News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 October 2017

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 October 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: EDRi, EFF, La Quadrature du Net.

Job postings
The Digital Freedom Fund is looking for a Program Officer to help support its partners in bringing about change through strategic litigation.

For breaking news stories, visit:

US: Test of police body cameras finds little impact
At the New York Times, Amanda Ripley reports that the largest, most rigorous study of police body cameras has found that the cameras have no effect on the rate of civilian complaints, use of force, or charging decisions. The seven-month study, led by David Yokum at the Lab @ DC, and Anita Ravishankar at the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department, found the effects were too small to be statistically significant; why is not clear. The high financial and privacy costs of police body cameras mean the study may inspire a rethink. The most commonly-cited previous study, in 2012 in Rialto, California, found that shifts with body-worn cameras had half the use-of-force incidents. It led to widespread adoption even though it was a short-term study including only 54 officers. At the ACLU, Jay Stanley discusses the likely limitations of a new trend: gun-mounted cameras that are activated when a gun is drawn from its holster.
NY Times:

EU: European Parliament endorses privacy rights
EDRi reports that the European Parliament has supported the mandate for trilogues on the ePrivacy Regulation and endorsed privacy rights 318 to 280, with 18 abstentions. The vote followed the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE)'s vote for "clear, privacy-friendly rules" after considering the proposed e-Privacy Regulation. The legislation, which follows the 2016 adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation, is intended to protect internet and mobile phone users from tracking, monitoring, and profiling. The next stage will be negotiations with the EU member states in the Council. La Quadrature du Net highlights two weaknesses of the draft Regulation: allowing websites to track users without their consent for audience measuring purposes; and allowing companies to track devices in public spaces without our consent.
EDRi on Twitter:

US: California creates firewall limiting federal access to state data
The EFF reports that California governor Jerry Brown has signed into law S.B. 31, a bill creating a firewall between the state's data and any attempt by the US federal government to create lists, registries, or databases based on a person's religion, nationality, or ethnicity. Police authorities are also prohibited from investigating or enforcing a requirement to register with such a registry.

Italy: School program teaches how to recognize fake news
At the New York Times, Jason Horowitz reports on a project led by Laura Boldrini, the president of Italy's Chamber of Deputies, to educate secondary school students on how to recognize fake news and conspiracy theories online. In an experiment using work sheets prepared by the national broadcaster, RAL, students are being taught to verify stories. As the early 2018 Italian election approaches, conspiracy theories are spreading through the country against a background of spreading economic problems, partisan media, a migrant crisis, and an increasing distrust of traditional authorities.
NY Times:

Norwegian Consumer Council finds security issues in children's smartwatches
At the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue website, Finn Myrstad, director of digital policy at the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC), reports that the NCC has found critical security flaws in smartwatches for children. The technical tests found security flaws in three of the four watches/apps; several transmit data to servers in the US and East Asia, often in plain text. The tests also found that some of the advertised safety features, such as a panic button, were unreliable and that the user terms are inadequate and unclear.

US: Congress investigates Russian election interference
The Guardian reports that the US Senate and House intelligence committees have summoned representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google to appear on November 1 as part of their investigation into the extent to which these companies were used in a Russian effort to sway the 2016 presidential election. Meduza summarizes (in English) a detailed Russian report on the Russian troll farm the Internet Research Agency, which spent nearly $80,000 over two years to hire American activists to stage 40 rallies in different American cities in order to incite animosity over hot-button issues. The Guardian publishes the stories of some of the tricked demonstrators, who say their activism is real, though they display varying reactions to learning the source of their funding. CNN reports that among the many platforms used to spread the IRA's "Don't Shoot Us" campaign, which purported to support Black Lives Matter, were Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pokémon Go.
Guardian (committees):
Guardian (activists):

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

China: Big data meets Big Brother in new citizen rating system
In this Wired article, Rachel Bostman studies China's plans to issue each of the country's citizens with a "social credit score"; the system is currently voluntary but will become mandatory in 2020. The government has licensed eight companies to devise systems and algorithms. The two best-known projects, China Rapid Finance and Sesame Credit, include among their partners data giants such as WeChat owner Tencent and the Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services Group, which owns AliPay. The article goes on to discuss how individuals are scored and why they sign up for such a privacy-invasive system. The government, Bostman writes, is attempting to make obedience feel like gaming.

