News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 13 April 2018

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 13 April 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: Digitale Gesellschaft, EDRi, EFF, SHARE Foundation, SPARC.

Applications for Mozilla Fellowships are now open for open web activists, scientists and researchers, and technology policy professionals. Applications close on April 20.


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:

EU: Copyright reforms draw fire from scientists


At Nature, Quirin Schiermeier reports that open science advocates are opposing proposals for the upcoming directive on copyright in the digital single market on the basis that these conflict with Europe's principles of open science and freedom of expression. Among those who offered objections are SPARC and the Association of European Research Libraries. The most significant change: instead of allowing non-profit repositories and research data services to take down material when notified of infringements, they would have to operate an upload filter to scan submissions for infringements. The proposals are due for a vote in the European Parliament's legal committee on April 23-24.


Grindr sets off privacy firestorm after sharing users' HIV status data


At The New York Times, Natasha Singer reports that the social network Grindr, aimed at gay, bisexual, and trans men, is facing a firestorm of criticism after European researchers reported on Buzzfeed that the site was sharing users' HIV status, sexual tastes, and other intimate details with third-party software vendors. Two US senators have written to Grindr's chief executive asking whether the app had asked users to opt in to this sharing. The Norwegian Consumer Council has filed a formal complaint with the Norwegian data protection regulator. Grindr has said it will stop sharing this information.

New York Times:


India: State is using blockchain to collect DNA data of 50 million citizens


At Quartz, Ananya Bhattacharya reports that the government of Andhra Pradesh, India's eighth-largest state, has announced a partnership with the German genomics and precision medicine company Shivom to build a blockchain-based DNA database of its 50 million citizens. A state government official says that testing for citizens will be optional. The goal is to improve diversity in the genomic data available to researchers.


Africa: Cambridge Analytica influenced elections in Nigeria and Kenya


At Quartz, Linet Kwamboka reports that in Africa, where for millions of people Facebook effectively is the internet, the ongoing data scandal is fueling fierce political battles in West and East Africa, particularly Nigeria and Kenya, where Cambridge Analytica was a player in elections going back to 2007. For most in Africa, deleting Facebook is not an option; Quartz argues that what's needed is better laws and web literacy. At the Guardian, Rana Dasgupta links these developments to the waning of nation-states, which cannot individually extricate themselves from political and moral decay and which are seeing big data companies assume functions previously associated with them, such as cartography and surveillance. The South China Morning Post finds links between Cambridge Analytica head Alexander Nix and political campaigners who worked on Rodrigo Duterte's 2015 presidential campaign in the Philippines. Facebook has announced a new initiative, funded by a group of foundations, to help scholars assess social media's impact on elections. Facebook says it will have no right to review or approve the research findings prior to publication.





Secret Facebook tool deletes Zuckerberg's messages from users' inboxes


At TechCrunch, Josh Constine reports that a previously secret tool allows Facebook to delete messages from the company's senior executives from the Facebook inboxes of those who received them. The resulting user pushback led the company to announced this "unsend" features will be made available to all users in the next several months. At the Guardian, Alex Hern and Julia Carrie Wong report that the company says it created the feature in order to protect executives' communications after the 2014 Sony hack. Simultaneously, a group of privacy and consumer groups have filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission arguing that Facebook's use of facial recognition software violates both users' privacy and the company's 2011 consent decree. In a "media apology tour", chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said that one day Facebook's users may be able to opt out of the company's data mining - but would have to pay for the privilege. At the New York Times, Matthew Rosenberg and Gabriel J.X. Dance profile a group of Facebook users who were among the first whose data was collected for Cambridge Analytica via a survey hosted by a company called Qualtrics.



New York Times:

EU: Top-level .eu domain will drop UK registrants at Brexit


At The Register, Kieren McCarthy reports that the European Commission has announced it will cancel all 317,000 domains under the .eu top-level domain that have a UK registrant when the UK withdraws from the European Union. These represent approximately a tenth of the domains registered by EURid, the company that has run .eu since it was awarded the contract in 2005. EURid says it was not consulted or informed before the plan was made public. Traditionally, existing domains have been "grandfathered in" when rules change.


