News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 24 February 2017

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 24 February 2017
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: Citizen Lab, EDRi, EFF, La Quadrature du Net.

For breaking news stories, visit:

EU passes Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
The BBC reports that despite protests the European Parliament has passed the Canada-EU trade agreement CETA by 408 votes to 254. Some parts of the deal, such as tariff reduction, will now come into force; others, such as the court system for settling investor-state disputes, will require ratification by EU member states. Before the vote, La Quadrature du Net called on MEPs to dump the agreement because "it endangers our freedoms and fundamental rights".BBC:

US: Immigration proposes to search social media profiles
At Access Now, Drew Mitnick reports that US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has told members of the US Congress that the Trump administration is considering requiring visa applicants from the seven countries included in President Donald Trump's travel ban - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen - to disclose passwords for their social media accounts and personal devices as part of enhanced screening. Mitnick notes that the move would not only violate the human rights of the travelers, but also those of any friends and relatives in their social graph, and warns of potential security hazards such as continued monitoring via malware. EFF supplies additional background to the proposal and is collecting stories of experiences at the border. At the Freedom to Tinker blog, Dan Wallach suggests technical counter-measures.
Access Now:
Freedom to Tinker:

Facebook's AI searches images by their contents
At TechCrunch, John Mannes reports that Facebook's Lumos computer vision platform can search photographs using terms related to the objects appearing in them rather than via metadata tags users apply to the images when they're uploaded. The system is based on a deep neural network classifier that has been trained on tens of millions of the billions of images stored on the service. Mannes expects Facebook to expand Lumos to its growing store of videos, and to use it to improve its ad targeting and fight spam.

Germany: Telecommunications watchdog order My Friend Cayla dolls destroyed
The New York Times reports that the German Federal Network Agency, the country's telecommunications watchdog, has classified the "smart doll" My Friend Cayla as an "illegal espionage apparatus" and is encouraging parents to destroy or deactivate it. The concern is that it violates the law against manufacturing, selling, or possessing surveillance devices disguised as another object, and that hackers could exploit insecure Bluetooth connections to record private conversations. Mattel's competing Hello Barbie is not sold in Germany. The dolls are also controversial in the US, where EPIC has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and sparked a Congressional investigation, and in Norway, where last year the Norwegian Consumer Council found that the doll failed to safeguard basic consumer rights, security, and privacy.
NY Times:

Kenya, Mexico: Citizens suspect state manipulation on Twitter
Global Voices reports that both the Kenyan and Mexican governments are suspected of emulating China and Venezuela in using Twitter to try to change national opinion. In Kenya, public support for a nationwide strike by doctors protesting the government's failure to honor the collective bargaining agreement has been accompanied by social media messages using hashtags such as #greedydoctors. Local bloggers have found a strong correlation between the accounts posting these messages and those posting other professional-government messages. In Mexico, data scientists at the Jesuit University of Guadajara linked disruptions of public protests to accounts previously identified as bots or trolls that harassed journalists and social activists. For example, Twitter streams using the hashtag #gasolinazo to protest higher gasoline prices have been disrupted with others bearing the hashtag #SaqueaUnWalmart ("loot a Walmart") and false images of people rioting. Put together with other analyses by Citizen Lab, Global Voices believes these developments suggest an increasingly threatening environment for citizen advocates in Mexico.
Global Voices:

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

Minority languages and social media
In this posting at Global Voices, Derek Lackaff examines the difficulty of adapting computer systems for local and minority languages, focusing in particularly on Irish Gaelic but also touching on Icelandic, Frisian, and Lakota. The shift to mobile has made typing these languages more difficult due to changes in technology (predictive text, software keyboards), and the multicultural nature of social media audiences generally favors the use of majority languages. Lackaff argues that the pressures of globalization and assimilation are endangering linguistic and cultural diversity.
Global Voices:

Canada: Privacy in the age of Trump
In this video clip at TVO, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist discusses the consequences for Canadian privacy of recent US moves such as the executive order issued by President Donald Trump that rolled back protection for non-US citizens under the Privacy Act. Geist suggests that the country's long-standing commitment to human rights and the country's privacy laws may require the Canadian intelligence agencies to cease sharing data with their US counterparts. While noting the difficulties inherent in annoying the country's closest neighbor and largest trading partner, he urges the Canadian Privacy Commissioner to review the situation.

Theft: A History of Music
In this graphical book published by Duke University and available for free download as a PDF under a Creative Commons license, James Boyle, Jennifer Jenkins, and Keith Aoki tell an alternative history of the last 2,000 years of music by focusing on recurring attempts to restrict borrowing and cultural exchange. The authors identify a variety of reasons behind these restrictions as the technology of music changes.

