News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 15 June 2018

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 15 June 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, Open Rights Group.



For breaking news stories, visit:

Amazon partners with law enforcement on cheap facial recognition


At the Washington Post, Elizabeth Dwoskin reports that documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California reveal that Amazon is selling - for minimal amounts - facial recognition tools known as "Rekognition" and related consulting services - to law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando, Florida. A coalition of civil rights groups, including ACLU, EFF, and Human Rights Watch, has called on the company to end the program, which they argue could lead to increased surveillance of vulnerable communities. Matt Wood, the general manager of artificial intelligence at Amazon, has published a blog posting defending the company's decision. At Democracy Now, Center for Media Justice co-founder Malkia Cyril calls the program "terrifying" and inherently discriminatory.

Washington Post:


Democracy Now:

Max Schrems sues Google and Facebook over "forced consent"


At The Register, Rebecca Hill reports that Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems celebrated May 25, the first day of enforcement of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), by using his NOYB non-profit organization to file lawsuits against Google and Facebook, along with Facebook subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram. Schrems' complaints argue that while the companies have introduced new privacy policies to comply with GDPR, the consent mechanisms do not meet the regulation's standards for specific consent.


US: FBI caught overstating encryption problem


At the Washington Post, Devlin Barrett reports that FBI director Christopher A. Wray has repeatedly overstated its concerns about encrypted cellphones. Instead of the nearly 7,800 devices the agency claimed investigators were locked out of in 2017, the true number is more likely to be between 1,000 and 2,000. The claim formed part of a campaign to prevent digital communications from "going dark" by ensuring law enforcement access to encrypted communications.

Washington Post:

Tanzania orders unregistered bloggers to shut down


Africa News reports that Tanzania has ordered all unregistered bloggers to shut down under new regulations coming into force in Tanzania that require all bloggers to apply for an online license by June 15. Registration costs bloggers and owners of online forums such as YouTube channels up to $900, approximately equal to the country's per capita income. Those convicted of failure to comply with the regulations face fines of at least $2,200 and 12 months in prison, or both. At Quartz Africa, Abdi Latif Dahir reports that among the closures is one of Tanzania's top homegrown online platforms, Jamii Forums. Founded in 2006, Jamii has been called the "Swahili version of Wikileaks" and the "Tanzanian Reddit". One of its founders appeared in court more than 50 times in 2017, and the site has been influential in exposing government corruption.

Africa News:


Brazil: Data protection law passes Lower House


At America's Quarterly, Robert Muggah and Louise Marie Hurel report that the Brazilian' Lower House has passed legislation that would require all public and private entities operating in the country to secure users' and clients' consent to store their personal data. If approved by the Senate, although the law doesn't meet the standard set by the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, it will include many provisions to protect privacy and limit discriminatory profiling; it will also create a Data Protection Authority and a National Council for the Protection of personal Data. At G1, Marília Marques reports that after a three-month investigation the Public Ministry of the Federal District has found that the Federal Data Processing Service (Serpro) has been marketing and selling Brazilian's personal data. The case has been referred to the Federal Public Ministry.

America's Quarterly:

G1 (Portuguese):

Google Translate (English):

European Parliament will vote June 20 on Copyright Directive


The BBC reports that on June 20 the European Parliament will vote on the EU's proposed new Copyright Directive. Of particular concern is Article 13, which dozens of campaigning groups including Copyright4Creativity, the Open Rights Group, and EFF have warned could put an end to user-generated memes, remixes, and other content on the web by requiring platforms to filter out any uploaded content that violates copyright. At the Wikimedia blog, Jan Gerlach explains in detail the problems with Article 13: filters are generally overbroad; their use tends to expand into other areas not originally envisaged ("mission creep"); and automated content detection systems are expensive, disadvantaging start-ups and small sites. Communia, a network of activists, researchers, and practitioners from ten EU countries, proposes that the European Parliament should instead adopt the opinion of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO), which has also been adopted by the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) and would limit Article 13's negative effects.




AI researchers boycott new Nature journal


At the Guardian, machine learning researcher Neil Lawrence reports that more than 3,000 AI researchers have signed a pledge to boycott Springer Nature's new for-profit journal, Nature Machine Intelligence. Lawrence argues that since taxpayers fund his research they should not have to pay again to read the results, and that researchers at less well-funded universities deserve equal access.




