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

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 12 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: Benetech, Digital Rights Ireland, Digitale Gesellschaft, EDRi, EFF, KEI, Open Rights Group, Privacy International, Sunlight Foundation.

For breaking news stories, visit:

EU: Privacy Shield proposals aim to ease EU-US data transfers
EDRi calls the European Commission's Privacy Shield arrangement, announced at a February 2 press conference, "badly flawed" as a replacement for the Safe Harbor agreement that previously enabled transfers of EU citizens' personal data to the US despite the disparity in data protection laws. In a second posting, EDRi lists the questions still to be addressed and says the premature announcement leaves the EU without leverage in negotiating with the US. Digitale Gesellschaft argues that the new agreement fails to answer the court's objections. At the Panopticon blog, Christopher Knight notes that the lack of detail means the "Privacy Shield" is, effectively, vapourware; he also reports that the Article 29 Working Party intends to review the compatibility of Binding Corporate Rules and Standard Contract Clauses, the only tools under which transfers can currently take place. In response to the emergency Freedom of Information request EPIC filed with the US and EU for release of the agreement text, the US Department of Commerce has said that the agreement does not exist.
Press conference (video):
Digitale Gesellschaft (German):
Google Translation:

Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement signed - but not ratified
On February 2 the 12 countries that make up the Trans-Pacific Partnership signed the controversial global treaty. In Canada, in both a blog posting and Bloomberg TV interview Michael Geist reminds that countries must ratify it before it can take effect, which won't happen for at least two years. Opponents therefore still have a real opportunity to oppose the treaty, especially its implications for privacy, copyright, health and education costs, and dispute resolution. EFF makes many of the same points, but with US detail. In Jewish Business News, American Nobel-Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz criticises the treaty's investment clauses as being out of touch with the emerging green economy. A Tufts University report concurs, finding that the agreement would lead to job losses and increased economic inequality.

UK: Official reports on Investigatory Powers Bill demand clarity
The Intelligence and Security Committee and the Joint Committee have both published their reports on the draft Investigatory Powers bill. The ISC report demands greater clarity and also calls for major changes to the provisions on "equipment interference", bulk personal datasets, and communications data retention, complaints welcomed by the Open Rights Group. The Joint Committee calls for greater clarity on, for example, cost models and the definitions of "Internet Connection Records" and "telecommunications service provider", but largely backs the requested government powers including data retention and equipment interference. Cambridge University professor Ross Anderson calls the Joint Committee report "deeply disappointing" and links to the video from the Foundation for Policy Research's recent "Scrambling for Safety" event and a recent Cambridge symposium for more detailed analysis of the bill's proposals. Liberty calls for a full redraft on the basis that "no operational case has been made for the unprecedented powers it proposes" and notes that the bill includes and extends many of the same powers that MPs Tom Watson's and David Davis are challenging in their legal action against the earlier Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act. Privacy International argues for the removal of thematic warrants, which allow the surveillance of a group or category of people without identifying the individuals in the warrant, from the bill.
Joint Committee:
Anderson (1):
Scrambling for Safety:
Anderson (2):

UN panel rules Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained
The Guardian, and other sources, attended Julian Assange's press conference, given from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, on the occasion of the UN panel report that found he is subject to "arbitrary detention" and should be released. Human Rights Watch deplores the response from both Sweden and the UK, who argue that the panel ruling changes nothing. Assange remains exactly where he has been for the last 44 months. His lawyer told the Guardian he might consider applying to the European Court of Human Rights (though the Court ruled a similar application inadmissible in December).

India: Network neurality ruling makes Facebook's "Free Basics" a paid platform
The Times of India reports that Trai, the telecom regulator in India, which has 138 million Facebook users, has banned differential pricing, the practice of zero-rating specific services and discriminatory pricing on the basis of content. Trai argued that allowing service providers to define the nature of access in a nation where the majority of the population are still unconnected would be the "equivalent of letting TSPs shape the users' internet experience". Almost immediately, Facebook and its India partner, Reliance Communications announced that the Indian "Free Basics" platform,, would become a paid service.
Times of India (ruling):
Times of India (Facebook move):

EU: Court of Human Rights revisits publisher liability
Deutsche Welle reports that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a Hungarian news site was not responsible for readers' offensive comments. The case was an appeal after a Hungarian real estate company sued the site At TechnoLlama, Andrés Guadamuz, a lecturer in intellectual property law at the University of Sussex, argues that the case rewrites the 2015 Delfi decision but expects further legal debate.