Big data, elections, and Cambridge Analytica
In this Bloomberg column, mathematician Cathy O'Neil dissects claims that UK firm Cambridge Analytica's big data-fueled psychological analytics gave the winning side the edge in both the election of US President Donald Trump and the UK's vote to leave the EU - see, for example, Berit Anderson's discussion of the company's "automated propaganda" at Medium. Although O'Neil doubts that big data made the difference in Trump's case - not least because it's likely the Clinton campaign had more data - she notes the dangers inherent in the asymmetry of information represented by the new, highly-tailored generation of political ads. This has been a long-running theme for the Center for Digital Democracy, as in a recent blog posting, where CDD's Yewande Ogunkoya details the inner workings of the "commercial surveillance system". At Medium, Paul-Olivier Dehaye provides a quick guide to requesting your data from Cambridge Analytica.
Medium (Anderson):
Medium (Dehaye):

Scoping the algorithmic age
In this blog posting, primary researchers Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson summarize Pew Research Center's new report on algorithmic transparency "Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age". The researchers conducted a survey of 1,302 technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners, and government leaders, many of whom are quoted in the report. Seven consistent themes emerged: algorithms will continue to spread; there will be many benefits; the loss of human input is creating a flawed, logic-driven society; algorithm-driven systems are biased; algorithmic categorizations deepen divides; unemployment will rise; there is a growing need for algorithmic literacy, transparency, and oversight.

Estimating OER savings
In this blog posting, Open Oregon Educational Resources explains the thinking behind the commonly-used estimated savings from OER adoption of $100 per student. The article compares several approaches and studies, taking into account variations in textbook cost in different fields, differing levels of enrollment, and local bookstore prices.
Open Oregon:

Biopolitical art
In this posting at e-flux conversations, the artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg discusses her series of projects on mass biological surveillance. Stranger Visions explored what can be learned about individuals from the artifacts we shed; DNA Spoofing considers how to be anonymous in an era of genetic surveillance; Radical Love is about forced invisibility. Dewey-Hagborg concludes by arguing for "biopolitical art" that exposes and questions power structures.


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

Robots Exhibition
February 8 - September 13
London, UK
The Science Museum's 2017 robots exhibition includes robotic artifacts over five centuries, from a 16th century mechanized monk to the latest research developments. Focusing on why they exist rather than on how they work, the exhibition explores the ways robots mirror humanity and the insights they offer into our ambitions, desires and position in a rapidly changing world.

March 2, 2017
Washington, DC, USA
The sixth 3D printing policy event will feature a series of panels on 3D printing and the human body; extreme applications of 3D printing; women in the 3D printing industry; 3D printing and the future of education; and the maker movement in the new administration.

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.

Open Education Global 2017
March 8-10, 2017
Cape Town, South Africa
This year marks several important milestones in Open Education, including the 15-year anniversary of the term "Open Educational Resources" and the five-year anniversary of the Paris OER Declaration. For those who remember the start of the movement, this conference will provide the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on these and other achievements, reconnect with colleagues and friends, and learn about new ideas and initiatives.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival
March 6-June 18
London, UK; Chicago Illinois; Toronto, Canada; New York, NY
The 16 human rights documentaries included in this peripatetic festival highlight individuals and groups exhibiting courageous resilience in challenging times. Among the human rights topics represented are the integrity of the press; the experience of refugees seeking safety; and factory workers protesting chemical harms from their work in the Chinese electronics industry. Nicholas de Pencier's BLACK CODE, based on Ronald Deibert's book of the same name, follows members of Toronto-based Citizen Lab as they document civil society activism in Tibet, Syria, Brazil, and Pakistan.

17th TACD Multi-Stakeholder Forum
March 21, 2017
Washington, DC
This year's TACD Multi-stakeholder Forum, titled "A consumer agenda for transatlantic markets: safeguarding protections and making progress in times of political change", will bring together participants representing civil society, academics, researchers, as well government, legislators , regulatory authorities and business on both sides of the Atlantic to discuss a pro-consumer agenda for transatlantic markets.

March 21-22, 2017
Berlin, Germany
The 13th Berlin Open Access conference will provide a networking and reviewing opportunity in the context of the OA2020 initiative, a proposal for a large-scale transition to open access. Berlin 13 will aim to strengthen the international network and share experience of various stakeholder groups.

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.

We Robot
March 31-April 1, 2017
New Haven, Connecticut
The sixth annual We Robot will be held at Yale Law School and will focus on the coming legal and policy conflicts as robots and AI become part of daily life.