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

Google's AI principles


In this blog posting, Google CEO Sundar Pichai publishes the company's AI principles. These include creating social benefits, avoiding unfair bias, and testing for safety, and include values such as accountability, privacy, and scientific excellence. The posting also lists applications the company will not pursue: weapons, surveillance outside of internationally accepted norms, and technologies likely to cause overall harm. At Jacobin Mag, Ben Tarnoff interviews one of the Google employees who led the successful campaign to get the company to promise not to renew its Project Maven contract with the Pentagon, which uses machine learning to improve the targeting of drone strikes. A separate blog posting outlines the company's recommended practices for building AI systems. Finally, on his blog MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito discusses the need to incorporate ethics alongside the optimism characteristic of research at the boundaries of science and technology.

Google (principles):

Jacobin Mag:

Google (responsibility):

Media Lab:

Why Americans' location data is no longer private


In this blog posting, investigative security journalist Brian Krebs studies the regulatory and technical background leading up to the LocationSmart breach. In mid-May, Krebs discovered that LocationSmart, a US-based aggregator of real-time mobile device location data, had been leaking location data for customers of all the major US mobile carriers via its website in real time without consent or the need for any form of authentication or authorization. It's not clear how the Federal Trade Commission will handle this or any of the other similar leaks involving T-Mobile, Comcast, and Securus Technologies. Worst of all, Krebs writes, even though Carnegie-Mellon researcher Robert Xiao has demonstrated that it's easy to look up the precise location of any mobile number in the US, public interest faded quickly.


Israel's law to ban filming soldiers


In this Guardian article, Roy Greenslade argues that Israel should abandon proposals for a law that would prohibit photographing or filming Israeli Defense Forces "with the intention of undermining the spirit" of the army and make violations punishable by five to ten years in prison. Images, he says, leave indelible truth in viewers' minds even when the text is filled with propaganda. At TheNewArab, CJ Werleman explains the background: the 2014 Israeli siege in Gaza was one of the first wars to be photographed by amateurs who distributed their images via social media.



Twenty years of surveillance


At this page are hosted the video streams from the UK's Foundation for Information Policy Research 20th birthday celebration, a one-day conference outlining the past, present, and future of surveillance and the internet. Of particular note are Ross Anderson's introduction, former MP Julian Huppert's account of his experiences during the debates over the Communications Data Bill and Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, philosopher Onora O'Neill's provocations, and revelations by Jen Persson, whose NGO defenddigitalme finds that UK's Department of Education collects as many as 400 data items per pupil and sells them on to commercial firms while refusing to grant subject access requests by schoolkids and their parents. At net.wars, Wendy M. Grossman has a summary of the day.



Platform business models and their influence on workers' well-being


In this Medium article, Marija Gavrilov summarizes the International Labour Office's Future of Work research paper, which examines the business models and impact on workers of platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo. The report analyzes the platforms' propensity to contribute to worker exploitation, and recommends that regulators focus on enabling worker agency and reducing platform control, which is being eroded by practices such as refusing to share data on which decisions are made.


ILO (report, PDF):

Our phones are listening


In this article at Vice, Sam Nichols examines the widespread belief that Facebook uses its smartphone app to listen to our conversations and serve up related ads. After some experimentation, he concludes it's true: although Google and Apple require a trigger to activate Siri and OK Google, third-party apps may have thousands of triggers even though Facebook and others deny they listen. At the Guardian, Sam Wolfson reports that an Amazon Alexa device recorded a private conversation between its owner and her husband and sent it to a random contact in their address book. An Amazon spokesman confirmed the privacy breach but offered no explanation.






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

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.

Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) co-design workshop


September 12 - 14, 2018

Johannesburg, South Africa

Co-hosted with Amnesty International, this workshop will develop innovative and collaborative approaches for using human rights data for impact, and agree on the next steps for HRMI's expansion of country and rights coverage.

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.

Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest V


September 27-29

Washington, DC, US

The Global Congress is the main meeting of a global network of over 800 researchers, activists, and practitioners who work on the intersection of intellectual property and promotion of the public interest. The core goal is to promote evidence-based policy-making by fostering partnerships between academics and policy advocates from around the world.

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.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection 2019


January 30 - February 1, 2019

Brussels, Belgium

The 12th international CPDP conference is accepting submissions for panel and session proposals until June 21, 2018.

We Robot 2019


April 11-13, 2019

Miami, Florida, US

We Robot is an interdisciplinary conference on the legal and policy questions relating to robots. The increasing sophistication of robots and their widespread deployment everywhere - from the home, to hospitals, to public spaces, and even to the battlefield - disrupts existing legal regimes and requires new thinking on policy issues. The conference 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 will operate.

re:publica 2019


May 6-8, 2019

Berlin, Germany

The re:publica in Berlin is Europe's biggest conference on topics concerning digitization and society while also being one of the world's most exceptional festivals on digital culture. Since its beginnings in 2007 with 700 bloggers in attendance, it has grown into an international society conference. In 2017 it had 9,000 national and international participants from all areas of society.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on June 19, 2018 11:38 AM.

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