US Department of Justice and Microsoft seek dismissal of Supreme Court case


At FindLaw, William Vogeler reports that immediately after the passage of the CLOUD Act, which creates new procedures for acquiring data stored in foreign countries, both the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to dismiss United States v. Microsoft. The case, which was argued before the Supreme Court on February 27, centers on whether the Stored Communications Act authorized US law enforcement warrants for data stored abroad by US companies. The DoJ has applied for a new warrant to compel Microsoft to turn over the data.




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

Facebook's Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what's coming for all of online publishing


In this blog posting, Doc Searls writes that Facebook's Cambridge Analytica problem is the tip of an iceberg. All online publishers, he writes, "bring readers' bare digital necks to vampires ravenous for the blood of personal data". All these sites leak data in similar ways, and the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation will soon force publishers - as much as Facebook - to change their ways. It's time, he says, for publishers to drop adtech in favor of a return to the kind of high-value brand advertising that ruled the physical world. Searls went on to discuss this further in a video clip at TechCrunch's Gillmor Gang. At Pro Publica, Julia Angwin suggests four ways to fix Facebook: impose fines for data breaches; police political advertising; make technology companies liable for objectionable content; and install ethics review boards.


Gillmor Gang:

Pro Publica:

US: How tech lost on the sex trafficking bill


In this article at Politico, Steven Overly and Ashley Gold analyze the passage of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which undermines Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. For the last 22 years, S230 has protected online platforms like Facebook, Reddit, Craigslist, and others from liability for user-generated content. Tech companies, they argue, failed to recognize that business-focused arguments were doomed to fail in a conversation about protecting children and that attitudes towards the technology sector are changing in Washington. EFF opposed the bill, and warns that further exceptions to S230 are being mooted. Within days of the law's passage and before it was signed into law, The Register reports that US authorities have seized and shut down, a website with a longstanding reputation for serving sex-related classified ads, many involving minors.




Fifteen years of European digital rights


In this special issue of EDRi-gram, EDRi celebrates its 15th birthday by highlighting the achievements of the European digital rights movement. Among the highlights: Digitale Gesellschaft's efforts for digital rights in Germany; the Foundation for Information Policy Research work to support better government IT systems in the UK; Share Foundation's opposition to internet filters in Serbia; and many others.


Signal Foundation


In this blog posting, Moxie Marlinspike and WhatsApp founder Brian Acton announce the creation of the Signal Foundation, a non-profit organization with the goal of developing open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communications. Signal Messenger is a cryptographic system that enables secure messaging on phones and desktops. The goal is to make the foundation, which is initially funded with $50,000,000, self-sustaining. Acton will serve as the first executive chair, while Marlinspike will continue to serve as CEO of the newly created Signal Messenger non-profit organization.


Can an app track sexual predators in the theatre?


In this article at The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead attends a demonstration of Callisto, an online non-profit start-up that enables victims of sexual assault to create a secure, time-stamped record of the incident and place it, protected by encryption, in "information escrow". If someone else reports an assault by the same person, a Callisto operative will discreetly offer to connect the victims with each other so they can decide how to proceed. The demonstration was held at a gathering of people involved in professional theater. Membership in Callisto costs $40 a year, which the start-up hopes will be paid by unions rather than individuals.

New Yorker:

The case for fairer algorithms


In this article at Medium, DeepMind research scientist Iason Gabriel discusses his company's efforts to create fairer algorithms. He suggests four principles: be transparent about the limitations of datasets; research and develop techniques to mitigate bias; deploy algorithms responsibly; and increase awareness of the problem. DeepMind has begun publishing research papers on this topic and is helping fund external efforts such as those of AI Now and sponsoring several new postdoctoral positions. In a new report, the AI Now Institute recommends how agencies should conduct algorithmic impact assessments to ensure there is a framework for accountability before such systems are used to make decisions about human beings in sensitive domains.


AI Now:




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



April 18-19, 2018

Lisbon, Portugal

During two days of diverse presentations and workshops, attendees will examine what works - and what doesn't - in the fields of digital democracy, accountability, anti-corruption, and transparency tech. There's just one rule for those making a presentation at TICTeC: it's not enough to present a new digital initiative; you must also bring the research that examines its efficacy. Keynotes Martha Lane Fox and Jonathan Fox will set the tone for a full program, with speakers and delegates including representatives from Google, Facebook, and scores of cutting edge practitioners from many countries.



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.

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 May 10, 2018 11:19 PM.

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