News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 08 December 2017

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 08 December 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, Open Rights Group.

For breaking news stories, visit:

Indian telecommunications regulator seeks to protect network neutrality
At Access Now, policy director Raman Jit Singh Chima reports that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended adding strong regulatory clauses to the licenses of all providers authorized by the government of India to offer internet access that enshrine the principle of "non-discriminatory treatment of content". TRAI has also proposed the clarification in future regulatory action of implementation issues such as defining traffic management practices. It is now up to the Ministry of Communications to carry out the proposed licensing changes. Chima views the move as globally significant, since India is the world's largest democracy and the second-largest internet market. The Economic Times has a timeline of the network neutrality debate in India.
Access Now:
Economic Times:

Why the courts will have to save net neutrality
In the Guardian, Dominic Rushe reports that US Federal Communications chair Ajit Pai plans to dismantle network neutrality rules, originally created in 2005 and last updated in 2015 during the Obama administration. The FCC will vote on the proposals, which have sparked anger and protests among politicians, the public, and the tech community, on December 15. Also in the Guardian, Olivia Solon analyzes the controversy and profiles Pai. In a New York Times op-ed, Tim Wu argues that it is up to the courts to save the rules. The fact that these rules have not stopped the telecommunications companies they affect from making healthy profits for the last 12 years means, Wu says, that the FCC may have overplayed its hand. Pai will have to explain to a court why he wants to terminate policies that have been in place for so long and upon which the internet ecosystem relies extensively. In the past, the Supreme Court has ruled against such abrupt reversals based on ideology rather than a change in factual circumstances. Canadian law scholar Michael Geist has posted a (video) CBC interview in which he explains the impact on Canada of the FCC's proposed changes. Ensuring effective safeguards is, he says, if anything more important in Canada, and Canadian businesses may struggle to do business in the US if a two-tier internet becomes reality.
Guardian (Rushe):
Guardian (Solon):
New York Times:

UK and EU member states ignore Court of Justice data retention ruling
EDRi reports that despite the European Court of Justice judgment in December 2016 that voided EU member states' data retention rules and the 2014 Data Retention Directive on which they are based, documents made publicly available via Statewatch reveal that EU countries are exploring all possible options to keep and expand their current data retention regimes. They are basing this on the new concept of "restricted data retention", which EDRi argues is merely a new name for the same old blanket data retention. In the UK, the Open Rights Group reports that the British Home Office has conceded that independent authorization is needed for law enforcement communications data requests, although it has refused to alter its position on many other aspects of the Investigatory Powers Act, including data retention.

China: Report finds serious shortage of artificial intelligence leaders
At the South China Morning Post, Celia Chen writes that a report released Friday by Tencent Research Institute and recruitment portal shows that China has a serious shortage of the qualified people it needs to achieve its ambitions to lead the world in artificial intelligence. Overall, the report finds that the global AI talent pool comprises about 300,000 people while the numbers needed are in the millions. Fewer than 1,000 people are considered capable of leading AI research and development, and the US leads the world in the quantity and the quality of AI personnel and the number of AI start-ups. At MIT Technology Review, Will Knight discusses a study that finds that despite public bedazzlement with media hype, AI has not progressed as far as we think. We are still a long way from artificial general intelligence; instead, we are in an "AI bubble".

Sri Lanka: Police blame social media for escalating Buddhist-Muslim violence
Global Voices reports that police are blaming, at least in part, the spread of false information on social media for escalating tensions between Sinhalese Buddhists and members of the minority Muslim community in southern Sri Lanka. More than 20 attacks on Muslims and Muslim-owned businesses have been recorded since April 2017, and although social media posters argue that the mainstream media is ignoring a very real conflict, misinformation remains a persistent problem.
Global Voices:

Europe's privacy regulators gang up on Uber
At Fortune, David Meyer reports that Europe's privacy regulators have formed a task force to deal with the Uber data breach that affected 57 million people worldwide. Because Uber's international headquarters are in Amsterdam, the Dutch data protection authority will take the lead, assisted by regulators from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK. Under the present EU Data Protection Directive, each country can apply its own maximum fine: £500,000 in the UK, €820,000 in the Netherlands, and potentially more than that in Italy, depending on how many Italians were affected.

Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity per year than Ireland
At the Guardian, Alex Hern reports that according to statistics from Digitconomist the bitcoin network, which verifies transactions made with the cryptocurrency, uses more electricity annually than the entire country of Ireland. Hern calculates that this means each bitcoin transaction uses almost enough electricity - 300KWh - to boil around 36,000 kettles full of water. By contrast, the data centers belonging to credit card giants such as Visa use 2% of the power for more than 500 times as many transactions. At Grist, Eric Hoithaus discusses the real-world costs of digital currencies in more detail. In a blog posting, Marc Bevand disputes the figures the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index is using to make these energy calculations.

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

BOAI: Leading the charge on open access publishing
In this Research Features interview, OSF senior program officer Melissa Hagemann talks about fiffteen years of the Budapest Open Access Initiative. The idea of "open access" began in 2000, when OSF founder George Soros challenged OSF's Science Journals Donation Program to find ways to get the content of scientific journals into the hands of academics in central and eastern Europe without having to pay the heavy shipping costs. She goes on to discuss open access models, the impact of open access on research, and the problem of research assessment for early career academics.
Research Features:

Study finds tagging fake news on Facebook doesn't work
In this posting at Politico, Jason Schwartz discusses a Yale University study that finds that fact-checking and tagging fake news on social media doesn't stop viewers from believing the stories. "Disputed" tags made participants a relatively insignificant 3.7 percentage points more likely to correctly judge a story as false, but the presence of flags on some stories meant that Trump supporters and young people were more likely to believe any story that wasn't flagged. Researchers David Rand and Gordon Pennycook say the results make it unclear whether there's any positive effect. Facebook questioned the study's methodology, since it was conducted via internet survey rather than on Facebook, and noted that fact-checking is only one part of the company's efforts to combat fake news, which include disrupting financial incentives for its producers. The company claims the amount of fake news appearing on its platform is shrinking.

