September 2016 Archives

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week of 23 September 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, La Quadrature du Net, SPARC Europe, .

For breaking news stories, visit:

EU: Advocate-General says EU is competent to ratify Marrakesh treaty
Intellectual Property Watch reports that the standstill over the Marrakesh Treaty, which grants a copyright exception for visually impaired people, could soon be broken. The Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice has found in response to a challenge by EU members including France, Finland, the UK, and Hungary that the EU has exclusive competence to ratify the Treaty.
IP Watch:

Kashmir: India suspends mobile internet access
At Slate, Hasit Shah reports that for more than two months India has blocked mobile internet access in Kashmir in response to protests in July following the death of a local militant commander. Newspapers in Kashmir, he writes, are calling the situation, which blocks access to organising via social media, an "e-curfew". The New Indian Express reports that postpaid mobile phone services, which along with broadband were suspended on September 12, have been restored. Greater Kashmir reports that journalists have staged a sit-in protest, calling the suspension an "indirect gag" on media.
New Indian Express:
Greater Kashmir:

EU: Court of Justice rules that linking can infringe copyright
La Quadrature du Net reports that the European Court of Jusice has set aside the recommendation the Advocate General issued in April and ruled that posting a link to illegally published content is itself a copyright violeation as long as the site is non-profit and is unaware of the copyright violation. Aside from the obvious implications for search engines, LQDN notes that it is difficult for any individual to be sure if a linked work is an infringement or not. LQDN also notes that this decision aligns with the proposal in the leaked draft copyright Directive to give publishers greater power over links. EFF calls the ruling "madness" and "a gift to copyright holders".
Advocate General (PDF):

Facebook struggles with automated content editing
At the Guardian, Sam Thielman reports that a couple of months after the world discovered that Facebook's trending topics were hand-picked by a team of editors, the company has replaced the human editors with an algorithm. The result: mayhem, as the algorithm for example chose to highlight a false story about Fox News host Megyn Kelly as well as a hoax article about 9/11. The Guardian also reports that Facebook deleted the famous "napalm girl" photograph from a posting about historical warfare photography by a Norwegian writer, and followed up by deleting a post by the Norwegian Prime Minister defending the posting and republishing the photograph. The story led journalists and others to suggest that Facebook needs to learn to use more wisely its power over the news people see. This is also the theme of the recent report Tech Giants and Civic Power, written by Martin Moore, director of the Centre for the Study of Media Communication and Power in the Policy Institute at King's College London.
Guardian (algorithm):
Guardian (photograph):
Moore (PDF):

EU: Plan for Gigabit Society threatens network neutrality
Access Now reports that the European Commission's plan for a European Gigabit Society, which aims to promote high-quality networks and 5G, incorporates the first attack on the EU's new network neutrality rules. The plan specifically mentions developing high-speed networks to facilitate gaming and streaming audio and video; Access Now argues that high-quality networks should benefit the internet as a whole without creating "fast lanes". In a July 2016 manifesto that European Digital Rights called "terrible", a collection of telcos argued that the creation of 5G will require substantial state subsidies as well as a rollback on European privacy and network neutrality laws. Access Now was one of 30 NGOs that signed an open letter to policy makers arguing against these demands.
Access Now (plan):
Access Now (letter, PDF):

Open access boosts citation rates
Times Higher Education Supplement reports on a new study by the University of Michigan's Jim Ottaviani that finds that publishing journal articles under open access boosts citations by more than a fifth. The effect is even greater on better-cited papers, though the reason for this is unclear. SPARC Europe maintains a list of such studies as well.

Facebook announces WhatsApp will share personal data
The Guardian reports that although Facebook promised it would not share personal data between the two services when it purchased WhatsApp, the company will begin doing just that, including personal phone numbers, in order to help advertisers target ads. EPIC has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the UK's Information Commissioner has said the office will keep a close watch, and MEP Jan-Philipp Albrecht is working on developing EU policy to protect users' privacy in such cases. At the Guardian, John Naughton offers instructions on using WhatsApp's privacy settings to block the transfer.
Guardian (WhatsApp):
Guardian (UK ICO):
Guardian (EU):
Guardian (Naughton):

India: Delhi University wins copyright case
At SpicyIP, Shamnad Basheer reports that the Delhi high court has dismissed suits by three international publishers - Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor & Francis - who had jointly objected to the sale of photocopied books, chapters, and pages at Delhi University. The ruling is expected to have a far-reaching impact on copyright law in India. Basheer, one of the group of academics who intervened in the case, argued that the photocopying was fair use given its educational purpose. In his 94-page ruling, Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw wrote that copyright is not a "divine" right.

