News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 11 March 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 11 March 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, ORG, Privacy International.


Poland pioneers world's first national open textbook program


At Open Society Voices, OSF staff members Melissa Hagemann and Piroska Hugyecz report on OSF's role in advancing the global Open Educational Resources movement as well as the success of this movement in Poland. At the end of last year, the Polish Ministry of Education, working with the 34-organisation Polish Coalition for Open Education (KOED), launched an open textbook program for the first three years of school. The program complements the existing Digital Schools Pilot Program, launched in 2012, which provided schools with computers and other technology resources. The Ministry of Education estimates that OER will save parents €24 million in the first year and €168 million annually by 2020.


For breaking news stories, visit:

Brazil: Facebook vice-president arrested
The Guardian reports that police in São Paolo have arrested Facebook regional vice-president Diego Dzonadar because Facebook, despite daily fines of first 50,000 rials and then 1 million rials, had failed for more than a month to provide messages sent using its WhatsApp service, requested as part of a criminal investigation. Facebook argues that WhatsApp has no local subsidiary in Brazil and that the court is asking for information the company doesn't have in any case: messages are encypted end-to-end and the service does not store content. Dzodan has since been released. GNI warns that local staff working for services offering encryption may be targeted for arrest or intimidation in many countries. France may soon be among them: at Lawfare, Daniel Severson notes that the French National Assembly has amended the proposed bill on Combating Organized Crime, Terrorism, and Related Financing to impose a fine of up to €350,000 and five years' imprisonment on companies and their executives who refuse to provide authorities in terrorism investigations with data protected by encryption that they created.

UK: Investigatory powers bill published with little change
Privacy International reports that the UK government has published the Investigatory Powers bill with the intention of seeing it passed this year. Despite the call by all three Parliamentary reports on the draft bill for greater clarity, consistency, and coherence, the bill has barely changed other than the addition of the word "privacy" to the title of Part 1. In a public letter to the Telegraph signed by more than 100 people and organisations, Open Rights Group called for the bill to be delayed until next year to give sufficient time to think it through. Don't Spy on Us has published a report explaining how to make the bill fit for purpose.
Don't Spy on Us (PDF):

North Korea: Digital isolation
In a new report, "Connection Denied", Amnesty International outlines the measures to isolate the population from the outside world taken by the government since Kim Jung-un's government came to power in 2011. International calls are blocked for the three million subscribers using the country's domestic mobile phone service, and access to the web is limited to foreigners and a few select citizens. As a result, people who have fled the country have no ability to contact the family members they have left behind.

EU: Privacy Shield details published
EDRi reports that the European Commission and the US Department of Commerce have published the details of Privacy Shield intended to replace Safe Harbor and allow transfers of data to countries such as the US that do not have comparable data protection standards. EDRi finds, however, that Privacy Shield contains no meaningful reforms; EFF describes it as "riddled with surveillance holes"; and EPIC believes it offers less protection than Safe Harbor did. At Papers, Please, Edward Hasbrouck analyses the Judicial Redress Act, which is supposed to answer some of the European Court of Justice's reasons for overturning Safe Harbor by giving European citizens the right to sue US government agencies when they infringe their rights under the Privacy Act (1974). Hasbrouck's conclusion: the Judicial Redress Act is "worthless".
Papers Please:

Bitcoin network hits transaction threshold
The Verge reports that predictions that continued growth in the number of transactions would overwhelm the bitcoin network have proved correct, raising the average time to complete a transaction from 10 minutes to 43 minutes. Shops are beginning to drop the currency. The prospect has been debated by leading bitcoin developers for the past year as they have failed to agree on the right solution to adopt and who are now accusing each other of attacking the network to prove their point.

DeepMind's AI defeats Go champion Lee Se-dol
The Guardian reports that AlphaGo, a program developed by UK-based DeepMind, founded to solve AI as a "moon shot" and acquired by Google in 2014, has defeated the legendary human Go player Lee Se-dol in the first of five matches being held in Seoul, South Korea. Business Insider UK profiles DeepMind "intellectual powerhouse" David Silver. The Royal Society has a video of a presentation given at its May 2015 meeting on machine learning by DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis; in it, he explains how the group began solving progressively more difficult human video games by allowing its algorithms to teach themselves to play each game based solely on the game's own feedback.

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

Net of Rights
This 17-minute film from Article 19 and Coding Rights, "Net of Rights", using interviews collected at the Internet Engineering Task Force meeting, discusses the importance of protecting human rights by protecting the openness of internet standard protocols. The Human Rights Protocol
Considerations research group in the Internet Research Task Force is currently mapping the relationship between human rights and Internet protocols.
Net of Rights:

Inheriting virtual property
In this blog posting, Andres Guadamuz summarises and comments on new work by Edina Harbinja on the status of accounts in virtual worlds after the original user has died. Such accounts often have real, as well as virtual, economic value, and Harbinja proposes legal reforms that would make the value heritable by creating a limited right of "virtual usufruct".

How to hold governments algorithmically accountable
In this Slate article, Nicholas Diakopoulos studies the lack of transparency in algorithms deployed by government to determine everything from qualifying for benefits to the length of prison sentences. To date, even FOIA requests often can't extract information about how they work, often because the code is proprietary. Diakopoulos argues that transparency must be embedded at the beginning.

Inside Egypt's Technical Research Department
In this report, Privacy International studies the workings of the Technical Research Department (TRD), a little-known element of Egypt's intelligence infrastructure. The report also cites research from Citizen Lab, which first revealed the TRD's use of FinFisher spyware, and Hacking Team technologies.

Eavesdropping on 3D printers
At Gizmag, Nick Lavars reports that researchers at the University of California Irvine have discovered that even encrypted source code for 3D printer designs can be compromised while the printer is in action. A smartphone placed next to the printer can capture the sounds of the movements of the print head as it builds the item layer by layer and later use these to reverse-engineer the design.


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.

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.

Transparency Camp Online
March 19, 2016
This live, participant-driven unconference happens by video chat and/or phone. Bring a topic, project or challenge that you would love to discuss. All participants are empowered to add a discussion topic to the agenda.

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 2016 Personal Democracy Forum will feature speakers such as Danah Boyd, 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.

OR2016 Conference
June 13-16, 2016
Dublin, NL@@
The theme of OR2016 is "Illuminating the World." OR2016 will provide an opportunity to explore the impact of repositories and related infrastructure and processes.

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 March 14, 2016 1:35 PM.

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