News digest | Open Society Information Program | 23 March 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | 23 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.

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US: Google role in US foreign policy emerges from Clinton emails
Wikileaks has released a searchable archive of more than 30,000 of Hillary Clinton's emails, which have been released under FOIA by the US State Department. The emails date from the period in which she was serving as Secretary of State; Clinton wrote about 7,500 of them. RT reports that among the trove are messages showing that Google Jigsaw head Jared Cohen, Al-Jazeera, and Clinton's State Department conspired to effect regime change in Syria. Breitbart finds evidence that Clinton worked with Google and YouTube to block access to the independent film she claimed was responsible for the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Wired's Kim Zetter reveals that Clinton's choice to use a private email server was driven by the NSA's refusal to provide a secure Blackberry like the one issued to President Barack Obama.

US: Department of Justice calls a halt in Apple encryption case
The New York Times reports that after 12 filings in which the Department of Justice claimed it could not access the contents of the phone belonging to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, the DoJ has now said a third party has shown them a method that may work without Apple's assistance. The case has been postponed, and the DoJ will file a status report on April 5. Fortune has published a full transcript of President Barack Obama's 12-minute sXSW speech, in which he argued for finding a compromise granting law enforcement access to encrypted data. The speech has been widely criticised, for example by Harvard Law professor and former Obama advisor Susan Crawford, as a form of magical thinking, both mathematical and legal; Crawford believes his proposals contravene the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (1994). In a lengthy interview with Time magazine, Apple CEO Tim Cook calls Apple's fight with the FBI a "bad dream". Gizmodo reveals the 18-month background to the present dispute, which began when Apple gave the FBI a pre-release copy of iOS8 for study. Wired's Kim Zetter reports that a government redaction error has confirmed long-held suspicions that the user targeted by the US government demands that led Ladar Levison to shut down the Lavabit private messaging service was indeed Edward Snowden. Those inside the US can enjoy this video clip, in which "Last Week Tonight" show host John Oliver devises an ad for Apple's cryptography.

Russia: plans to fine websites that provide circumvention tools
Global Voices reports that the Russian media regulator, Roscomnadzor, proposes to introduce fines of RUB3,000-5,000 (USD $43-73) for individuals or officials RUB50,000-100,000 (USD $730-1460) for corporate entities whose web pages provide online circumvention tools that allow users to access blocked web pages, dubbing these "propaganda". Under the proposals, mirror versions of blocked websites attract the same fines as their originals. Although the restrictions are being framed as helping copyright owners to protect their interests, Global Voices believes the proposals derive from the February 2016 blocking of the website belonging to the Russian internet freedom and human rights organization RosKomSvoboda, which included a page that educates users on how to access blocked sites.

EU: Geoblocking may contravene single market rules
The Register reports that the European Commission has said that the contractual agreements behind geoblocking restrictions on access to content and services may contravene the EU's single market regulations. Each case needs to be assessed individually, depending on the terms of the agreement and whether it's between suppliers and distributors or a unilateral decision by a non-dominant company situated outside the EU.

UK, Ghana: Surveillance bills speeding through Parliament
The Register reports that in his first report to the Human Rights Commission, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age Joseph Cannataci asks the British government to "desist from setting a bad example to other states" and "outlaw rather than legitimise" the bill's provisions on bulk surveillance and bulk hacking. As if to underline Cannataci's point, Privacy International has submitted comments to the Ghanaian Parliament's Defence and Interior Committee calling for it to abandon the planned surveillance bill, which would allow the interception of all communications for "protecting national security" and "fighting crime generally." Privacy International executive director Gus Hosein, writing for the Guardian's Comment is Free, compares US and UK attitudes to surveillance and public debate, and warns that if the bill passes companies like Apple could be forced to help the government spy on their customers. EFF argues that the broadest expansion of powers in the bill, the "filter" police profiling engine, is being overlooked.

Scholarships available: International Copyright, Privacy Law and Policy
July 4-8, 2016-03-17
Amsterdam, Netherlands
OSF is offering eight scholarships covering fees, travel, and accommodation for civil society participants to attend two summer courses at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam. The courses are in international copyright law and privacy law and policy. Successful applicants from non-OECD countries will receive a per diem of €30 for the duration of the course. Applicants should complete the form at the course website, indicate in the text box that you are applying for the "OSF Civil Society Scholarship", and enter a statement of approximately 500 words explaining your motivation for attending the summer course you are applying for and how the course would benefit the work of your organisation. Successful applicants will be asked to complete a short report about their experience at the end of the course.

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

Adtech and the future of journalism
In this BBC radio programme, "Analysis: The End of Free", Guardian journalist Andrew Brown considers whether ad blocking will end the prevailing internet model of journalism, in which content is free to readers and paid for with advertising. The Guardian reports that many leading French news sites have banded together to refuse access to anyone running ad blockers. On March 2, the Guardian reported that UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale called ad blocking "a modern-day protection racket"; now, Tripwire reports that this is becoming literally true, as ransomware spreads across popular websites via poisoned ads.

"Racial marketing" and STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
This Business Insider article compares the "white" and "black" versions of the trailer for the movie STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON that were shown to users on Facebook. In the first version, Universal Pictures chose an educational approach, assuming that whites would be less familiar with the musical careers of the film's stars gangsta rap group N.W.A., whose rise the film chronicles; accordingly the "white" version portrayed the movie as the story of the rise of Dr Dre (the face of Beats headphones) and Ice Cube and the "black" version stressed the film's actual story, the rise of N.W.A. The film was one of the top 20 highest-grossing films of 2015. Because Facebook doesn't require users to identify their race, the advertising segments were identified through affinity groups.

Africa's Netflix does not need Hollywood
In this article at Bloomberg Business, Alexis Okeowo profiles the booming Nigerian film industry. The online Iroko service has put together a catalogue of thousands of "Nollywood" movies, most in English, some in Yoruba. In 2013, Iroko began producing its own content. The upshot, Okeowo argues, is that "Africa's Netflix", which is breaking entirely new ground, does not need Hollywood.

Financial inclusion
In this Guardian article, Dominic Frisby argues that cashlessness will exacerbate social inequality, give the financial sector far more power by placing it at the centre of all transactions, and make all transactions traceable. With about half the world's population unbanked, he maintains that mobile phones have far surpassed landlines because you can get one without a bank account.

EU: LIBE Committee hearings on Privacy Shield
Jedidiah Bracy offers a summary of European Parliament committee hearings on the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement last week. Speakers included EPIC's Marc Rotenberg, European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Butarelli, Article 29 Working Party chair Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin and privacy practitioners, advocates, and industry representatives.
video of the hearings:


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.

April 25-29, 2016
eZulwini, Swaziland
Swaziland Library Association (SWALA) hosts the 22nd Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Libraries Association. This year's theme is Digital Transformation and the changing role of libraries and Information Centres in the sustainable development of Africa.

Second African Public Libraries Summit
April 30-May 1, 2016
eZulwini, Swaziland
The African Library and Information Association and Institutions (AfLIA)'s two-day summit will be held as a post-conference event of the SCECSAL Conference which will also be held in Swaziland. Co-sponsored by the Global Libraries Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the summit's theme will be "21st Century Public Libraries - innovation develops communities".

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.

June 24-26
Esino Lario, Italy
Wikimania is the annual conference celebrating Wikipedia and its sibling free knowledge projects with conferences, discussions, meetups, training, and a hackathon. Hundreds of volunteer editors come together to learn about and discuss projects, approaches and issues.

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 27, 2016 2:11 PM.

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