purpose and raises serious threats to passenger privacy. 
Freedom to Tinker:
Germany, Peru, Taiwan: Scientists lose access to Elsevier journals
Nature reports on the alternatives being pursued by scientists in Germany, Peru, and Taiwan now that their access to Elsevier journals has ended. Peru's government has terminated funding to pay for a license. Contract negotiations in Germany and Taiwan broke down in December; because negotiations resumed in Taiwan in early January, Elsevier has granted a one-month extension to the Taiwanese universities that had canceled their subscriptions.
Iran: Pornography filter breaks browsers across the world
The Verge reports that 256 websites, many of them pornographic, were blocked for users from Russia to Hong Kong when Iran activated a censorship filter using a technique called BGP hijacking that directs computers to phony routes. Iran's national telecom company is pivotal to the transit of data through the region. The situation began to resolve after approximately 28 hours. At its blog, Dyn has more detail and background on BGP hacking in general and Iranian censorship in particular.
AI research fund founded to promote research into the public interest
TechCrunch reports that LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar have each put $10 million into seeding the $27 million Ethics and Governance of Artificial intelligence Fund to promote research into artificial intelligence in the public interest. As algorithms make an increasing range of key decisions with ramifications throughout society, the Fund's founders believe it's crucial that AI research should include input from many disciplines, including social science, law, ethics, and religion. The founding academic institutions will be the MIT Media Lab and Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. 
For more features and analysis selected by the Program team, visit:
Chaos Computer Congress 33
In this Guardian piece, Alex Hern lists five key technologies talks at the 2016 Chaos Computer Congress identified as broken: intercoms, boarding cards, smart meters, elections, and random number generators. At his blog, Edward Hasbrouck discusses the boarding card issues - which he highlighted more than 15 years ago - in greater detail. CCC-TV makes available video of the conference talks; EDRi's page highlights those given by its members and observers on topics such as German state surveillance, the state of internet politics in Austria, and the issues surrounding law enforcement hacking. Among notable talks is Aylin Caliskin's discussion of prejudice in word embeddings - language models that translate words into numeric vectors for uses such as web search, sentiment analysis, and machine learning. 
C3 (Caliskin):
Building the LibreRouter
In this interview at Global Voice, published in Spanish and English, Gui Iribarren, vice-president of AlterMundi, discusses the LibreRouter project, which aims to make it easier to get online without relying on a corporate hardware manufacturer and build community networks. AlterMundi expects to delivery the first version of this router to community networks in Argentina and South Africa.
Global Voices:
(Dis)Information mercenaries
In this posting at Medium, University of Zurich mathematician and founder Paul-Olivier Dehaye studies the methodology of Cambridge Analytica, which has been widely reported to have helped the Trump campaign micro-target messages based on the thousands of data points it claims to have on every American. Dehaye reports that the same vendor and its affiliates have built "PSYOPS" dashboards to manipulate populations in Libya, Afghanistan, and countless other countries. In a YouTube talk, Cambridge Analytica founder Alexander Nix discusses the power of big data.
The real name fallacy
In this Coral Project blog posting, J.Nathan Matias dissects the fallacy that requiring real names will end bad online behavior. Among his points: most online attackers are already known to their targets in real life; identity protection is important for vulnerable people; and many hate groups seek legitimacy by operating openly. Design alone is not a solution, and the outcomes of such efforts should be systematically tested.
Coral Project:
The new world
In this series of radio programs the BBC explores aspects of "The New World" such as globalisation, changing demographics, the rise of anti-elitist populism, the balance of power, and the "post-truth" world. Each piece traces its topic back to the roots of the change, seeking to answer the main question, "When did this happen?"
Cyberwar for sale
In this piece from the New York Times magazine, Mattathias Schwartz explores the activities of the privately-owned Milan-based surveillance software maker Hacking Team as revealed by documents made public after the company was itself hacked. The Mexican civil liberties group R3D, for example, was able to use the leaked documents to unveil surveillance in the state of Puebla; Mexico is Hacking Team's largest export market. Hacking Team has fewer than 50 employees, but its global roster of companies include the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Egypt, Honduras, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Sudan. Once surreptitiously installed on a target's computer or phone, Hacking Team's Remote Control System software can secretly eavesdrop on location data, text messages, email, phone, and Skype calls, grabbing the data before it can be encrypted. The article also explores the spread of the belief that "privacy is secrecy and secrecy is terrorism".
NY Times:
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.
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.
Next Library Festival 2017
June 11-14, 2017
Aarhus, Denmark
Next Library 2017 will offer a "patchwork" of co-learning, co-creative, participatory, engaging, pluralistic and interactive meetings, and lots of parallel sessions, keynote speakers, wildcard sessions, demos/exhibitions, gaming, Networking Dinner Party, Get2Gether, Social un-conferences, alternative events and surprises.
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".
Privacy + Security Forum
October 4-6, 2017
Washington, DC
The conference breaks down the silos of security and privacy by bringing together leaders from both fields.
Hear more from the Information Program!
If you want to hear more from the Information Program team each week, consider subscribing to our shared bookmarks on delicious using this RSS feed:
You can also read more about our work on the Open Society Foundations website:
Hear less from the Information Program!
If you wish to unsubscribe from this weekly digest, please send an email with the subject line "Unsubscribe" to
This digest operates under the OSF privacy policy:
Additionally, it uses the URL shortening service, which operates under the following privacy policy:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 
Open Society Foundation, part of the Open Society Foundations, is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (company number 4571628) and a registered charity (charity number 1105069). Its registered office address is 7th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 13 January 2017.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on January 14, 2017 12:30 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 23 December 2016 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 January 2017 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.