News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 13 May 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 13 May 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: EFF, Privacy International.


For breaking news stories, visit:

Brazil: State judge shuts down WhatsApp countrywide
At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald reports that on April 26 a Brazilian state judge ordered mobile phone operators to block WhatsApp for 72 hours. The app is the most popular messaging app in Brazil, used by 91% of Brazilian mobile users, or 100 million people. EFF adds that #CPICIBER report, which has now been approved by the Parliamentary Commission on Cybercrime, extends the site-blocking provision to foreign sites without representation in Brazil despite provisions in the Marco Civil that enshrine network neutrality and limiting ISPs' liability. 

US: Supreme Court grants FBI greater hacking powers
The Guardian reports that the US Supreme Court has ruled that federal judges should be able to issue hacking warrants for any US jurisdiction if the suspect has tried to hide their location. The extension to "Rule 41" is due to go into effect on December 1. However, Senator Ron Wyden, the Intelligence Committee's most senior Democrat, has announced plans to introduce a bill to nullify the court's ruling. In its discussion, EFF notes that the rule change represents not only a vast and dangerous expansion of surveillance powers but also expands the ground covered by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure from purely procedural matters to changing substantive rights. The power to hack computers in any jurisdiction also appears in the UK's draft Investigatory Powers Bill under the term "bulk equipment interference"; Cambridge professor Ross Anderson analysed the problems with this approach in a written brief he provided in support in support of a case brought last year by Privacy International.
Anderson (PDF):

China: Baidu under investigation after student's death
The China Post reports that the Chinese regulator has ruled that leading Chinese search engine Baidu must change the way it displays search results after a student's death was blamed on an experimental cancer treatment he found via the search engine. Reuters, which reported on the investigation, notes that Baidu derives 84% of its revenues from search, and 20-30% of its search revenues from health care. Before he died, student Wei Zexi blamed both Baidu and the military-run hospital where he was treated, which is also under investigation. Baidu has come under fire for advertising clutter that makes it difficult to distinguish paid search results from organic ones. 
China Post:

Netherlands, Belgium: Canada-EU Trade agreement finding opposition
EurActiv reports that the Dutch and Walloon Parliaments have refused to sign the Canada-EU Trade Agreement, which is due to reach its final negotiation meeting in June. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure has published its analysis of the flaws in the EU-Canada trade agreement, CETA. In a series of postings, FFII argues that CETA will harm the privacy of EU citizens, enact Investor-State Dispute Resolution, and place itself above the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

UK: Land Registry privatisation poses economic risks
In new research, the Open Data Institute finds that the UK government's plan to privatise the Land Registry threatens anti-corruption efforts and will ultimately cost the UK several billion pounds in foregone tax and VAT revenues. The ODI's research also finds that open data adds 0.5% to GDP when compared to restricted data, which would have amounted to £9 billion for the UK in 2014 - and £232 billion across the world. The ODI is continuing to collect information on how people use Land Registry data for its submission to the consultation on the proposed sale, which ends on May 26.
The ODI:

Google Bans Payday Loan Advertisements 
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which numbers 200 civil society organisations among its members, has welcomed Google's announcement that the company will ban ads for payday lenders. The company is defining these as loans due for repayment within 60 days or, in the US, charging annual rates of over 36%. At SEObook, Aaron Wall provides a more nuanced look at the decision, pointing out a conflict of interest, in that Google Ventures has had a stake in the short-term lender LendUp since 2013, which he suggests will benefit from the reduced presence of its competitors.
Leadership Conference:

Greenpeace leaks draft Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement
Greenpeace Netherlands has leaked the text of about half of the April 2016 draft of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership treaty. Thirteen of the released chapters show the US position for the first time. While chapters on digital policy issues such as e-commerce and intellectual property were not included in the leak, EDRi provides an analysis of the telecommunications chapter, noting "an ideological drive towards deregulation and law enforcement by private companies". Among the leaked papers, Internet policy expert Monica Horten finds one in which the EU warns the US that last-minute demands for changes to intellectual property provisions mirroring the provisions in the Transpacific Partnership agreement are unlikely to be accepted. She also finds that the telecoms proposals extend the corporate reach noted in other sectors, threatening network neutrality and citizens' rights.
Horten (US demands):
Horten (telecom):

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

Surveillance capitalism
In this lengthy essay from Frankfurter Allgemeine, Shoshana Zuboff frames today's debates over privacy as the effects of "surveillance capitalism", calling Google "ground zero for a wholly new subspecies of capitalism" that "preys on dependent populations who are neither its consumers nor its employees and are largely ignorant of its procedures". Zuboff warns that the practices pioneered by today's large data-driven companies are "poised to transform commercial practice across the real world too".
Frankfurter Allgemeine:

Dilbert's guide to electronic voting
In this comic strip, Dilbert creator Scott Adams concisely captures what's wrong with electronic voting.

Sci-Hub appeals to (almost) everyone
In this analysis at Science of server log data supplied by Sci-Hub creator Alexandra Elbakyan, John Bohannon finds that over the six months leading up to March 2016 28 million researchers worldwide downloaded papers from the pirate website for scholarly literature. The publisher with the most requested articles by far is Elsevier. A quarter of downloads came from OECD member countries; 4.4 million came from China, 3.4 million from India. Bohannon also discusses the varying motives for using Sci-Hub: the quick and convenient interface design may count as much as cost. The titles appearing on the list of most-downloaded papers seem startlingly niche. On May 4, TorrentFreak reported that Elsevier, which used its preliminary injunction to request the seizure of the original domain, has now succeeded in getting the Chinese registrar for .io to pull that Sci-Hub  domain name as well, though backup domains and are still active.

US: Government studies the interplay of big data and civil rights
In this blog posting the US government has launched its second report on big data, which looks at civil rights and the risks of re-encoding bias and discrimination into algorithmic systems. The report uses case studies drawn from credit and lending, employment, education, and criminal justice to highlight both the risks of embedded bias and the opportunity big data presents to expose it.
White House:

The history of automata
This Public Domain posting uses copious public domain drawings and illustrations to summarise much of the long pre-AI history of automata and show humans' enduring interest in mechanical marvels. The online catalogue from the ongoing exhibition of ancient Greek machinery includes even earlier examples from circa 300 BC, including the earliest known humanoid "robot", which uses gravity to pour and mix drinks.
Public Domain:

Thailand, Hungary, Tanzania, Ireland: The state of human rights
In this blog posting, Privacy International summarises the contents of four stakeholder reports it helped write for submission for the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Period Review Working Group, which took place in Geneva over the last two weeks. Among the countries due for review were Hungary, the United Republic of Tanzania, Thailand, and Ireland. Among PI's main points: Thailand's draft privacy and surveillance bill threatens to expand surveillance capabilities and increase monitoring of human rights defenders; Tanzania's communications surveillance fails to comply with international law and standards; Hungary's current legal framework for communications surveillance was judged in violation of Article 8 of the Convention by the European Court of Human Rights; and there is concern that Ireland may have been attempting to purchase surveillance malware. 


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

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.

Transparency Camp Europe
June 1, 2016
Amsterdam, Netherlands
This unconference will focus on open data, new technologies, and policies that make the EU work for people, stimulate open government, and help grasp the workings of the various EU institutions. The event will include an online app competition.

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.

November 12-14, 2016
Washington, DC
At this event, the next generation can learn about Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data, develop critical skills, and catalyse action toward a more open system of research and education. OpenCon will convene students and early career academic professionals, both in person and through satellite events around the world and serve as a powerful catalyst for projects led by the next generation to advance OpenCon's three focus areas.

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 May 16, 2016 6:21 PM.

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