Regulating artificial intelligence
In this report from AI Now, authors Alex Campolo, Madelyn Sanfilippo, Meredith Whittaker, and Kate Crawford explain the state of the art of artificial intelligence, discuss the controversies it raises, and make ten recommendations for its deployment. Among them: high-stakes public agencies should drop "black box" AI and algorithmic systems; companies should rigorously pre-test such systems for biases and errors; standards should be developed for tracking datasets throughout their life cycle; the AI industry should recruit experts from a wide array of disciplines outside computer science and engineering. By contrast, Wired UK reports that a report commissioned by the UK government has recommended the creation of an AI council to oversee the industry but that there should be no direct regulation.
AI Now (PDF):

Google Urbanism: a takeover in all but name
In this Guardian article, Evgeny Morozov fears the Google Urbanism project will turn cities into privately-run digital platform and buying their way in with promises of "cool" services and efficiency but profiting by extracting the resulting data. Google Urbanism, he writes, means the end of politics: "Alphabet's democratization of function will not be matched by the democratization of control and ownership of urban resources". In this dystopian future, market demand will replace communal decision-making. Also at the Guardian, Jathan Sadowski argues that the waterfront redevelopment partnership between the city of Toronto and Google's Sidewalk Labs, like other such initiatives, risks creating a template for bypassing democratic leadership.
Guardian (Morozov):
Guardian (Sadowski):

Can you make a living as an Uber driver?
In this web-based game at the Financial Times based on the newspaper's reporting and interviews with dozens of drivers, players attempt to earn enough to make a $1,000 mortgage payment while working as a full-time Uber driver with two kids to support. As you go, the game asks you to make strategy decisions that expose the perverse incentives on issues such as whether to get a business license and how you want to handle passengers, mishaps, and illegal requests. Even at the easiest setting, it seems impossible to win. Hint: when your windscreen gets chipped, fix it promptly.

Intellectual property for the 21st-century economy
In this posting at Project Syndicate, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Dean Baker, and Arjun Jayadev discuss efforts by developing countries such as South Africa, India, and Brazil to push back against the intellectual property regime that has been forced upon them over the last 30 years. South Africa is finalizing an IP policy that should widen access to medicines; a 2005 law in India created a mechanism to add balance and fairness to patenting standards; and Brazil negotiated lower drug prices to enable early treatment of HIV/AIDS. The authors go on to discuss their new paper arguing that the economic institutions and laws protecting knowledge in advanced economies are poorly suited for governing global economic activity or meeting the needs of developing countries and emerging markets. Knowledge, they write, is a global public good; the current IP regime is not sustainable.
Project Syndicate:

The rise of authoritarian cryptocurrencies
In this article at Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky discusses the prospects of authoritarian cryptocurrencies, a new way for Russia and China to control their financial systems. In Russia, the pro-government newspaper Argumenti I Fakti reported that President Vladimir Putin is proposing a near-term launch of a closed crypto-ruble, and Yao Qian, deputy director of the People's Bank of China's technology division, has suggested a central bank-issued electronic currency for which commercial banks would administer wallets. The idea is directly opposed to the original libertarian idea behind bitcoin of a decentralized currency that could not be controlled by any government; China's and Russia's goals are likely to be improving the cost and speed of financial transactions.

The war to sell mattresses over the internet
In this lengthy article at Fast Company, David Zax investigates the background of a 2016 lawsuit brought by the mattress manufacturer Casper against Sleepopolis, the largest of an ecosystem of mattress review sites, which makes millions of dollars through affiliate marketing. Casper alleged false advertising and deceptive practices. The case ended with a settlement and a sale in which Casper provided financing for a takeover of Sleepopolis. The story illustrates the many hidden ways of gaming apparently independent reviews and coupon deals in niches where no one would imagine that millions of dollars were at stake and where consumers unwisely trust what they see.
Fast Company:


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

Mozfest 2017
October 27-29, 2017
London, UK
The world's leading festival for the open internet movement will feature influential thinkers from around the world to build, debate, and explore the future of a healthy internet.

ORGcon 2017
November 4-5, 2017
London, UK
ORGCon is the UK's biggest digital rights conference. This year's theme is: The Digital Fightback.

OpenCon 2017
November 11-13, 2017
Berlin, Germany
OpenCon is the conference and community for students and early career academic professionals interested in advancing Open Access, Open Education and Open Data. Applications to attend are due by August 1.

After the Digital Tornado
November 17-18
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Twenty years since the policy-makers and academics began wrestling with the implications of the internet, fundamental questions remain unresolved, and even more serious new questions have emerged. Today, networks powered by algorithms are eating everything. At this major academic conference hosted by the Wharton School, an interdisciplinary group of leading scholars will consider the deep questions posed for business and society. Registration is free, but space is limited.