US: Supreme Court to decide location data privacy case
In this blog posting for the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), Mana Azarmi analyzes the Carpenter v. United States case, which focuses on law enforcement access to location data and was heard by the US Supreme Court on November 29. The case revolves around whether law enforcement needs a warrant to access historical cell-site location information under the Fourth Amendment. Relatively few US jurisdictions require one, instead granting access based on the lower standard of a court order. As telecommunications companies highlight in their transparency reports, these requests are growing in number and scale. CDT argues that a warrant should be required. At The Verge, Shannon Liao gives the background of the Carpenter case and provides selected quotes from the hearing, in which the judges seemed sympathetic to requiring a warrant. In a podcast at Lawfare, Orin Kerr predicts that if the Supreme Court rules that a warrant is required, thousands of challenges to previously decided cases are likely to be brought, and the third-party doctrine that applies different privacy rules to metadata and content may have to change. At the Washington Post, Bruce Schneier discusses the practical implications of location tracking and how to protect yourself.
The Verge:
Washington Post:

Understanding differential privacy
In three blog postings, Access Now explains differential privacy, a relatively new technique on the verge of widespread adoption. Differential privacy preserves the privacy of people whose information is stored in a database while allowing the database to be queried and searched. The first posting explains the technique, which does not involve encryption but is a method for asking questions that adds some randomness so that individuals, particularly outliers, can't be identified. The second answers misconceptions about how this works. The third considers specific cases, such as Google's and Apple's use of the technique, and how to examine companies' practices to ensure they are not claiming more than they're delivering.
Access Now (1):
Access Now (2):
Access Now (3):

Libraries at WIPO: progress on action plan
In this blog posting at EIFL, EIFL copyright and libraries program manager Teresa Hackett reports on advocating for libraries at the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR/35), which met in mid-November. The meeting featured six professors, who jointly covered copyright issues such as limitations and exceptions, the digital environment, and artists' resale rights. Among other points, the professors noted that relatively few countries are taking on new areas of concern rather than addressing the same subject areas of the old legislation; discussed how WIPO might help in resolving some of the issues in education and copyright; and called for social legitimacy and common-sense copyright laws.


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

Internet Governance Forum
December 18-21, 2017
Geneva, Switzerland
The IGF facilitates a common understanding as to how internet opportunities can be maximized and addresses arising risks and challenges. The forum gives developing countries an equal opportunity with wealthier nations to engage in the debate on internet governance and facilitates their participation. Ultimately, the involvement of all stakeholders, from both developed and developing countries, is necessary for the future development of the internet. The IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group decided to retain the title "Shape your digital future!" for the 2017 meeting.

January 19-21, 2018
Washington, DC
ShmooCon is an annual east coast hacker convention offering three days of an interesting atmosphere for demonstrating technology exploitation, inventive software and hardware solutions, and open discussions of critical infosec issues. The first day is a single track of speed talks called One Track Mind. The next two days bring three tracks: Build It, Belay It, and Bring It On.

December 27-30, 2017
Leipzig, Germany
The Chaos Communication Congress is the Chaos Computer Club's (CCC) annual symposium and hacker party. During four days between Christmas and New Year's Eve, thousands of hackers, technology freaks, artists, and utopians get together in Leipzig to communicate, learn from each other, and party together. We focus on topics such as information technology, networks, digital security, making, and breaking. We engage in creative, skeptical discourse on the interaction between technology and society.

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.

Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency
February 23-24, 2018
New York, NY, USA
FAT* is an international and interdisciplinary peer-reviewed conference that seeks to publish and present work examining the fairness, accountability, and transparency of algorithmic systems. The FAT* conference solicits work from a wide variety of disciplines, including computer science, statistics, the humanities, and law. It intends to bring together the community that has grown through a number of workshops at other conferences.

March 10-15, 2018
San Juan, Puerto Rico
ICANN's Community Forum for 2018 will be focused on outreach, capacity building, and showcasing ICANN's work to a broader global audience.

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.

April 25, 2018
Winchester, UK
The fifth interdisciplinary Winchester conference on Trust, Risk, Information and the Law has as its overall theme "Public Law, Politics and the Constitution: A new battleground between the Law and Technology?"

Internet Freedom Forum
April 24-26, 2018
Abuja, Nigeria
The sixth edition of the Internet Freedom Forum will present a unique platform for discussions and engagement around current trends and emerging issues affecting internet freedom in Africa. Participants at IFF include civil society organizations, policy actors/makers, legal/policy experts, academics, advocates, tech enthusiasts, industry representatives and active citizens among others.

Open Knowledge Summit 2018
May 3-6, 2018
Thessaloniki, Greece
For 2018, the Open Knowledge Foundation has replaced the OKFestival with a summit intended to gather the Open Knowledge network to collaboratively build the future of the Open Knowledge Network. The format and programming will be developed as a collaboration between Open Knowledge International, Open Knowledge Greece, and all other groups in the network.

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
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.

August 9-12, 2018
Las Vegas, NV, USA
The heart of the DEF CON 26 theme is the concept of the counterfuture. The counterfuture is the open-source alternative to totalitarian dystopia; a world where we use tech and ingenuity for empowerment and connection rather than isolation and control.

International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners
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.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on December 10, 2017 7:17 PM.

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