News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 29 April 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 29 April 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, Privacy International.


For breaking news stories, visit:

Brazil: Cybercrime proposals threaten free internet
At The Intercept, Andrew Fishman reports that seven proposals under consideration by the lower house of the Brazilian Congress could threaten the free and open internet in the name of fighting cybercrime. The proposals would allow judges to unilaterally order services blocked; require service providers to comply with warrantless law enforcement requests for users' IP addresses; and expand the scope and penalties of laws against hacking and unauthorised access. Forty-eight civil society groups have joined the Brazilian group Coding Rights to oppose the law. At the Web We Want, Tim Berners-Lee has posted an open letter to Brazilian lawmakers asking them to recommit to the principles of Marco Civil and find alternative ways to fight cybercrime. At the London Review of Books, Perry Anderson gives a detailed account of the political background to the economic troubles that are overshadowing the bill domestically.
Web We Want:

US: Supreme Court clears Google Books
Ars Technica reports that the decade-long Authors Guild challenge to Google Books has ended with the Supreme Court declining to review a lower-court decision in Google's favour. Google has argued that scanning and enabling search of books falls under "fair use". Ars Technica suggests that as a result others could be inspired to undertake other large-scale digitisation projects. In a discussion welcoming the ruling, EFF weighs "fair use creep" against "copyright creep".
Ars Technica:

EU: European Parliament gives and takes away data privacy
Access Now reports that on April 14 the European Parliament passed the General Data Protection Regulation. The Hunton & Williams blog summarises the improvements to privacy law across the EU: widened scope, broader concept of personal data, and additional obligations for accountability, data breach notification, and consent. However, near-simultaneously, the European Parliament also gave in to mounting political pressure and passed the EU Passenger Name Record Directive. Access Now also notes that the PNR directive passed despite more than 100,000 emails of protest sent to Parliamentarians and the disapproval expressed earlier this year by the Article 29 Working Party. As travel data privacy expert Edward Hasbrouck explains at Papers Please, the PNR directive will require all member states to create a Passenger Information Unit to which all airlines operating flights to or from places outside the EU will have to transmit complete copies of Passenger Name Records. The goal, Hasbrouck writes, is to shift the government's role in air travel from stopping suspects to "pre-crime" predictive policing under which travel would become a privilege instead of a right. EDRi reports on the progress of the ongoing review by the European Court of Justice of a similar agreement between the EU and Canada and notes that a decision is expected in June.
Access Now:
Papers Please:

Microsoft sues US government over secrecy orders
The New York Times reports that Microsoft is challenging the legal basis for US Department of Justice secrecy orders, claiming that the way the gag order statute in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (1986) is being used is unconstitutional. Between September 2015 and March 2016, Microsoft received 5,264 demands for customer information or data in the United States. Nearly half of the requests - 2,576 - included secrecy orders, two-thirds of which had no fixed end date. In its complaint, Microsoft writes that the increase in such requests has "impaired Microsoft's right to be transparent with its customers". At Just Security, Jennifer Dasdal gives a pessimistic legal analysis of the likelihood that Microsoft will succeed in its claim.
NY Times:
Just Security:

Ecuador: ISPs and government collaborate to censor the internet
APC reports that a leaked memo from the multinational ISP Telefónica, the Association of Internet Service Providers of Ecuador (AEPROV), which controls more than 95% of Ecuadorian internet traffic, collaborated with the Ecuadorian government to block users' access to websites. Under vague standards in the Article 8 of the Telecommunications Law, the president of the Republic is allowed to decree a State of Emergency and order content blocking without oversight by an independent and impartial court. Global Voices notes, based on the same leaked memo, that a temporary outage that prevented Ecuadorians' access to Google and YouTube, blamed at the time on a technical glitch was in fact Telefonica's response to a government order.
Global Voices:

UK: Extent of government surveillance revealed
Privacy International has published a trove of previously confidential documents, which the organisation received as part of disclosure in its legal case against the UK government on "Bulk Personal Datasets". The documents reveal that UK government surveillance, the extent of which has been kept secret from the public and Parliament until now, has seen GCHQ, MI5, and MI6 routinely requisition personal data from public and private sources including financial institutions, databases of people who have signed electronic petitions, and NHS health records. The true extent of surveillance was kept secret even from the Intelligence and Security Committee tasked with overseeing the work of the intelligence agencies. PI also reports that for 19 years the agencies have relied on section 94 of the Telecommunications Act (1984) as the legal basis for much of this surveillance, bypassing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2001), even though the pre-internet legislation was never conceived with this usage in mind.
PI (release):
PI (legal):

Sweden: Supreme Court rules against Freedom of Panorama
EDRi reports that on April 4 the Swedish Supreme Court ruled against "Freedom of Panorama". The case, Wikimedia v. BUS, involved a claim by the Swedish Visual Arts Copyright Society (BUS) that Wikimedia had violated copyright law by allowing posters to the site to upload pictures of public art. BUS claimed that an exception in Swedish law allowing the public to make derivative works, such as photographs and paintings, applied only to printed materials. Freedom of Panorama is limited in other Scandinavian countries: in Denmark, Finland, and Norway it applies only to architecture.

