News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week of 29 July 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week of 29 July 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, La Quadrature du Net.

For breaking news stories, visit:

US: Microsoft wins jurisdictional dispute
The Center for Democracy and Technology reports that the US Second Circuit Court has ruled that Microsoft does not have to turn over emails stored on its Irish servers to US law enforcement seeking to compel disclosure. The ruling, which the Department of Justice may appeal to the Supreme Court, is widely seen as setting an important jurisdictional precedent. It is also an important victory for Microsoft, which argues that the US government should use the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to obtain the data and promotes the idea that storing data locally will ensure that data of Europeans are subject to Europe's more stringent privacy laws. However, UCL security researcher Steven Murdoch argues that the ruling will give false assurance to customers of US companies, because other circumstances might produce a different decision by US courts. Within days of the ruling, Gizmodo reported that President Barack Obama has proposed a plan to allow the US and UK to access data stored on servers in each other's countries as long as the searches were only for data relating to citizens of the country doing the searching. Both countries would need legislative approval.

France extends State of Emergency until January 2017
La Quadrature du Net reports that in response to the Nice attacks the French government has extended the State of Emergency until January 2017 and amended the 2015 Intelligence Act to legalise domestic mass surveillance. The new provision extends real-time monitoring of communications data from individuals who had been "identified as a [terrorist] threat" - such as the 11,700 people with an "S-File" linked with radical Islamism - to anyone "likely related to a threat" or belonging to the entourage of someone so identified.

Russia accused of interfering in US presidential elections
As the Democratic national convention begins in Philadelphia, at Motherboard Thomas Rid, a Kings College London professor and author of Cyberwar Will Not Take Place, studies the evidence for attributing to state-sponsored Russian hackers the breach of the Democratic National Committee's server, which also exposed the organisation's opposition research on the Trump campaign. Rid sees the attack as setting a dangerous precedent for electronic interference by one country in the elections of another. Engadget confirms that the FBI is investigating the DNC email hack and is auditing the DNC's Republican counterpart, where no such hack has yet been reported. CNN reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has dismissed the claim, and reviews the history of the breach. The Guardian outlines Russian support for Donald Trump. On July 22, Wikileaks published the collection of 19,234 emails taken from DNC servers as the second in its "Hillary Leaks" series (the first was a collection of emails from Hillary Clinton's home server). On July 25, the Guardian reported that the emails' exposure of DNC leaders' active favouritism for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders has forced the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Guardian (Trump):
Guardian (Schultz):

Turkey, US: Critics accuse Wikileaks of publishing confidential personal information
Gizmodo reports that the 19,234 emails from Democratic National Committee members posted online by Wikileaks include the credit card, Social Security, and passport numbers of many small individual donors - a treasure trove for identity fraudsters, a fact easily checked via Gizmodo's published search method. Meanwhile, at the Huffington Post, Zeynep Tufecki examines Wikileaks' previously published "AKP Email Archive", obtained a week before the attempted coup, published shortly afterwards, and almost immediately blocked by the Turkish internet authority, and finds nothing that serves the public interest. However, she reports that among related files to which Wikileaks linked are massive databases of highly sensitive personal information about millions of Turkish individuals. One such includes almost every adult woman in Turkey, giving real - and correct as far as Tufecki could check- home addresses, mobile phone numbers, and affiliation with AKP, the group that attempted to overthrow the government. "There is not a single good reason to put so many men and women in such danger of identity theft, harassment and worse," she concludes. On Twitter, Wikileaks responded: "The story is fabricated by an Erdogan apologist in Turkey. We have already lodged a complaint with Arianna Huffington." Soon afterwards, national security blogger Michael Best came forward to explain how the files were obtained and take responsibility for their release (he has deleted the bittorrent instance he created on the Internet Archive server to distribute them, the link Wikileaks promoted). "What happened was a perfect storm of events that I could have prevented, and wish I had," he writes.
Huffington Post:

US: EFF challenges Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Based on 20 years of collected evidence, EFF has announced that it is mounting a new legal challenge to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which the EFF has opposed ever since its passage in 1998. The law, EFF argues, is unconstitutional because it impedes security research, blocks remixes, and inhibits the use of fair use rights. "Copyright law," EFF adds in a second posting, "shouldn't be casting a legal shadow over activities as basic as popping the hood of your own car, offering commentary on a shared piece of culture (and helping others do so), and testing security infrastructure."

Historical data leads to Kickass Torrents owner's arrest
Torrentfreak reports that the alleged owner of Kickass Torrents (KAT), the world's largest torrent site, has been arrested in Poland on a request from US authorities, and is waiting to learn if he will be extradited. Several types of data led investigators to Artem Vaulin: historical Whois records for early KAT domains showing his name, and cross-referencing that showed the same IP address was used to log into KAT's Facebook account and to conduct transactions on iTunes. In the criminal complaint, Business Insider finds the reason behind KAT's near-immediate access to copies of movies, often within days of their original release: conversion using a telecine machine, which directly converts cinema reels to digital file - a method that implies insider access. Torrentfreak also reports that Gary Fung, the Canadian founder of the now-defunct torrent site Isohunt, has settled with the music industry for $66 million.
TorrentFreak (KAT):
Business Insider:
TorrentFreak (Fung):

