News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 11 May 2018

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 11 May 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: EDRi, EFF, Open Rights Group, Privacy International.

For breaking news stories, visit:

Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy
At the Guardian, Olivia Solon and Oliver Laughland report that Cambridge Analytica is closing and has filed for insolvency proceedings, along with its UK affiliate, SCL Elections. However, also at the Guardian, Wendy Siegelman reports that a web of at least 18 linked companies created by the company's executives is already in place to continue the same work. Based in the US and UK, these companies include Emerdata Limited, incorporated in August 2017 and expanded with new directors and funding in January 2018. Cambridge Analytica's business structure is highly complex; at Medium, Siegelman and Ann Marlowe have graphed its corporate relationships.
Guardian (insolvency):
Guardian (Emerdata):

Amazon blocks "domain fronting"
At Ars Technica, Sean Gallegher reports that Amazon has joined Google in blocking "domain fronting" that exploits content delivery networks to bypass national censorship. Amazon sent a message to the developers of the encrypted phone and messaging service Signal warning that their account would be closed if they continued to use Amazon's CloudFront service in this way. Signal head Moxie Marlinspike posted the warning email to Github.
Ars Technica:

UK: High Court strikes down portions of the Investigatory Powers Act
The Open Rights Group reports that the UK High Court has ruled against the mass surveillance powers enshrined in the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act. There were two key elements to the ruling: first, that the purpose of access to retained data was not limited to combating serious crime, and second, that access to retained data was not subject to prior review by a court or administrative body. The case was brought by Liberty following the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling against the 2014 Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act; the CJEU held that the bulk and non-targeted surveillance powers in DRIPA were not compatible with EU law. The British court has given the UK government until November 1, 2018 to ensure that the IPA's surveillance provisions are brought into line with EU law.

A predictive policing pioneer aims to automate identifying gang-related crime
At The Verge, Ali Winston and Ingrid Burrington report that UCLA anthropology professor Jeff Brantingham, a pioneer in predictive policing, is using military research funding to use machine learning to automate the classification of "gang-related" crimes. The system will rely on the Los Angeles Police Department's criminal data and a gang territory map that Winston and Burrington call "outdated". In LA, being classified as gang-related can result in additional sanctions: restrictions on movement and association with others, heavier prison sentences, or extra criminal charges. In his paper, presented at the first Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society conference, Brantingham and his co-authors explain a "novel" partially generative neural network that they claim can accurately classify gang-related crimes whether full or only partial information is available.

US: "Golden State killer" identified via public genealogy databases
At the LA Times, Benjamin Oreskes, Joseph Serna, and Richard Winton report that detectives in California identified "Golden State killer" suspect 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo by matching an exceptionally well-preserved DNA sample from a crime scene against samples submitted to GEDmatch, a public genealogy database. The elusive Golden State killer was linked to more than 50 rapes and 12 murders between 1976 and 1986. Many commentators have expressed relief that he was caught, but remain disturbed at law enforcement's use of highly personal data that people have provided in order to find relatives. The pending Supreme Court Carpenter v. US case, which focuses on police use of cell tower data, may set the stage for legal challenges to the use of other types of data, including DNA samples.
LA Times:

International intelligence sharing arrangements lack oversight
Privacy International reports that an international collaborative investigation by 40 NGOs in 42 countries has found weaknesses in the oversight arrangement that are supposed to govern the sharing of information between state intelligence agencies. PI argues that legal safeguards and oversight mechanisms are essential. However, most countries lack domestic legislation to regulate intelligence sharing; only one has introduced specific legislation. In addition, oversight bodies in nine of 21 responding countries said the agencies have no clear legal obligation to inform them of the intelligence sharing arrangements they make. None of the oversight bodies said they have powers to authorize decisions to share intelligence.

