News Digest | Open Society Information Program | Week of 15 July 2016

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News Digest | Open Society Information Program | Week of 15 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: EIFL, Open Rights Group, Privacy International, La Quadrature du Net.


For breaking news stories, visit:

UK: Amid referendum fallout, surveillance and copyright bills proceed
As Theresa May assumes the premiership after two weeks of political uncertainty, the Open Rights Group reports that the government has introduced the Digital Economy bill as planned. Among its provisions are an increase in maximum prison terms for online copyright infringement from two years to ten; age verification for all commercial pornography websites; and increased data sharing across government. Separately, ORG analyses the impact of Britain's withdrawal from the EU on digital rights generally and the progress of the Investigatory Powers bill, which was debated in the House of Lords on July 11. Intellectual Property Watch reports that legal experts expect withdrawal to delay the introduction of the EU unitary patent and unified patent court and create uncertainty and added costs for trademark owners. Kenedict Innovation Analytics provides a network analysis and visualisation showing the likely impact on the UK's scientific research ecosystem.
ORG (Brexit):
ORG (IP bill):
Parliament TV:
IP Watch:

UN passes resolution condemning internet shutdowns
Access Now reports that the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a resolution condemning internet shutdowns and renewing its commitment to the principle that human rights apply online as much as they do offline. The resolution follows recent shutdowns in Turkey, Bahrain, and Algeria; the first half of 2016 has seen 20 such incidents, up from 15 for the year 2015. Ghana police have pulled back from a suggested social media shutdown for the November 2016 elections. IFEX reports that during recent protests in Zimbabwe, the country's main communications tool, WhatsApp, was disabled.
The #KeepItOn campaign includes civil society and human rights groups from around the world among its members.
Access Now:

Dallas police deploy 'killer robot'
The Intercept reports that a standoff between police and a suspect in the Dallas shooting spree ended when law enforcement used a bomb disposal robot to deliver and detonate explosives to the suspect's hideout. The incident is believed to be the first-ever case of its kind outside a war zone. The Dallas Police Department has declined to provide details about the robot that was used. At Wired, Kim Zetter concludes that the robot was the only option for Dallas police and that the circumstances were unusual enough that weaponised robots are not likely to become the norm, though the New York Times argues that instead we should be concerned the incident will inspire other police forces to adopt this type of technology. At Fusion, Elmo Keep has identified the manufacturer of the robot in question as Northrop Grumman. In an interview at the Verge, We Robot co-founder Ryan Calo explores the ethics of autonomous weapons and why the Dallas case doesn't require new legal thinking.
NY Times:
The Verge:

Copyright licensing ends British Library's international non-commercial document service
EIFL reports that as of July 1 the British Library has discontinued its international non-commercial document service, four and a half years after the service became licence-based instead of supported by a copyright exception. Data obtained by EIFL via a FOI request shows that the switch resulted in an immediate 93% drop in the number of available journal titles. A small percentage remained available at vastly more expensive commercial rates. The result was a precipitous 98% drop in the number of satisfied requests as well as the number of countries served. EIFL finds that the healthcare sector was particularly affected. EIFL concludes that a copyright exception for international inter-library document delivery is essential.

EU: European Commission adopts Privacy Shield
Ars Technica reports that the the European Commission has adopted Privacy Shield to replace Safe Harbor as a framework under which personal data may be transferred from the EU to the US. It comes into force immediately. In an analysis of a leaked version shortly before the vote, Privacy International finds four major problems: 1) the agreement is opaque; 2) although the principles the Shield enshrines are improvements since Safe Harbor, they still fall short; 3) the safeguards are not sufficient legal protection; 4) the Ombudsperson created by the agreement is not fully independent and has very limited ability to provide redress.
Ars Technica:

EU: Web content blocking incorporated into draft anti-terrorism law
La Quadrature du Net reports that on July 5 the LIBE Committee adopted the draft Directive on Combating Terrorism, which it says incorporates the "worst anti-terrorism and surveillance laws from across the European Union" into a single directive. LQDN is particularly concerned about the "blank check" approach to extending web blocking measures across the EU, and believes that the directive profoundly undermines fundamental rights.

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

Belarus: The police officer in your pocket
In this report based on interviews with more than 50 human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, technology experts, and others, Amnesty International finds that Belarusian telecom companies, despite their foreign ownership, grant the government nearly unlimited access to their customers' communications and data and that activists say the result is a culture of fear in which it's safest to assume that everything they say will reach the KGB. "People's mobile phones are now like police officers in their pockets," Joshua Franco tells AI.

The blockchain patent gold rush
In this article at Fusion, Elmo Keep finds that patents are being filed on blockchain applications by dozens of claimants including some major corporations such as Bank of America. As Keep notes, the patents, if granted, could translate into very substantial profits, none of which will accrue to the original inventor, who released bitcoin without such protection.

Internet governance in transition
In this video clip, cyber rights lawyer Mike Godwin hosts a panel to debate US plans to let go its control of internet governance functions and the legislation introduced by US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Representative Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) to delay transition. The panellists include experts from the R Street Institute, Mercatus Center, NTIA, TechFreedom, the Heritage Foundation, and the Internet Infrastructure Coalition. Delay might provide the time to answer some stubborn and unsolved questions such as jurisdiction but create increased international distrust in the process.

The future of copyright according to Julia Reda
In this speech (video and transcript) given at the CREATe Festival, MEP Julia Reda discusses the proposed copyright exception for text and data mining and argues that the evidence base CREATe has been developing suggests what's needed is a paradigm shift rather than continued patching of existing law. Change will require much international collaboration: "National sovereignty in a globalized world is an illusion." Other videos from the Festival include discussions of business models and the role of online intermediaries.

The proposed Code of Ethics for Human Augmentation
In this blog posting at, University of Toronto professor Steve Mann and a host of others propose a Code of Ethics for Human Augmentation. Presented at the VRTO Virtual and Augmented Reality World Conference 2016, the Code includes three "laws": humans have the right to know when and how they're being surveilled; humans should not be discouraged from monitoring the entities monitoring them; and humans have an affirmative right to audit information recorded about them - and "must not design machines of malice". Mann, the earliest pioneer in wearable computing, is asking for contributions to improve the next version of the code, which he intends to submit to IEEE on July 22, 2016. In a special report, The Economist considers the state of artificial intelligence with pieces on "automation anxiety" and progress in neural networking,

Can we design sociotechnical systems that don't suck?
In this blog posting, Ethan Zuckerman discusses the common tendency to attempt to solve social problems by smothering them with technology. His specific target is an essay that argued that the problem of prison violence could be solved by isolating each prisoner in an individual cell and providing social interaction through Oculus Rift VR headsets. Zuckerman uses the essay - and the widespread "hate-linking" it's encountered - to ask: "how do we help smart, well-meaning people address social problems in ways that make the world better, not worse?"


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.

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.

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.

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 17, 2016 2:52 PM.

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