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

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 13 July 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: Communia, EDRi, Knowledge Ecology International.







Wikimedia is looking for a senior public policy manager, who will be one of two such managers on the Public Policy team, based in the legal department, and will work closely with outside digital rights advocates and Wikimedia affiliates in the US and internationally. Wikimedia seeks candidates with successful track records in advocacy work around internet legal and policy issues.




DataKind is searching for a new Director of Global Community. DataKind brings together volunteers from around the world to use data science and AI in the service of humanity. The director of global community will be responsible for recruiting expert volunteer teams, working with charity partners to define their data science needs, and managing projects through to success. Director of Global Community:





For breaking news stories, visit:


European Parliament votes to reject controversial copyright legislation


European Digital Rights reports that on July 5 the European Parliament voted not to fast-track the Copyright Directive Reform package by a vote of 278-318. Large numbers of individuals, civil society groups, academics, and the European Wikimedia community protested against the legislation, in particular Article 11 (the "link tax") and Article 13 (the "upload filter").  There will now be an open debate and vote, expected the week of September 10th. At Communia, Timothy Vollmer gives more detail of the politics surrounding the vote.




US Senate votes to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty


Knowledge Ecology International reports that the US Senate has voted to approve the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The vote brings the total of countries that have notified WIPO that they have ratified the treaty to 40. At least 54 more countries have signed or ratified the treaty but not yet notified WIPO.



EU regulators reject ICANN's latest Whois privacy plan


At The Register, Kieren McCarthy reports that the European Data Protection Supervisor's office has rejected the latest plan proposed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for putting the Whois domain name directory into compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). ICANN's contracts with its domain name registrars require them to collect names, addresses, and personal contact details from all domain name registrants in order to populate Whois. Since regulators began offering guidance on how to bring Whois into compliance in 2003, ICANN has made numerous failed proposals, including trying to argue that it's not a data controller. In May, ICANN requested EDPS's advice after a German court rejected ICANN's attempt to force a domain name registrar to continue collecting Whois data.

The Register:

Social media restrictions spread in Africa


AFP reports that Zambia plans to join a growing list of African countries in restricting social media usage. Communications minister Brian Mushimba told the Zambian parliament on July 5 that the measures were needed to fight fraud and abuse and reduce online pornography. Dispatch reports that Uganda began blocking "over the top" access on July 1 for anyone who hadn't paid the country's tax of UGX200 (US$0.52) per day. Ugandan Communications Commission executive director Godfrey Mutabazi says that the country's telecommunications companies have begun blocking VPNs, which Ugandans have been using to avoid the tax. The New York Times reports that an Egyptian court has sentenced Lebanese tourist Mona el-Mazbouh to eight years in prison for "deliberately broadcasting false rumors which aim to undermine society and attack religions" in a video tirade she posted on her Facebook page.



New York Times:


US: Immigration and Customs Enforcement system automatically recommends detention


At Motherboard, Daniel Oberhaus reports that as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) changed its risk assessment software so it recommended detention for all apprehended immigrants rather than, as before, just those with serious criminal histories. After the change ICE tripled its detention rate, imprisoning 43,000 people in 2017. In a 2015 review, the Department of Homeland Security called the risk assessment system "ineffective".


Chinese cameras conduct "emotional surveillance"


At the LA Times, Don Lee reports that the facial expressions in images collected by surveillance cameras placed in classrooms in his school in Eastern China are being used to create a running score for each student and class. The scores are used to trigger alerts that require teachers to intervene if students appear disengaged or moody. Student and parent protests have led the school to temporarily pause the system.

LA Times:

Proxy for EU readers:





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


Tim Berners-Lee plans to re-decentralize the web


In this interview at Vanity Fair, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee admits he was devastated to learn that Russian hackers and Cambridge Analytica interfered with the 2016 US presidential election. In response, Berners-Lee is working on Solid, a platform intended to re-decentralize the web and give individuals, rather than corporations, control over their data.

Vanity Fair:


How Facebook "Likes" created the attention monopoly


In this article at Medium, Matt Locke recounts the history of Facebook "Likes". Originally invented as a harmless way of helping to curate postings on the B3ta web community, "Likes" were adopted as a Facebook feature in 2009. It was combining "Likes" with the social graph and the newsfeed that gave Facebook its dominating role in advertising. Faecbook's attention monopoly might have been avoided, Locke says, by requiring social media companies to adopt common technical standards in 2009. At Locus, Cory Doctorow urges us to distinguish automated persuasion from automated targeting. Elections and referendums haven't been tipped by changing people into racists, but by connecting to racists and persuading them to vote. Doctorow calls the corporate surveillance system corrupt because the profits are highly concentrated but the damage is borne by society at large.




