News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 26 February 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 26 February 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: EDRi, EFF, IFLA, Privacy International.



For breaking news stories, visit:

OSF seeks Quantified Society program manager


OSF is looking for a full-time programme manager, to be based in London, for its new Quantified Society initiative. The initiative will work to address  new forms of discrimination based on data profiling as well as the manipulation of information and discourse on the digital platforms that now underpin our public sphere. Applications are due by March 5, 2016.
US: FBI and Apple face off over decryption assistance


EFF has joined the ACLU, Mozilla, Facebook, and Google in supporting Apple's decision to fight the FBI's court order intended to force the company to help the bureau unlock the iPhone belonging to Sayed Raheel Farook, who with his wife killed 14 and injured 22 in shootings in San Bernardino, California in December 2015. There is some debate over the scope of the judicial order. As Techdirt notes, the order does not tell Apple to crack the encryption, since Apple does not have the key. Rather, it is asking Apple to turn off a specific feature so that the FBI can try to brute-force the key. Ars Technica analyses the case and explains the All Writs Act, the law upon which the FBI's request is based, and Techcrunch has published an internal memo from Apple CEO Tim Cook explaining his reasoning on the company position to employees. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department is pursuing similar court orders in 12 other cases around the country. At Lawfare, Amy Zegart considers the tradeoffs in the case as "security versus security". Michael Geist notes that under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement any member country could issue a similar court order.




Ars Technica:





Russian neuroscientist battles to keep journal cache online


In this audio clip and transcript, National Public Radio's Linda Wertheimer interviews Heather Joseph, an advocate of legal open access, about Sci-Hub, the site where Russian neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan has made available more than 48 million journal articles. Science Alert reports on Elbakyan's defiance against a lawsuit brought by Elsevier and an injunction issued in late 2015 by a New York district court. The site draws on two sources to provide papers: the "pirate" database LibGen and paywalled sites using donated access keys. Papers downloaded by the second method are automatically added to LibGen to unlock them permanently. Invoking Article 27 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, Elbakyan told the news website TorrentFreak, "I think Elsevier's business model is itself illegal." Science reports that myriad journal publishers have signed a declaration promising scientists working on the Zika virus that they may publish their data as quickly as possible to aid others without fear of endangering later publication.


Science Alert:



Twenty organisations sign demand for fairness in trade treaty negotiations


IFLA, EFF, EDRi, Creative Commons, and Mozilla are all among the more than 20 co-signers to the Brussels Declaration on Trade and the Internet in order to support sustainable, transparent, accountable and democratic international trading systems. The goal is to reform global trade agreements so that, among other things, negotiations are inclusive, transparent, and accountable, and support the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Declaration (PDF):




US: Flawed NSA data analytics may be killing innocent people


Ars Technica reports that the NSA's "Skynet" programme, revealed last year by The Intercept from Edward Snowden's cache of documents, may have killed thousands of innocent people in Pakistan. Data scientist Patrick Ball, head of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, which produces scientifically defensible statistics about human rights abuses, calls the NSA's methods scientifically unsound because of a flaw in the NSA's method of training the Skynet machine learning algorithms. At Slate, based on her experience in New York's Health and Human Services, Cathy O'Neil examines the ethics of data science, and the proxy power of hidden biases.

Ars Technica:

UK: Tribunal rules computer network exploitation legal


Privacy International reports that the UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled against it in its case against GCHQ hacking of computer networks and devices. The Tribunal accepted GCHQ's use of the power to interfere with "property" under section 5 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 ("ISA") to authorise hacking and concluded that adequate safeguards existed to prevent abuses of that power. However, the IPT refused to rule on whether GCHQ's use of the even broader power under ISA section 7 - authorising any unlawful acts committed abroad - complies with the European Convention on Human Rights. PI will challenge the ruling.




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

The homework divide


In this New York Times article, Cecilia Kang reports on the "homework gap" that has children from the estimated 5 million US families who can't afford broadband internet access crowding into fast-food restaurants, libraries, and wifi-equipped school buses, even standing outside schools to use their free wifi hotspots, in order to do their homework. The Federal Communications Commission is considering repurposing the $2 billion Lifeline telephone subsidy programme to provide broadband. As Steve Song writes in a blog posting about India's recent ruling against Facebook's free basics, "network neutrality" must include equality of access.

NY Times:


The closing of the net


In this blog posting, legal scholar Monica Horten outlines her forthcoming book, The Closing of the Net, which discusses the "subtle politics of restriction" taking place in liberal democracies - the Web shrinks to fit on a mobile phone screen, and large companies "personalise" their offerings by determining what their users can see and in what order. Horten's book examines the relationship between government and private actors, and technology companies' influence over public policy.


