News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 11 November 2016

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 11 November 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:

US elects Donald Trump as 45th president
In the wake of Donald Trump's election as US president, the Guardian reports that Facebook is being accused of spreading misinformation and "fake news". Two weeks ago, the New York Times critiqued the methods used by the USC/LA Times poll to explain why two unusual weightings made it the only outlier that consistently predicted Trump's victory. CS Monitor summarises what's known about the president-elect's likely cyber security policies. EFF blogs that Trump's victory ends all chance of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but warns that other countries are still passing the necessary supporting legislation, and therefore the impact of the copyright provisions will remain. At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald writes angrily about the failure of Western institutions and elites to take seriously the suffering of those left out of their comfort zone.
NY Times:
CS Monitor:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg under investigation in Germany
Reuters reports that Munich prosecutors are investigating Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives over a complaint that Facebook has failed to remove 438 hate speech and seditious postings that are contrary to German law. Similar charges have already been dismissed by the Hamburg court, but Bavaria may take a different view.

UAE surveillance contractor recruits hackers
BoingBoing reports that the UAE-based company DarkMatter, which describes itself as a major state security contractor, has been bombarding sophisticated security experts with recruitment emails. Near-hires say the job is weaponising zero-day vulnerabilities so the UAE can carry out fine-grained surveillance against its citizens. DarkMatter, which has poached staff from companies like Google, Qualcomm, McAfee, and encrypted messaging service Wickr, denies the claims. BoingBoing notes that DarkMatter is believed to have hired the team that carried out the Stealth Falcon attack on journalists.

UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal challenged in European Court of Justice
Human Rights Watch reports that it and six individuals have taken a challenge to the European Court of Justice to demand that the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal confirm whether or not the individuals were subject to surveillance by GCHQ, as well as whether the surveillance was lawful. The case is based on claims filed with the tribunal in 2015; in that case, the tribunal dismissed the claims of individuals not resident in the UK and issued a "no determination" ruling for the rest. Meanwhile, The Register reports that the Investigatory Powers Bill has completed its passage through Parliament but Royal Assent is being delayed for a week. At issue is an amendment that would force press to join the government-approved regulator created after the phone hacking scandals.

Iceland: Pirate Party wins ten parliamentary seats
The New York Times reports that Iceland's Pirate Party came in second in the country's October 30 general election, giving it ten parliamentary seats out of 63. The Register adds that the Pirate Party has, however, rejected the offer of a seat in the coalition government the conservative Independent Party will now form, saying it is "looking to make a change, not to gain power".
NY Times:

CJEU rules that IP addresses can be personal data
Ars Technica reports that the European Court of Justice has ruled that dynamic IP addresses - that is, Internet Protocol addresses assigned temporarily, for example by a mobile network operator - can be personal data. German Pirate Party politician Patrick Breyer had brought an action asking the courts to issue an injunction preventing websites from collecting and storing his dynamic IP address so that German authorities could not build up a picture of his interests. CJEU ruled that such IP addresses could be personal data if the website in question had additional information that allowed it to identify individuals. In its blog, the Bird & Bird legal firm discusses the judgment in detail, and says the ruling may have substantial impact on analytics and other standard industry practices.
Ars Technica:

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

Brazil: The battle for encryption
In this posting, Privacy International discusses the situation regarding encryption in Brazil, where WhatsApp has been asked to disable its encryption to aid criminal investigations even though no law limits the use of encryption. The core of the investigations is being kept secret; however, draft bills legalising blocking applications such as frequent target WhatsApp are under debate in the National Congress.

The internet is loosening our grip on the truth
In this New York Times article, Farhad Manjoo argues that the internet is loosening our grip on the truth, using the just-concluded "fact-free" US presidential election as Exhibit A. Manjoo weighs studies of the internet's echo chamber effect, and finds that even documentary proof is losing its power to persuade, while lies have become institutionalised despite the rise of a mass of fact-checking sites. Manjoo does not consider the wider influence of partisan mass media.
NY Times:

Principles for countering violent extremism online
In this blog posting, Access Now introduces a policy guide for proposals to prevent or counter violent extremism online. Such proposals are "a minefield for human rights", and risk blocking satire, political protest, journalism, and community activism; they also risk undermining existing law protecting freedom of expression and privacy. The guide offers principles and recommendations.
Access Now:

The future of open education
In this blog posting at the E-Learn blog, Willem van Valkenburg discusses the future of open education, comparing and contrasting US and European strategies. The US has converged on Open Textbooks, while Europe has diverged in the direction of open science, which van Valkenburg describes as a much broader process of opening up universities. He suggests that the US strategy will have the bigger short-term impact but that over the longer term Open Science will have a much broader impact on society.

How open data won the Leave campaign
In this BBC news report, Laura Kuenssberg looks back at Britain's Leave campaign and discovers that Vote Leave hired physicists, data experts, and digital specialists to build its own tools in order to mine publicly available data in new and sophisticated ways. The resulting Voter Information Collection System was able to pinpoint exactly which doors to knock on, tightly focussing the online Leave campaign and "win the data war" that most in Westminster had no idea was underway.

How the web became unreadable
In this posting at Medium, MicroFormats co-founder Kevin Marks analyses the rise across the web of skinny, grey, low-contrast type that is unreadable to most people. Marks explains contrast ratios and traces the fad to the Typography Handbook and other design advice which promote the view that too much contrast induces eyestrain. In a new large-scale usability study, Nielsen-Norman Group finds that the usability errors they first identified in 1996 continue in 2016 to frustrate users.


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

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 15, 2016 8:47 PM.

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