News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 23 March 2018

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 23 March 2018


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.



Applications for Civil Society Scholarships are now open for the International Copyright Law Summer Course and the Privacy Law and Policy Summer Course organised by the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The course will take place from 2-6 July 2018 in Amsterdam. The scholarships are supported by the Open Society Foundations.




For breaking news stories, visit:


Facebook suspends Cambridge Analytica after hack of 50 million profiles


At the Guardian Observer, in a joint investigation with the New York Times, Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison report that 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested for Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica's account, pending further information about this misuse. Separately, the writers examine, with help from Canadian whistleblower Christopher Wylie, the workings of the algorithm used to trawl intimately through personal data. Cadwalladr also interviews Wylie about how the algorithm was developed and how it works. In a follow-up, Cadwalladr and Graham-Harrison report that the head of the UK parliamentary committee investigating fake news has accused Cambridge Analytica and Facebook of misleading MPs in their testimony and is calling for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify in person. At the Guardian Paul Lewis interviews former Facebook insider Sandy Parakilas and learns that hundreds of millions of Facebook users have probably had their private information harvested by other companies using the same techniques while the company failed to enforce its terms and conditions or audit how the data was used. In an undercover investigation using secret cameras, Channel 4 News caught Cambridge Analytica's suspended CEO, Alexander Nix, claiming to have run "all" of Donald Trump's digital campaign, while other staffers claimed responsibility for untraceably propagating "defeat crooked Hillary" advertising, possibly breaking the law in the process.  Finally, Crowd Justice reports that it has won its UK case in which New School professor David Carroll sought to compel Cambridge Analytica and SCI Elections to provide him with his complete data profile under section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998.


New York Times:

Guardian (Wylie):

Guardian (algorithm):

Guardian (MPs):

Guardian (Parakilas):
Channel 4:
Crowd Justice:

Indonesia: Police uncover fake news operation


At the Guardian, Kate Lamb reports that police in Indonesia have arrested a network of 14 people suspected of spreading fake news and hate speech in order to corrupt the political process and destabilize the government. According to police, the network was coordinated via a WhatsApp group called the Family MCA. Indonesia is among the top five biggest global users of Facebook and Twitter, and its Muslim Cyber Army uses fake accounts, lies, bots, and automated accounts. The group is expected to "weaponize" social media for the 2019 election.



China to bar people with bad "social credit" from planes and trains


Reuters reports that China has said it will begin barring people with bad "social credit" from planes and trains. The people to be placed on the list of restricted travelers will include those found to have spread false information about terrorism, caused trouble on flights, or, on trains, used expired tickets or smoked, as well as those who have committed a variety of financial misdeeds.



US: Congress considers bilateral information-sharing with other countries


At FCW Derek B. Johnson reports that the US Congress has introduced the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, which would allow the government to enter into bilateral information-sharing agreements with other countries. The bill would clarify the jurisdictional issues under consideration by the Supreme Court in Microsoft v. United States, which tests whether geographical and territorial considerations limit the government's ability to compel the production of data under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Johnson reports that the proposed bill draws divided reactions from industry and civil society. At EFF, Camille Fischer argues that it represents a dangerous expansion of US police powers, allowing them to override other countries' privacy laws. The ACLU's Neema Singh Guliani agrees, saying the bill lets the US executive branch bypass Congressional oversight in creating these agreements. At Lawfare, Jennifer Daskal and Peter Swire dissent; they believe the bill would improve privacy and civil liberties protections by updating the slow process of Mutual Legal Assistance and creating a mechanism for the US government to review what other countries do with the data they receive from the US.





Egyptian minister announces national Facebook-like platform


Egyptian Streets reports that the Egyptian minister of communications and information technology, Yasser el-Kady, has announced that the country will soon have its own Facebook-like platform, as well as other applications and programs that he claims will protect citizens' data and help protect national security. The country has also drafted a cybercrime bill, now approved by the cabinet and referred to the parliament for discussion; opponents claim it will give the state greater ability to control and monitor social media accounts. Finally, the article cites a study by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression that finds that Egypt is blocking 429 websites from news and human rights organizations, as well as VPNs.

Egyptian Streets:


Tim Berners-Lee calls for regulation


At the Guardian, Olivia Solon reports that web inventor Tim Berners-Lee has published an open letter to mark the web's 29th anniversary, in which he calls for the large technology firms to be regulated in order to prevent their concentration of power from weaponizing the web at scale. He adds, "I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfill our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions."






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


The intellectual properties of learning


In this article at Poynder, Richard Poynder reviews John Willinsky's new book on open access and interviews the author. Placing open access within the larger historical context of scholarship, the push-pull between access and intellectual property rights runs all the way back to the earliest days of Western learning. However, Poynder argues, the open access movement has paid insufficient attention to supporting researchers.

Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency in Machine Learning


In these videos, speakers at the Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAT*) conference consider gender stereotyping, ethics, and automation, among other topics. Of particular note is Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney's keynote, "Saving Humanity", in which she discusses the "technocracy" we live in and her study of racial bias in contextual advertising, and MIT Media Lab head of social innovation Chelsea Barabas's talk about her work studying how pre-trial risk assessment algorithms work and why they're ill-equipped to help judges decide which measures to choose.


The globalization of countering violent extremism policies


In this report, the Transnational Institute studies Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policies around the world and concludes that these policies, which were pioneered in a small number of Western countries, have spread widely through the international groupings of the EU, the UN, and the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF). The report applies 12 tests of legitimacy and effectiveness to these policies, and finds that they are being implemented outside of formal democratic scrutiny or the input of public debates. The report warns that the use of "soft law" without definitional clarity means that the tools CVE policies create foster political policing and abuse.