ILIDE 2017
April 3-5, 2017
Jasna, Slovakia
This year's Innovative Library in the Digital Era conference will discuss repositories and research data archiving, open science, digital humanities and digital scholarship.

OER 17
April 5-6, 2017
London, UK
This year's OER will present an opportunity for open practitioners, activists, educators, and policy makers to come together to reflect on 'The Politics of Open'. Up for discussion are questions such as: What are our current key challenges and strengths - locally, nationally, and internationally? What are our priorities - in terms of political governance, organisational and personal politics? What are the changes that we want to effect together? The conference will be chaired by social and educational technologist and Wikimedia UK Trustee Josie Fraser, and Alek Tarkowski, Director of Centrum Cyfrowe, co-founder and coordinator of Creative Commons Poland.

Personal Democracy Forum 2017
April 6-7
Gdansk, Poland
The 5th edition of Personal Democracy Forum will serve as a platform for exchanging ideas and experiences for people using new technologies to work for civic participation and transparency in public life in Central and Eastern Europe.

TICTeC 2017
April 25-26, 2017
Florence, Italy
This will be the third mySociety conference on the impacts of civic technology.

2017 IFLA International News Media Conference
April 27-28, 2017
Reykjavik, Iceland
This conference will examine issues and challenges in collecting and preserving the news and making it available to users. Do access and preservation have different prerequisites? In addition, the conference will explore how news media is used and transformed by researchers and the public. Can we recognize variable user needs? Do we offer the most suitable APIs?

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.

IFLA MetLib 2017
April 30-May 5, 2017
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The 2017 programme theme is "Partnerships: Creating a new vision for libraries". Among the subthemes will be discussions of how and why to use, form, and manage partnerships, management tools, and best practices.

May 13, 2017
London, UK
OpenTech 2017 is an informal, low cost, one-day conference on slightly different approaches to technology, experience and democracy. Talks by people who work on things that matter guarantees a day of thoughtful talks leading to conversations with friends.

4th Africa Library Summit and 2nd AfLIA conference
May 14-20, 2017
Yaounde, Cameroon
Moved from Ethiopia to the site of the second bidder due to safety concerns, this conference co-locates the fourth Africa Library Sumit and the second African Library and Information Associations and Institutions conference.

Citizen Science Conference 2017
May 17-20, 2017
St Paul, Minnesota
The biennial citizen science conference brings together a diverse group of researchers, practitioners, community organizations, and participants.

IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy
May 22-24, 2017
San Jose, California
The 38th annual meeting will present developments in computer security and electronic privacy, and for bringing together researchers and practitioners in the field.

Workshop on Technology and Consumer Protection
May 22-24, 2017
San Jose, California
Co-hosted with the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, ConPro will explore computer science topics with an impact on consumers. This workshop has a strong security and privacy slant, with an overall focus on ways in which computer science can prevent, detect, or address the potential for technology to deceive or unfairly harm consumers.

Privacy Law Scholars
June 1-2
Berkeley, California
The tenth annual Privacy Law Scholars workshop will assemble a wide array of privacy law scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss papers in progress. Scholars from many disciplines, including psychology, economics, sociology, philosophy, political science, computer science, and mathematics also participate.

Next Library Festival 2017
June 11-14, 2017
Aarhus, Denmark
Next Library 2017 will offer a "patchwork" of co-learning, co-creative, participatory, engaging, pluralistic and interactive meetings, and lots of parallel sessions, keynote speakers, wildcard sessions, demos/exhibitions, gaming, Networking Dinner Party, Get2Gether, Social un-conferences, alternative events and surprises.

CERN Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication
June 21-23, 2017
Geneva, Switzerland
The organizers of the biennial CERN Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication - OAI10 - include representatives from the Open Society Foundations, SPARC, PloS, CERN, UCL, and other academic institutions..

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.

Summer courses on privacy and international copyright laws
July 3-7, 2017
Amsterdam, Netherlands
These courses, run by the Institute for Information Law, are intensive post-graduate courses aimed to help professionals stay abreast of changing rules. The first, on privacy law and policy, focuses on recent developments in EU and US privacy law relating to the internet and online media. The second, on international copyright law, comprises nine seminars, each focused on one specific copyright issue.

IFLA World Libraries and Information Congress
August 19-25, 2017
Wroclaw, Poland
The theme of the 83rd annual IFLA congress will be "Achieving a healthy future together: diverse and emerging roles for health information professionals".

Privacy + Security Forum
October 4-6, 2017
Washington, DC
The conference breaks down the silos of security and privacy by bringing together leaders from both fields.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on February 24, 2017 7:56 PM.

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