Self-driving cars and reclaiming urban space


In this Mother Jones article, Clive Thompson considers the potential impact of self-driving cars on the urban landscape: less pollution, less waste, less congestion, cooler summer temperatures, all because of less need for parking. The US's 1 billion parking spaces take up 65 million square miles - an area larger than the state of Connecticut.

Mother Jones:

China: People's Bank plans to issue digital currency


In this transcript published by Caixin Online, the Governor of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), Zhou Xiaochuan, discusses exchange rate reform, digital currencies, internet banking, and much else. PBOC has near-term plans to issue its own digital currency, whose design, Zhou says, must balance privacy with the need for security and social order. Zhou does not specify what PBOC's design will be like but says that based on the bank's research it has rejected the blockchain as too resource-intensive.


UK: New standard will open banking


The UK has announced the development of the Open Banking Standard, due to be launched next year. When available, the Guardian explains, the standard will enable consumers to grant any financial services company direct access to their accounts, change banks at will, and pool data from multiple organisations into a single dashboard. Personal finance management services are expected to be among the first beneficiaries.





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

Laura Poitras at the Whitney Museum


February 5-May 1, 2016

New York, NY

Oscar and Pulitzer Prize-winning Laura Poitras, best known for her documentary film about Edward Snowden, CITIZENFOUR, has turned her journal and FBI files into an exhibit at New York's Whitney Museum documenting her life under surveillance. LAURA POITRAS: ASTRO NOISE is an immersive installation of new work building on topics Poitras has investigated in previous film work, including mass surveillance, the war on terror, the U.S. drone program, Guantánamo Bay Prison, occupation, and torture.

Nervous Systems: Quantified life and the social question


March 10-May 9, 2016

Berlin, Germany

Artists, media historians, and writers collaborate to produce a range of reflections on the quantified self for this exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. The exhibition includes "The White Room", a live installation by Tactical Tech that includes consultations, demos, and discussions.

SPARC Meeting on Openness in Research and Education


March 7-8, 2016

San Antonio, Texas

The SPARC MORE meeting builds on the "Convergence" theme of its 2014 meeting and will explore the increasingly central role libraries are playing in the growing shift toward Open Access, Open Education and Open Data. Join us as leaders from the library community, academia, industry, student community, and other research avenues discuss how open access, open data, and open educational resources are intersecting, and the impact this convergence will have on research and discovery. The meeting is designed to emphasize collaborative actions that stakeholders can take to positively impact publishing, policy, digital repositories, author rights, and licensing.

Open Education Week


March 7-11, 2016

Open Education Week is a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. Its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Participation in all events and use of all resources are free and open to everyone. Anyone can submit videos, resources, and requests for listings to be featured on the Open Education Week Events calendar.

Ethical Risk Assessment in Biomedical Big Data


March 14-15, 2016

Oxford, UK

The two-day symposium, hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute, in association with the Brocher Foundation, will bring together expertise from academia, medicine, industry, and the non-profit sector to assess the ethical risks posed by a number of emerging Big Data applications. Risk assessment is an important step in understanding the potential impact (effects and consequences) of any emerging technology. Applications across a variety of research, clinical and commercial domains will be analysed, including biobanking, public health surveillance, outbreak monitoring, digital epidemiology, behaviour tracking and profiling, and other types of biomedical research.

Predictive Analytics and Human Rights


The 2016 conference, hosted at the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at the NYU Law School, will leverage the interdisciplinary strengths of the Robert L. Bernstein Institute to consider the human rights implications of the varied uses of predictive analytics by state actors. As a core part of this endeavour, the conference will examine - and seek to advance - the capacity of human rights practitioners to access, evaluate, and challenge risk assessments made through predictive analytics by governments worldwide.



March 30-April 1, 2016

San Francisco, CA

Convened by Access Now, RightsCon is the world's leading conference on the issues at the intersection of internet and human rights. The event brings together visionaries, technologists, business leaders, activists, and government representatives from around the world to build strategies, highlight emerging voices, and showcase new technologies & initiatives in pursuit of tomorrow's internet. March 30 will feature Crypto Summit 2.0, a discussion of global encryption policy.

We Robot


April 1-2, 2016

Miami, Florida

Founded by law professors Michael Froomkin and Ryan Calo, We Robot is a workshop-style conference at which papers in progress on subjects related to robots, law, and policy are discussed and debated with a goal to improving the quality of scholarship in this developing area.