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

Best case scenarios for copyright: education
As part of Communia's effort to document best case scenarios for copyright, in this article Teresa Nobre and Alari Rammo discuss the educational exceptions in the Estonian Copyright Act, which were adopted in 1992. These include the free use of copyrighted works for scientific, educational, informational, and judicial purposes and allow public performances of protected works in front of limited school-related audiences. Estonia's approach, they write, has led to "a relatively abstract norm that allows for a broad spectrum of unauthorised uses" that is similar to open-ended defences like the US Fair Use doctrine. The authors suggest, however, that Estonia's law could be improved as two exceptions overlap, causing issues of interpretation.
Communia (PDF):

Refugees and communication
In this three-minute video clip, best watched on a mobile phone, the BBC shows the importance of mobile phones to refugees, who struggle to identify their location, reunite with dispersed family and friends, and find safety. The idea was inspired by the stories the BBC collected in researching the communications needs of those fleeing their countries. Alongside the clip is a research report written from in-depth interviews with 79 refugees and 45 humanitarian actors studying refugees' communication behaviours and information needs during their journey, in Greek transit camps, and in Germany.

Legal analysis of Pokémon Go
In this blog posting at Freedom to Tinker, Tiffany Li offers a legal analysis of the issues surrounding the sudden popularity of Pokémon Go, which has spawned stories of absorbed users falling off cliffs and hitting a police car and privacy violations when private locations are misidentified on the map as gyms. Li examines Pokémon owner Niantic's liability for injuries, the privacy implications of the amount of information the Pokémon app requires, and intellectual property and trespass concerns. These issues, Li concludes are not specific to Pokémon Go; they will apply to any augmented reality game. Bitchmedia reports on a novel use of the game by the Clinton campaign: to lure unregistered voters to volunteers who help them register.
Freedom to Tinker:

UK: The referendum and the future
In this blog posting for the Open Government Partnership, Birkbeck College lecturer in politics Ben Worthy discusses the likely future of open government for the post-EU UK. Brexit itself, he writes, will soon become a transparency issue as negotiators seek to balance the advantages of keeping their goals confidential with the need to reassure Leave voters that their goals have not been sold out. At the London Review of Books, John Lanchester mulls how an idea that was considered lunatic fringe in 1997 became a mainstream reality in 2016: today, he writes, geography matters more than class, the white working class has been abandoned, and the divisions between the two main parties do not reflect at all the economic divisions that dominate many people's thinking.
Open Government Partnership:
London Review of Books:

Burkina Faso: Reconstructing history
In this blog posting at mySociety, Dave Whiteland writes about EveryPolitician's ambition to provide data about every politician in the world and Teg-Wende Idriss Tinto's efforts to reconstruct the history of Burkina Faso's Parliament, which was lost when insurgents set a fire in the National Assembly building in 2014, destroying 90% of the country's records. Tinto is appealing for assistance from anyone with information on the members of Burkina Faso's parliament from independence in 1960 until 1992.

If financial systems were hacked
In this article, part of its "The World If" series, The Economist imagines what would happen if the global financial infrastructure were attacked, for example, via clearing houses or payments systems. To date, cyberattacks have focused on single banks. In this scenario, however, the attack might begin by tweaking numbers so that the clearing houses can't settle up at the end of each day. Ultimately, the system needs to plan for response-and-recovery instead of assuming that their security is sufficient to ensure that such attacks cannot happen. Other scenarios in the series include terrorist access to nuclear weapons, states trading territories, and universal drone ownership.
Economist (finance):
Economist (WorldIf):


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

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.

Chinese Institutional Repository Conference
ChongQing City, China
September 21-22, 2016
Hosted by the National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Library of ChongQing University, the fourth Chinese IR Conference will feature EIFL open access programme manager Iryna Kuchma, who will speak about global open access repository developments and trends.

State of the Map
September 23-26, 2016
Brussels, Belgium
Talks, discussions and workshops, code and documentation sprints, all to improve the collaborative OpenStreetMap project.

International Open Data Conference
October 6-7
Madrid, Spain
At IODC16, governments, civil society, multilateral organisations, and private companies will gather around a roadmap. the International Open Data Charter, in order to keep improving the governability, citizen engagement, innovation, and international development of open data initiatives.

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.

ODI Summit
November 1, 2016
London, UK
The annual Open Data Institute Summit will feature inspiring stories from around the world on how people are innovating with the web of data, and presentations from diverse innovators, from current startup founders to experienced, high-profile speakers such as World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, AI expert Nigel Shadbolt and founder Martha Lane Fox.

November 3-9, 2016
Hyderabad, India
ICANN meetings provide a venue for progressing policy work, conducting outreach, exchanging best practices, conducting business deals, interacting among members of the ICANN Community, including board and staff, and learning about ICANN.

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.

Internet Governance Forum
December 6-9, 2016 (TBC)
Guadalajara, Mexico
With the UN's renewal in December 2015, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) consolidates itself as a platform to bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals, in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet. While there is no negotiated outcome, the IGF informs and inspires those with policy-making power in both the public and private sectors. At their annual meeting delegates discuss, exchange information and share good practices with each other.

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).

Rightscon 2017
March 29-31, 2017
Brussels, Belgium
RightsCon will tackle the most pressing issues at the intersection of technology and human rights.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on July 29, 2016 9:52 PM.

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