Ireland: Challenging the data protection commissioner
Digital Rights Ireland has instructed its lawyers to serve legal papers on the Irish government, challenging whether the office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner is truly independent, as required by EU law. DRI argues that the Irish DPC is of critical importance in the EU because so many technology companies are located there, but that it has failed to properly implement the EU's data protection law - the Schrems case, which began in Ireland, being an obvious example.


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

US: Criminal justice databases raise privacy questions
The Sunlight Foundation's newly launched Hall of Justice is a searchable repository of publicly available criminal justice datasets and research. The 18-month project required manual entry of data sourced from over 9,000 publicly available databases at many locations across the US. While the Supreme Court has ruled that inmates forfeit their privacy while in prison, Sunlight asks whether that situation should be permanent. Sunlight goes on to consider specific cases, such as mugshots, and asks why these should be part of the public domain.
Sunlight (launch):
Sunlight (inmates):
Sunlight (pre-conviction data):

The changing nature of surveillance
In this report, "Don't Panic: Making Progress on the 'Going Dark' Debate", published by the Berkman Center's Berklett Cybersecurity project, a group of security and policy experts from academia, civil society, and the intelligence community including Bruce Schneier, Susan Landau, and Jonathan Zittrain, examine the claims that intelligence services are "going dark" and losing access to the data they need to conduct investigations. Among their findings: ubiquitous encryption is unlikely both for business reasons and because software ecosystems are so fragmented, and networked sensors and the Internet of Things are likely to grant government far greater remote monitoring availability than has ever been available before. New technology, therefore, will provide complementary channels that will drastically change surveillance.

Algorithmic living and editing reality
Twitter's widely reported rumours - since denied by the company - that Twitter was considering implementing an algorithm to determine the contents of users' timelines led to several interesting commentaries on the social consequences of such a decision. In this blog posting that cites not only the Twitter rumours but Google's announced plan to show "positive messages" to those seeking out hate speech, policy analyst Marcy Wheeler says such imposed selection turns reality into "an algorithm of the popular" that replaces today's serendipity with a living dream world. In a blog posting, podcast, and video lecture for the LSE Data and Society project, University of Maryland professor and Black Box Society author Frank Pasquale discusses how algorithm-driven, data-based decisions might be regulated in the interests of social justice.
LSE (video):

Amazon's book monopoly
In this series of videos from the Open Markets Program, speakers at the Amazon's Book Monopoly event on January 27 discuss what Amazon's stranglehold on the market means for American readers as individuals and for democracy in general. Authors such as Scott Turow and Susan Cheever join publishers, agents, and academics in considering whether, as has been suggested by a group of authors, anti-trust authorities should be taking action to curb Amazon's power.
Open Markets:

Blocking access to culture for the visually impaired
In this blog posting, Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda writes about the European Parliamentary vote intended to put pressure on certain governments - notably the UK and Germany - that are blocking ratification of the Marrakesh treaty, which would grant a copyright exception for the visually impaired. So far, only 20 of the 79 signatories have ratified the treaty, which was finalised in 2013. At the Benetech blog, CEO Jim Fruchterman characterises the situation as "If you can buy a book you can't borrow it" and sets out the case for passage as well as similar issues for deaf people. Knowledge Ecology International reports that this week President Obama sent a memo urging the US Senate to ratify the treaty.

Flight of the eagles
This page at IEEE Spectrum, which includes a video clip, discusses successful Dutch police efforts to train eagles to capture and take down wayward drones.
IEEE Spectrum:


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.

Meeting on Dutch hacking proposal
February 16, 2016
Amsterdam, Netherlands
This meeting, convened by Bits of Freedom, will discuss the Dutch government's legislative proposals to allow police to hack computers of all types, from smartphones to cars.
BoF (Dutch):
Google Translated:

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.

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 12, 2016 7:41 PM.

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