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

US: Department of Justice seeks mass hacking powers
In this opinion piece for Wired, professors Matt Blaze (University of Pennsylvania) and Susan Landau (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) warn that under plans published as amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the FBI would be allowed to hack as many as a million computers based on a single warrant. Unless Congress acts to block the proposals, the rules will come into effect on December 1. To counter the plan, Wyden and fellow Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) have introduced the Stopping Mass Hacking Act. EFF is collecting signatures on a petition backing the bill.

Spain: Exercising the right to know
In this blog posting, mySociety highlights a collaboration among Access Info Europe, Civio Foundation, and the Transparency Council of Spain to celebrate September 28's International Right to Know Day by simplifying the complex process of submitting an FOI request in Spain. The Spanish government requires a difficult-to-obtain electronic certificate or digital identification; the authorities also refuse to accept requests by email. From now until September 28, however, requesters can use a Google form, a Twitter hashtag, or email to file requests, which the three organisations will forward using their certificates.

Pardoning Edward Snowden
In this editorial, the Washington Post, one of the newspapers that originally published the details of leaked programmes such as PRISM, argues that Edward Snowden should not be pardoned despite a national campaign asking President Barack Obama to do so before leaving office. Meanwhile, the New York Times' A.O. Scott reviews Oliver Stone's new movie, "Snowden", calling it "an honorable and absorbing contribution", but ultimately prefers Laura Poitras's documentary, Citizenfour. At Techdirt, Mike Masnick pores over the recently released House Intelligence Committee's report on Snowden, and highlights myriad misleading or false statements that lead him to call the report a "smear campaign".
Washington Post:
Pardon Snowden:
NY Times:

The internet infrastructure under attack
In this essay, Bruce Schneier outlines attacks he's seeing that appear to have the purpose of probing the defences of companies that run critical pieces of the internet infrastructure, he believes with the intent of learning how to take them down. While the data is inconclusive, he says the perpetrator "feels like" a large nation-state.

The war on cash
In this article at The Long and Short, Brett Scott discusses the human rights issues surrounding the cashless society that's being promoted by countries such as Sweden, vendors such as Visa and Penny for London, and "thought leaders" such as Chyp Hyperion's Dave Birch. Scott goes on to suggest ways for those seeking to protect the rights of already marginalised groups to reframe opposing the "Death of Cash" as a fight for retaining the choice to carry out financial transactions without the need for intermediaries.
Long and Short:


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

The Open Exchange for Social Change
October 4, 2016
Madrid, Spain
This pre-IOCD unconference aims to create a space where participants can exchange knowledge and understanding and build solidarity that will lead to better outcomes for IODC and beyond. It is an open space so that attendees can propose the most relevant and urgent topics for their work.

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.

Transparency Camp 2016
October 14-15, 2016
Cleveland, OH
The Sunlight Foundation chose Cleveland for this year's unconference in order to tap into the local expertise of an area with strong grassroots organisers and clear problems the community is trying to solve. The event aims to bring together librarians, government officials, technologists, civic leaders, community organisers, and others to figure out strategies and solutions for making local and state governance better, faster, smarter and more transparent.

Freedom not Fear
October 14-17, 2016
Brussels, Belgium
At Freedom not Fear, civil society members meet to plan for and engage in action against increasing surveillance and other attacks on civil rights. The meeting, intended for civil rights and freedom activists from across Europe, is organised by volutneers and coordinated by EDRi member Digitalcourage and via the akv-international mailing list.

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.

WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights
November 14-16, 2016
Geneva, Switzerland
Topics at the 33rd meeting of SCCR will include the protection of broadcasting organisations, exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives, limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with disabilities, and proposals for analysing copyright with respect to the digital environment and to include the resale right in future work.

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.