What Airbnb did to New York City


In this article at CityLab, Alastair Boone examines studies of the company's operations in New York City and concludes that Airbnb critics are correct when they claim that the service causes rents to rise and reduces available housing. As the service has become more the purview of commercial operators than of students with a spare air mattress, it has also "supercharged" gentrification. What has happened in New York is likely to be repeated in other cities.

Building a record of data harms


In this document at Data Justice Lab, Joanna Redden and Jessica Brand attempt to compile examples of "data harms", which privacy advocates often struggle to identify. Redden and Brand explore a number of categories of personal, political, government exploitation, and algorithmic bias that are based on the exploitation of data. The authors intend to maintain this as a running record and are actively soliciting further cases to add.
Data Justice Lab:
The age of reputation


In this article at Aeon, Italian philosopher Gloria Origgi argues that reputation is more important in determining the truth of claims than fact-checking. In the paradigm shift from the age of information to the age of reputation, we should foster competence in reconstructing the reputational path of pieces of information by evaluating the intentions of those who circulate it and identifying the agendas of the authorities that it relies on for credibility.



India: Deep class divides follow youth online


In this article at Quartz, Maria Thomas profiles the interactive website Life in a Metro, intended to convey the struggles India's youth face online because of the country's extreme class divide. The top 1% of the country's population controls over 20% of its wealth. The site follows a day in the life of a lower middle-class college student in Pune who struggles to find affordable access. Designed by King's College London PhD student Rahul Advani, the site is based on his research, which includes interviews with 300 college students and several months studying the lives of ten of them more closely. Millions of lower-class Indians have adapted to the limitations of slow speed and intermittent access; the result is that they use the internet very differently from their wealthier counterparts. The internet, he concludes, is highlighting offline inequality.





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


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?"


Tomorrow's Transactions Forum


April 24-25, 2018

London, UK

The 21st edition of Tomorrow's Transactions will provide an opportunity to look back at the lessons that have been learned across the past decades and cast an eye toward the future to ask, where will technology and regulation, take our world of transactions? For 2018, topics will include AI, futures, open banking, and conversational and contextual commerce.


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.


Personal Democracy Forum Central-Eastern Europe


April 26-17

Gdansk, Poland

The sixth edition of the Personal Democracy Forum Central-Eastern Europe will include two days of keynote speeches, practical workshops, networking sessions, and many satellite events. Personal Democracy Forum CEE is a platform for exchanging ideas and experience for those working for civic participation and transparency in public life with the help of new technologies in Central and Eastern Europe. Launched in Poland in 2013, it is a regional branch of New York City PDF organized by Civic Hall (earlier Personal Democracy Media) since 2004.


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.


Internet Shutdowns in Africa Workshop


June 7-8, 2018

Johannesburg, South Africa

Internet shutdowns in Africa doubled between 2015 and 2016, affecting citizens in 11 countries on the continent. While the number declined slightly in 2017, governments that resorted to disrupting the internet did so more frequently and for longer periods. The justifications are diverse, from anti-government protests to Cameroon, to exam cheating in Ethiopia, concerns about election-related violence in Uganda, and quelling social unrest in Zimbabwe. This two-day conference is aimed at sparking in-depth and productive conversations about this issue. It is organized by the ERC-funded ConflictNet programme at the University of Oxford's Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, the CSLS, the Bonavero Institute for Human Rights, and the Department of Journalism, Film and Television at the University of Johannesburg's School of Communication.


Personal Democracy Forum


June 7-8, 2018

New York, NY, USA

Since 2004, Personal Democracy Forum ("PDF") has been the go-to place to tap into a community that believes in the power of technology to change politics and governance for the better.  This year's PDF, the 15th, will focus on meaningful collaboration, action, and participatory learning. Our number one goal is to plug attendees into the process of change-making. This year's theme, How We Make Good, will focus on how we turn our commitments - to democracy and ensuring that tech works for the public good - into concrete action.


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.


The Circle of HOPE


July 20-22, 2018

New York, NY, USA

Organized by 2600 Magazine, the 12th biennial Hackers on Planet Earth conference celebrates the hacker spirit. Talks typically feature new ways of examining and dissecting technology to reveal inconvenient truths.




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.


VOX-Pol Third Biennial Conference


August 20-21, 2018

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The VOX-Pol Network of Excellence (NoE) is a European Union Framework Programme 7 (FP7)-funded academic research network focused on researching the prevalence, contours, functions, and impacts of Violent Online Political Extremism and responses to it.c


World Library and Information Congress


August 24-30, 2018

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The 84th edition of the World Library and Information Congress has the theme, "Transform Libraries, Transform Societies" with the additional tagline, "Reaching out to the hard to reach", which was chosen in recognition of the critical role played by libraries in the development of a nation, particularly in their ability to transform societies.


SciELO 20 Years Conference


September 26-28, 2018

São Paulo, Brazil

In 2018, the SciELO Program will celebrate 20 years of operation, in full alignment with the advances of open science. The conference will address and debate the main political, methodological, and technological issues and trends that define today's state of the art in scholarly communication. These issues will also be shaping the future of the universal openness of scholarly publishing and its relationship with today's Open Access journals, in particular those of the SciELO Network.


Amsterdam Privacy Conference


October 5-9, 2018

Amsterdam, Netherlands

APC 2018 brings together researchers, practitioners, policy makers and professionals in the field of privacy to share insights, exchange ideas and formulate, discuss and answer the challenging privacy questions that lie ahead of us. The goal of the conference is to bring together academics, policy makers, journalists, and practitioners to promote active discussion on timely topics, and foster debate on privacy issues between participants from various backgrounds and perspectives.


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 March 25, 2018 10:05 PM.

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