Global Privacy Summit


April 3-4

Washington, DC

The annual meeting of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Last year's event included keynotes from journalist Glenn Greenwald, author Sarah Lewis, and Google general counsel Kent Walker.

25th World Wide Web Conference


April 11-15, 2016

Montreal, Canada

The W3C's World Wide Web Conference is an annual international conference on the topics of the future direction of the World Wide Web. The Conference is an outstanding international forum to present and discuss progress in research, development, standards, and applications of the topics related to the Web.

OER16: Open Culture


April 19-20

Edinburgh, Scotland

The vision for the conference is to focus on the value proposition of embedding open culture into institutional strategies for learning, teaching, and research. Conference chairs are Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching, and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, and Lorna Campbell, OER Liaison at the University of Edinburgh and EDINA Digital Education Manager.

Tomorrow's Transactions Forum

April 20-21

London, UK


Consult Hyperion's annual conference lets anyone interested in the future of electronic transactions debate and discuss any and all ideas, no matter how apparently wacky (such as those that appear in the art competition). Intervention and interaction are welcome; product presentations are banned.

TICTeC 2016


April 27-29, 2016

Barcelona, Spain

The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference will focus on the impact of civic technology and digital democracy on citizens, decision makers, and governments around the world and discuss themes of engagement, participation, institution, social behaviour, politics, community, digital capability, communication, and ethics relating to the use and study of civic technology.

ICOA 2016


May 16-17

Montreal, Canada

The 18th International Conference on Open Access aims to bring together leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results about all aspects of Open Access. It also provides the premier interdisciplinary forum for researchers, practitioners and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns, practical challenges encountered and the solutions adopted in the field of Open Access.

International Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government


May 18-20, 2016

Krems, Austria

The International Conference for e-Democracy and Open Government brings together e-democracy, e-participation and open government specialists working in academia, politics, government and business to critically analyse the innovations, issues, ideas and challenges in the networked societies of the digital age.

Privacy in the Digital Age of Encryption and Anonymity Online


May 19-20, 2016

The Hague, Netherlands

This conference on privacy in the digital age of encryption and anonymity online is jointly organised by EIPA and Europol. The main theme of the conference will be the difficulty of balancing privacy and security with a focus on the latest systems of encryption, anonymisation, and pseudonymisation.

Health Privacy Summit


June 6-7

Washington, DC

The 2016 Health Privacy Summit brings together top national and international experts for serious discussion about global health privacy issues and realistic solutions and to ask, Is Big Data effectively the beginning of the end for privacy in health care?

Personal Democracy Forum


June 9-10

New York, NY


The conference will feature speakers such as Kate Crawford, Douglas Rushkoff, and Anil Dash.

Workshop on the Economics of Information Security


June 13-14, 2016

Berkeley, CA

The Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS) is the leading forum for interdisciplinary scholarship on information security and privacy, combining expertise from the fields of economics, social science, business, law, policy, and computer science.



June 22-24

Denver, Colorado

The 12th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners in human computer interaction, security, and privacy. The program will feature technical papers, workshops and tutorials, a poster session, panels and invited talks, and lightning talks.

21st-Century Literacies for Public Libraries


August 10-11, 2016

Philadelphia, PA

At this two-day satellite meeting, presented by IFLA's Public Libraries Section, delegates will share and learn from each other's experiences in developing and delivering services that encompass today's expanded concept of literacy, which includes not only the traditional ability to read and write but proficiency in a range of other literacies such as civic, health, financial, digital, and information.

IFLA World Library and Information Congress


August 13-19, 2016

Columbus, OH

The theme of the 82nd IFLA Congress is "Connections. Collaboration. Community." The Congress will feature programmes from myriad library sectors.

Privacy+Security Forum


October 24-26, 2016

Washington, DC

Monday, October 24, is devoted to pre-conference workshops and "intensive days" - advanced discussion focused narrowly on a particular topic or industry. Proposals are welcome until April 30, 2016 based on the following guiding principles: bridge the silos between privacy and security; cover issues with depth and rigour; employ interaction, scenario-based learning, and extensive engagement; deliver practical takeaways from each session.

Mozilla Festival


November 6-8, 2016

London, UK

MozFest is an annual celebration of the open Web. Participants are diverse, including engineers, artists, activists, and educators, but share the common belief that the Web can make lives better, unlocks opportunity, spurs creativity, teaches valuable skills, and connects far-flung people and ideas. The Festival seeks to improve the Web with new ideas and creations.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on February 29, 2016 6:36 PM.

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