Open Government Partnership Summit
December 7-9, 2016
Paris, France
Representatives from governments, academia, civil society and international organizations will gather to share their experiences and best practices and push forward the open government global agenda in light of the great challenges of the modern world. As a forum for sharing best practices, OGP provides a unique platform that brings together, stimulates and expands the community of state reformers worldwide.

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

Internet Freedom Festival
March 6-10, 2017
Valencia, Spain
The Internet Freedom Festival gathers the community keeping the Internet open and uncensored for a week of free-form multidisciplinary collaboration intended to help groups achieve their goals. Attendance is free and open to the public.

Rightscon 2017
March 29-31, 2017
Brussels, Belgium
RightsCon will tackle the most pressing issues at the intersection of technology and human rights. Session proposals are being accepted until November 25, 2016.

Creative Commons Global Summit
April 28-30, 2017
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
This event will gather a global community of technologists, academics, activists, creatives, and legal experts to work together on the expansion and growth of the commons, open knowledge, and free culture for all.

Open Repositories 2017
June 26-30, 2017
Brisbane, Australia
The annual Open Repositories Conference brings together users and developers of open digital repository platforms from higher education, government, galleries, libraries, archives and museums. The Conference provides an interactive forum for delegates from around the world to come together and explore the global challenges and opportunities facing libraries and the broader scholarly information landscape.


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Research Digest • Open Society Information Program • 10 September 2016 


The Open Society Information Program Research Digest tracks new scholarly articles and books on the social and political aspects of information and technology issues. The Digest is compiled by Evgeny Morozov. A related Twitter feed is also available at!/morozov_links.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Open Society Foundations or the Information Program.


* "UnMarginalizing Workers: How Big Data Drives Lower Wages and How Reframing Labor Law Can Restore Information Equality in the Workplace" by Nathan Newman - working paper

This article details the ways big data is actively being deployed to lower wages through hiring practices, in how raises are now being offered, and in the ways that workplaces are organized (and disorganized) to lower employee bargaining power --- and how new interpretations of labor law are beginning to reshape the workplace to address these economic harms.

source: (free)


* "The Rise of Behavioural Discrimination" by Ariel Ezrachi & Maurice E. Stucke - working paper

The author surveys the political and social effects of the increased personalization of our online environment, as firms track us, collect data about us, and target us with the right ad at the right time -- all to transform our web environment into a personal space. This new personalized environment can pave the way for behavioural discrimination -- the ability of sellers to induce us to buy things we otherwise wouldn't, at the highest price we are willing to pay.

source: (free)


* "Crowdsourced Surveillance And Networked Data" by Nick Lally - Securing Dialogue

Possibilities for crowdsourced surveillance have expanded in recent years as data uploaded to social networks can be mined, distributed, assembled, mapped, and analyzed by anyone with an uncensored internet connection. These data points, argues the author, are necessarily fragmented and partial, open to interpretation, and rely on algorithms for retrieval and sorting. Yet despite these limitations, they have been used to produce complex representations of space, subjects, and power relations as internet users attempt to reconstruct and investigate events while they are developing.

source: ($)


* "Algorithms and Their Others: Algorithmic Culture in Context" by Paul Dourish - Big Data & Society

Algorithms, once obscure objects of technical art, have lately been subject to considerable popular and scholarly scrutiny. What does it mean to adopt the algorithm as an object of analytic attention? What is in view, and out of view, when we focus on the algorithm? Using Niklaus Wirth's 1975 formulation that "algorithms + data structures = programs" as a launching-off point, this paper examines how an algorithmic lens shapes the way in which we might inquire into contemporary digital culture.

source: ($)


* "The Politics of Cryptocurrencies in Historical Perspective" by Stefan Eich - working paper

While cryptocurrencies are frequently framed as an escape from politics, this paper argues that this is misleading on several counts. Electronic currencies, argues the author, cannot leave the politics of money behind even where they aim to disavow it. Examining the international politics of money that emerged out the 1970s, the author discusses the emergence of a technocratic regime of depoliticized fiat currencies and domestic discipline complemented by cheap global credit money. Today, demands for depoliticization and politicization compete once more with one another.

source: ($)


* "Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy" by Cathy O'Neil (Crown)

This book exposes the black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. These "weapons of math destruction," as the authors dubs them, score teachers and students, sort résumés, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set parole, and monitor our health. The author calls on modellers to take more responsibility for their algorithms and on policy makers to regulate their use.