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

EU, Brazil: Disinformation initiatives and their threat to free expression
In this blog posting at the Center for Democracy and Technology, Jens-Henrik Jeppesen discusses the report issued by the European Commission's High-Level Group on fake news and worries that the speed and poorly defined scope with which the EC wants to proceed will pose a threat to free expression, political debate, and access to information. In a blog posting, Access Now discusses several South American countries' proposed approaches to eliminating fake news, which are of concern to civil society because of the threat of censorship.
Access Now:

How bookies use AI to keep gamblers hooked
In this article at the Guardian, Mattha Busby discovers the gambling industry's use of artificial intelligence in order to get and keep gamblers hooked on their services. Industry insiders tell Busby that the result, based on analyzing every click and transaction, is highly accurate targeting designed to keep people betting. In an earlier article, Busby examined gambling companies' use of third-party data to help them target people on low incomes and those who have stopped gambling.
Guardian (AI):
Guardian (third party):

Future proofing civil society and our institutions
In this transcribed talk at Access Now, European policy manager Fanny Hidvegi discusses the background that led her to her advocacy work and the importance of self-care to avoid burn-out for the resilience and future-proofing for both activists and our democratic institutions. Access Now operates a helpline to support journalists, activists, and users at risk. At the New York Times, Yale professor of law and history Samuel Moyn argues that the human rights movement has failed because it did not embrace the value of economic fairness. Changing course to advocate distributional fairness is, Moyn says, essential to combat the rise of populism.
Access Now:
NY Times:

The challenge of humanitarian biometrics
In this blog posting at IRIN, Paul Currion discusses how to use biometrics in the humanitarian context. In a 2006 report issued by the UN's Malaysian refugee agency, UNHCR, Currion finds evidence for his contention that biometric registration is typically driven by the interests of national governments, technology companies, and aid agencies. Originally funded by the EU and the US, building UNHCR's biometric system has involved a number of companies including PA Consulting, which also worked on the UK's biometric border control system. Currion goes on to raise two concerns about these systems: security, and the privacy risks to vulnerable communities and individuals. At the EDRI blog, Statewatch analyses new EU proposals for mandatory biometrics in national ID cards, which are issued to 370 million citizens in 26 EU member states. Introducing such a measure will require fingerprinting the majority of EU citizens, complementing the fingerprinting of non-EU citizens who require visas in order to enter the bloc.

Text and data mining in the European copyright overhaul
In this blog posting at EFF, Jeremy Malcolm analyzes the text and data mining provisions taking shape as part of the EU's copyright negotiations, which are expected to become complete over the next few weeks. Because the EU lacks a US-style fair use law, there is little consistency between member states on user rights; the EU also has separate intellectual property protection for databases. As a result, the legality of text and data mining in Europe is questionable. With this - and with the needs of scientists - in mind, the EU proposed to clarify the situation. Malcolm goes on to discuss the limitations the EU is considering and the issues they create.

We Robot 2018
On its agenda page, the 2018 We Robot conference hosts the draft papers and abstracts from this year's conference. Of particular interest are two papers on robots in urban settings, Jesse Woo's paper on Urban Robotics and Kristen Thomasen's paper on Robots in the Public Square, as well as Karen Levy's short talk on the double threat of AI for low-wage work. Adrian Mannes's paper on Explaining Autonomy focuses on the importance of risk communication in building public trust in the companies making the robots that are beginning to populate our world.
We Robot:


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

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.

Foundation for Information Policy Research 20th anniversary
May 29, 2018
Cambridge, UK
For its 20th anniversary, the UK's Foundation for Information Policy Research, founded to campaign against 1990s proposals for surveillance laws, will host a debate in Cambridge featuring representatives of NGOs and GCHQ, academia and DeepMind, the press and the Cabinet Office. Should governments be able to break the encryption on our phones? Are we entitled to any privacy for our health and social care records? And what can be done about fake news? If the Internet's going to be censored, who do we trust to do it?

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.

22nd International Conference on Electronic Publishing
June 22-24, 2018
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The theme of ELPUB 2018 is Connecting the Knowledge Commons: From Projects to Sustainable Infrastructure. The question of sustainability in the open access movement has been widely debated, yet satisfactory answers have yet to be generated. In the past, ELPUB has featured research results in various aspects of digital publishing, involving a diverse international community of librarians, developers, publishers, entrepreneurs, administrators and researchers across the disciplines in the sciences and the humanities. It is unique as a platform for both researchers, professionals and the broader community. The conference contains a multi-track presentation of refereed papers as well as invited keynotes, special sessions, demonstrations, and poster presentations.

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 11:21 PM.

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