Cybercrime profits from ad fraud


In this report from the Marketing Science Consulting Group, Augustine Fou documents the connection between cybercrime and ad fraud, which he says is the most lucrative use for botnets. Criminals use the devices they compromise to create botnets to click on fake ads displayed on fake sites that they control and that launder traffic by auto-forwarding it to other sites. Fake apps drain most digital advertising budgets. Criminals also profit from selling the tools necessary for these frauds. The Washington Post reports that Twitter is suspending more than 1 million fake and suspicious accounts per day, or a total of over 70 million in May and June 2018, based on input from the AI start-up Magic Pony, which Twitter acquired in 2016. 
Marketing Science (Google Drive):

Washington Post:


Ways to think about machine learning


In this blog posting, Benedict Evans, a venture capitalist with Andreesen Horowitz, discusses how to think about machine learning, proposing that the key elements are automation, enabling technology, and relational databases. Because data isn't fungible, single-purpose machine learning systems will proliferate but will not approach "intelligence", just as in the 1950s we imagined fully functional robot servants - but got washing machines. In a Guardian feature, Olivia Solon notes that many start-ups claim their offerings are based on artificial intelligence but actually rely on humans to work. Because research shows that people tend to disclose more when they think they are talking to (or their data is being processed by) a machine rather than a human, this lack of transparency is an increasing problem.

Benedict Evans:



The disappearing horizon of autonomous vehicles


In this Spectator article, Christian Wolmar, the author of the resent book Driverless Cars: On a Road to Nowhere, visits the autonomous vehicle exhibition in Stuttgart and finds that manufacturers are as skeptical about the hype as he is. The exhibition was full of suppliers, but no car manufacturers, and the few cars on display were not driverless. In a review of Wolmar's book at ZDNet, Wendy M. Grossman found his arguments compelling. In testimony before the California State Senate in February 2018, Rosemary Shahan, founder of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, argued for applying more stringent disclosure and safety standards before allowing autonomous vehicles on the public roads, and warned that the US federal government is preemptively pushing the public to trust car manufacturers to get safety and security right.



California Senate (PDF):


UK: Government Digital Service struggles to overcome political culture


In this article at The Register, Rebecca Hill discusses the present state of the Government Digital Service (GDS), set up in 2010 to place technology at the heart of government. GDS founding leader Mike Bracken has gone on to help other governments to copy the group, but in the UK GDS has stalled because the structure and culture within government departments doesn't fit the digital ethos. The story contains lessons for those seeking to digitize organizations with long-entrenched resistance to change.

The Register:







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


State of Our Networks


July 13-18, 2018

Toronto, Canada

The theme of this year's State of Our Networks is Do It With Others (DIWO). In the face of threats to the open internet, which tools and tactics will help us respond to the opportunities and challenges of this moment? We are inviting proposals for talks, workshops, discussions, demonstrations and interventions to explore these questions.


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.




July 24-27, 2018

Barcelona, Spain

The Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium brings together privacy experts from around the world to present and discuss recent advances and new perspectives on research in privacy technologies. PETS/PoPETs is the premier venue for novel applied and/or theoretical research into the design, analysis, experimentation, or fielding of privacy-enhancing technologies.




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.


Free and Open Communications on the Internet


FOCI brings together researchers and practitioners from technology, law, and policy who are working on means to study, detect, or circumvent practices that inhibit free and open communications on the Internet.


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.


Meeting of the Minds Summit 2018


November 27-29, 2018

Sacramento, CA, USA

The 12th annual Meeting of the Minds annual summit will spotlight tools and best practices working for smart city leaders across the globe. The event focuses on emerging and tested urban sustainability solutions which are scalable, replicable, and transferable for cities and regions. Discussions are rooted in a deep understanding of technology and equity as key drivers for smart cities.


Munin Conference on Scholarly Publishing


November 28, 2018

Tromso, Norway

The Munin Conference is an annual conference on scholarly publishing and communication, primarily revolving around open access, open data and open science. The 2018 conference will be the thirteenth edition.


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.


Global Privacy Summit 2019


May 2-3. 2019

Washington, DC

The annual conference of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Intended for anyone who works in privacy anywhere across the globs, whether they work in the public or private sector.


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 July 30, 2018 10:50 PM.

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