* "The Ethics of Invention: Technology and the Human Future" by Sheila Jasanoff (Norton)

In her new book, written for the general audience, Sheila Jasanoff argues that technology rules us as much as laws do. It shapes the legal, social, and ethical environments in which we act. The author dissects the ways in which we delegate power to technological systems and asks how we might regain control. Technology, she argues, can warp the meaning of democracy and citizenship unless we carefully consider how to direct its power rather than let ourselves be shaped by it.



* "Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations" by Nicholas Carr (Norton)

In his latest collection of essays, Nicholas Carr dissects Silicon Valley's unsettlingly cheery vision of the technological future to ask a hard question: Have we been seduced by a lie? The book offers an alternative history of the digital age, chronicling its roller-coaster crazes and crashes, its blind triumphs, and its unintended consequences. Carr offers searching assessments of the future of work, the fate of reading, and the rise of artificial intelligence.



* "Licensed Larceny: Infrastructure, Financial Extraction and the Global South" by Nicholas Hildyard (Manchester University Press)

The author contends that the provision of public services is one area which is increasingly being reconfigured to extract wealth upward to the 1%, notably through so-called Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). The push for PPPs, argues the author, is not about building infrastructure for the benefit of society but about constructing new subsidies that benefit the already wealthy. In other words, it is less about financing development than developing finance.



* "Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions" by Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths (Henry Holt)

This book offers an exploration of how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives, helping to solve common decision-making problems and illuminate the workings of the human mind. The authors show how the simple, precise algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. They explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal with overwhelming choices and how best to connect with others.


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The Guardian ran this a few weeks ago. This is the pre-edited version here, as it includes a few details that were cut, presumably for space (since I have more space, I've also restored a few things). The photo was taken by Boyce Keay.

The Richmond Local History Society has much more to read about David, and also has links to some of his talks and historical writing.

DGB 02.jpeg

The first time I saw David Blomfield, who has died aged 82, he was on a tennis court hitting an almost unreturnable, vicious, sliced, slapped forehand. That was the least of his talents, and the least characteristic of a man widely known for his gentleness and kindness. In the area surrounding Kew Gardens, where he lived for over 50 years, Blomfield was a self-effacing hero: a highly-skilled book editor, local historian, LibDem councillor, church warden, magistrate, school governor, chair of numerous organisations including ten years at the Richmond Local History Society, and occasional assistant at the Kew Bookshop, where, with his inseparable wife, Caroline, he was a partner. If you didn't know David you haven't lived in Kew, only resided here.

"Everyone wanted David on board," the former MP Jenny Tonge observed at his packed memorial service.

An army officer's son, after his schooling (where achieving a cricket century at 12 remained ever after his proudest achievement) he did national service with the Royal Artillery and ten years in Oxfordshire Yeomanry, writing their history in 2015. He read Classics at Oxford and in 1959 joined Reader's Digest's Condensed Books department. There, he viewed condensed books as a way to spread books to many they otherwise would not reach. In the following 28 years, he headed the department, edited, among many other titles, The Reader's Bible, and ran a presciently early investigation of electronic publishing.

Elected a local councillor in 1971, he briefly lost his seat in 1978 because he championed the unpopular creation of a bail hostel in Kew, arguing that the residents of such a privileged area should not exclude others. He won the seat back in a by-election in 1979, eventually standing down in 1986.

After leaving the Digest in 1987, he worked as a freelance book editor, ghost-wrote biographies including that of David Penhaligon, and wrote extensively about local history. His 2007 PhD thesis studied the boatmen along Upper Tidal Thames. His final public talk, in April, told the story of Richmond's Star and Garter home for servicemen disabled in World War I (

A life-long church-goer, David chaired the committee that converted Kew's Barn Chuch into a constantly-used, shared local centre. He was neither exclusive nor evangelical, and his public life was driven by his belief in the importance of community. Kew is the better for it, and in 2000, he was awarded the MBE for his services to the Richmond area.

He is survived by his wife, Caroline, three children, James, Melanie, and Rupert, and six grandchildren.

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