Privacy Camp
January 23, 2018
Brussels, Belgium
Privacy Camp brings together civil society, policy-makers and academia to discuss existing and looming problems for human rights in the digital environment. In the face of a "shrinking civic space" for collective action, the event aims to provide a platform for actors from across these domains to discuss and develop shared principles to address key challenges for digital rights and freedoms of individuals. The theme for 2018 is "speech, settings and [in]security by design".

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 24-26, 2018
Brussels, Belgium
The theme of the 11th edition of CPDP is the "Internet of Bodies". Data collection increasingly focuses on the physical body. Bodies are increasingly connected, digitized, and informatized. In turn, the data extracted is reassembled in ways that give rise to significant questions - challenging fundamental assumptions about where the corporeal ends and the informational begins. Biometrics, genetic data processing and the quantified self are only some of the trends and technologies reaching into the depths of our bodies. Emerging technologies such as human enhancement, neural implants, and brain wave technology look likely to soon become a daily reality.

We Robot 2018
April 12-14, 2018
Palo Alto, California, USA
This conference is the annual gathering of academics, policy makers, roboticists, economists, ethicists, entrepreneurs, and lawyers who care about robots and the future of robot law and policy. We Robot fosters conversations between the people designing, building, and deploying robots, and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots operate.

OKFestival 2018
May 3-6, 2018
Thessaloniki, Greece
The Open Knowledge Festival (OKFestival) is the biggest gathering of the open knowledge community and will bring together over 1,000 people from around the world to share their skills and experiences; encouraging them to work together to build the very tools and partnerships that will further the power of openness as a positive force for change.

May 16-18, 2018
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
RightsCon has become one of the world's largest gatherings on human rights and technology, and it's people like you that make it an engine for change. The 2018 event is staged in Canada for a conversation built on the principles of diversity, inclusion, and respect.

Workshop on Technology and Consumer Protection
May 24, 2018
San Francisco, CA, USA
ConPro #18 will explore computer science topics with an impact on consumers. This workshop has a strong security and privacy emphasis, 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. Participants will consist heavily of academic and industry researchers but are also expected to include researchers from the Federal Trade Commission - the U.S. government's primary consumer protection body - and other government agencies with a consumer protection mission.

Privacy Law Scholars
May 30-31
Washington, DC, USA
PLSC is a paper workshop with the goal of improving and providing support for in-progress scholarship. To achieve this, PLSC assembles a wide array of privacy law scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss the papers. Scholars from many disciplines (psychology/economics, sociology, philosophy, political science, computer science, and even math) also participate.

LIBER Annual Conference 2018
July 4-6, 2018
Lille, France
The 47th annual conference of the Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER) will include plenary sessions with top international speakers, presentations on current research, posters, and an exhibition of products and services for the library sector, as well as a comprehensive social programme.

International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners 2018
October 22-26, 2018
Brussels, Belgium
The 40th version of this event will be hosted by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Giovanni Buttarelli and the chair of the Commission for Personal Data Protection of the Republic of Bulgaria, Ventsislav Karadjov. The conference is expected to focus on the recently launched international debate on the ethical dimension of data protection in the digital era. Accompanying conference events will also take place in Bulgaria.


Hear more from the Information Program!
If you want to hear more from the Information Program team each week, consider subscribing to our shared bookmarks on delicious using this RSS feed:

You can also read more about our work on the Open Society Foundations website:

Hear less from the Information Program!
If you wish to unsubscribe from this weekly digest, please send an email with the subject line "Unsubscribe" to

This digest operates under the OSF privacy policy:

Additionally, it uses the URL shortening service, which operates under the following privacy policy:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Open Society Foundation, part of the Open Society Foundations, is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (company number 4571628) and a registered charity (charity number 1105069). Its registered office address is 7th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

This e-mail and all attachments are confidential and may also be privileged and subject to copyright. If you are not the named recipient, please notify the sender and delete the e-mail and all attachments immediately. Do not disclose the contents to another person. You may not use the information for any purpose, or store, or copy it in any way - unless we tell you that you can. The Open Society Foundations are not liable for any computer viruses or other material transmitted with or as part of this e-mail. You should employ virus checking software.

Open Society Foundation London, part of the Open Society Foundations, is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (company number 10187396). Its registered office address is 7th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 October 2017.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on October 28, 2017 6:44 PM.

Research Digest • Open Society Information Program • 13 October 2017 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 10 November 2017 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.