News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 October 2016

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News digest | Open Society
Information Program | Week ending 28 October 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: Bits of Freedom, Digitale Gesellschaft, EDRi, Open Rights Group.



For breaking news stories, visit:

Canada-EU Trade Agreement negotiations break down


On October 27, following weeks of dispute, the Belgian region of Wallonia accepted amendments and withdrew its opposition to the Canada-EU Trade Agreement. The previous week, the Guardian had reported that the Canadian international trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, had walked out of talks intended to salvage the agreement, which Wallonia opposed fearing the impact on its agricultural sector. Freeland told CBC that the EU is incapable now of concluding an international treaty, while Canadian copyright scholar Michael Geist has been predicting the collapse of CETA for some months. Paul Magnette, Wallonia's minister-president, was also concerned about Investor-State Dispute Settlement, and has won the concession that Belgium will be able to go to the European Court of Justice to determine whether ISDS is compatible with EU law. Maclean's offers more background on Wallonia's opposition to the treaty.




Internet of Things botnet cripples the internet


Security journalist Brian Krebs, whose own site was attacked just weeks ago by a botnet running the Mirai malware on devices such as DVRs, cameras, and baby monitors, reports that a massive and sustained internet attack on the domain name system service provider Dyn resulted in widespread outages and network congestion, disabling access to sites such as Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify, and Netflix. Krebs also reports that the Chinese manufacturer of many of the devices used in the attack is issuing both a recall and a libel suit. Techcrunch reports that the security company Flashpoint, which has analysed the attacks, believes the attack was carried out by copycat "script kiddies" rather than sophisticated state-sponsored actors.

Krebs (attack):

Krebs (recall):


UK: Digital Economy bill endangers privacy, freedom of speech


The Open Rights Group reports three main areas of concern with the Digital Economy bill, currently at the committee stage in the House of Commons: the bill proposes to introduce ten-year prison sentences for file-sharers; it will require age verification for all commercial websites offering pornography to UK internet users; and it increases data sharing between government departments without sufficient safeguards or transparency. In addition, Computing reports that a group of MPs are seeking to amend the bill to add the power to issue regulations compelling search engines to delist sites linked to piracy and remove other content.



Digital Rights Ireland challenges EU-US Privacy Shield


Reuters reports that Digital Rights has filed a legal challenge asking the General Court to annull the EU-US Privacy Shield data transfer agreement. To date, more than 500 companies have signed up to Privacy Shield, including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. The court, which is the lower court of the European Court of Justice, is expected to take at least a year to rule on the case (Case T-670/16).


Google drops ban on personally identifiable web tracking


Pro Publica's Julia Angwin reports that Google has quietly dropped the ban on personally identifiable web tracking it adopted in 2007 when it acquired the advertising network DoubleClick. Users may opt out via their privacy settings, but by default Google now uses what it knows about them from Gmail and other services to customise the DoubleClick ads that follow them around the web. In this move, Google follows similar moves by other companies such as Facebook, erasing the industry's longstanding claim that web tracking is mostly anonymous. In a blog posting, Doc Searls issues a call to action to blow up the surveillance economy.

Pro Publica:


Facebook caught allowing advertisers to discriminate by race


Pro Publica's Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr report that a shopping exercise showed that Facebook's system allows advertisers to exclude black, Hispanic and other "ethnic affinities" from seeing their ads, a practice that is prohibited by federal US law in the areas of housing and employment. Facebook explained that "ethnic affinity" is not the same as race; it is assigned to members based on the pages and posts they have engaged with or liked.

Pro Publica:



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

Privacy for kids


In this booklet, which may be freely re-distributed, EDRi offers kids advice on protecting their privacy online. Written by an international group of NGOs that included Bits of Freedom, Open Rights Group, Digitale Gesellschaft, ApTI Romania, Mediamocracy, and many others, the booklet includes tips on safer messaging, smart phone and social media use, passwords, photo and video sharing, a list of privacy apps, and a brief guide to using the encrypted messaging service Signal. The booklet is written in English but the group is coordinating an effort to translate it into as many languages as possible.


The costs to nations of internet shutdowns


This report commissioned by the Global Network Initiative, prepared by Deloitte, and sponsored by Facebook, estimates the economic cost of government-mandated internet shutdowns at .4% to 1.9% of the country's GDP for each day on which all internet services are shut down depending on how connected the country is. The Brookings Institute has documented 81 such shutdowns in the year between July 2015 and June 2016. GNI estimates that the ongoing shutdown in Ethiopia is costing the country a little under US$500,000 a day in lost GDP.


Nepal: The state of open access


In this interview posted at the Open Knowledge Foundation, three leading advocates of open access in Nepal discuss their work. Jagadish Aryal outlines his work with libraries; Kshitiz Khanal talks about open science and research; and Roshan Kumar Karn explains the situation with respect to open access, open education, open data, and open repositories. Khanal notes that much of the potential of Nepalese students and academics is wasted because so few conduct research and publish papers.


US: Privacy protection for foreigners still limited


EFF examines Presidential Policy Directive 28, a document US President Barack Obama has used to claim that new rules extend to foreigners privacy protections previously reserved solely for American citizens. EFF concludes that the safeguards provided are inadequate, and that the directive has made no significant change to the actual surveillance the US conducts. The reality, EFF concludes, is that, "the US government's surveillance powers against foreigners is nearly absolute."


Using open data to change existing power dynamics


In this blog posting reviewing the recent International Open Data Conference, The Engine Room acting executive director Julia Keseru asks whether the community is doing its best to change existing power dynamics. To overcome the current disillusionment with the power of open data, she suggests that the focus needs to shift from opening data as an end in itself to open data as a tool for change. Projects need clear problem statements, accountability, and context.

Engine Room:

Understanding lone-actor terrorism


In this video of the third of the lunchtime briefings presented by the VOX-Pol project, "Understanding Lone-Actor Terrorism", UCL lecturer Paul Gill explores online radicalisation and its causes. Terrorist attacks are not always purely ideological in motivation and may take years to plan, which gives intelligence time to prevent them. Gill's extensive research finds underlying individual and organisational motivations that must be taken into account in devising policy. Extremist organisations have long advised lone actors that they will be most successful with small-scale attacks as these are more difficult to detect but individuals have been hard to motivate. This situation has changed with ISIS because the direct feed from social media to TV provides that missing motivation.





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

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.

Data Transparency Lab


November 16-19, 2016

New York, NY

This conference incorporates three colocated events. DTL will explore topics such as transparency, the ad blocking arms race, and privacy metrics. Fairness and Accountability in Machine Learning will bring together a growing community of researchers and practitioners. Finally, The Workshop on Data and Algorithmic Transparency will convene an emerging interdisciplinary community that seeks transparency and oversight of data-driven algorithmic systems through empirical research.

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.

Privacy Camp


January 24, 2017

Brussels, Belgium

Co-organised by EDRi, Privacy Salon, USL-B, and VUB-LSTS, the fifth annual Privacy Camp brings together civil society, policy makers, and academia to discuss existing and looming problems for human rights in the digital environment.

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.

TICTeC 2017


April 25-26, 2017

Florence, Italy

This will be the third mySociety conference on the impacts of civic technology.

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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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on November 4, 2016 2:40 PM.

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