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

Is Open Access To Research Biden's Answer To Curing Cancer?
In this article for Forbes, Lindsey Tepe outlines President Joe Biden's recent speech to the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in which he promoted data sharing and open access publication as crucial elements in the "cancer moonshot" proposed by President Barack Obama in January.

Privacy, Big Data, and regulating for use
In this webcast, of her recent lecture at Brown University, "Must Privacy Give Way to Use Regulation?", NYU professor Helen Nissenbaum rebuts those who claim that we should not attempt to regulate data collection but only data use, a view she calls "big data exceptionalism". She frames the problem as one of "domination", the power of the collector to interfere with the life of the person whose data is collected.

How a cashless society could embolden Big Brother
In this article at the Atlantic, Sarah Jeong argues that the cashless society could facilitate increased surveillance and "financial censorship". As examples she cites Operation Choke Point, a programme under which the US Department of Justice sought to discourage or shut down exploitative payday lenders, as well as other efforts to shut down payment channels to firearms vendors, advertising sites for sex workers, and others such as Wikileaks. Bitcoin is a useful bypass channel, she argues, as long as it's not a federal priority.

The web we want: how to tackle online abuse
In this series, the Guardian tackles the problem of online abuse and considers what should be done about it. Most significantly, the newspaper discloses the results of a study of the 70 million comments posted since 2010 on its own system, 2% of which have been blocked by moderators. The study found that articles written by women consistently attracted more blocked comments than articles written by men, and that this was especially true of the male-dominated areas of the newspaper. A former Guardian moderator discusses his five years on the job and how to improve the civility of online discourse. At The Verge, Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly discuss the history of online moderation, beginning with YouTube in the mid-2000s, attempting to reveal details that, they write, until now have been treated by site owners as trade secrets.
Guardian (series):
Guardian (comments history):
Guardian (moderator):

Asia: Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement echoes TPP
In this blog posting, EFF compares the intellectual property provisions of the secretive pan-Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, recently leaked by Knowledge Ecology International, with the equivalent provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Negotiating nations include India, China, Japan, and Korea, but not the US. EFF concludes that, absent the influence of Hollywood lobbyists, RCEP avoids some of the worst TPP provisions, such as the extension of copyright term, the prescriptive ISP liability regime, the most restrictive DRM provisions, and the expansion of trade secrets law. However, other provisions, most notably on enforcement, are largely unchanged from TPP. Like TPP, RCEP is being negotiated in secret. The Hindu notes that the RCEP draft proposes tough curbs on cheap medicines.

Automating EveryPolitician
In this blog post, mySociety outlines its EveryPolitician project and introduces the EveryPolitician bot, which blogs (at Medium) the site's many data changes. EveryPolitician is mySociety's effort to make data available on every politician in the world. The site has so far collected and begun sharing 2.9 million pieces of data on over 68,652 people.


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.

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?

20th International Conference on Electronic Publishing
June 7-9, 2016
Göttingen, Germany
ELPUB 2016 will take a fresh look at the current ecosystem of scholarly publishing including the positioning of stakeholders and distribution of economic, technological and discursive power. ELPUB will also open the floor for emerging alternatives in how scholars and citizens interact with scholarly content and what role dissemination and publishing plays in these interactions. Questions to be raised include: What is the core of publishing today? How does agenda setting in emerging frameworks like Open Science function and what is the nature of power of the referring scholarly discourses? How does this relate to the European and world-wide Open Science and Open Innovation agenda of funders and institutions, and how does this look like in publishing practice?

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.

Jisc and CNI Conference 2016
July 6, 2016
Oxford, UK
This year's Joint Information Systems Committee and Coalition for Networked Information conference will bring together leading experts from the US, UK, and Europe to explore the current issues and innovations in digital scholarship and facilitate a rich international exchange on leading practice and policy.

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.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 25-27, 2017
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).


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on April 30, 2016 9:24 AM.

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