News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 September 2018

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 September 2018

The Information Program NEWS DIGEST, published on 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.

Current and former grantees featured in this issue: Cardiff Data Justice Lab, EDRi, Open Rights Group, Paywall, Privacy International, R3D.


European Parliament votes for "catastrophic" copyright directive
At The Verge, James Vincent reports that on September 12 the European Parliament voted 438-226 in favor of the Copyright Directive, which was rejected for fast-tracking in July. Of particular concern to critics are Articles 11 (the "link tax") and 13 (the "upload filter"). Article 11 is intended to give publishers the right to demand paid licenses from those who, like Google, link to their stories; Article 13 requires platforms like YouTube and Facebook to block users from sharing copyrighted material. There will be a final vote in January 2019. EDRi predicts that if passed into law this proposal, which regulates all companies as if they were Google and Facebook, will mean a European internet where only Facebook and Google can survive.

European Court of Human Rights rules UK bulk interception illegal
At the Guardian, Owen Bowcott reports that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled five votes to two that the UK security agency GCHQ's interception of bulk communications violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, ECHR also found that GCHQ did not act illegally in sharing digital intelligence with foreign governments, and confirmed that given tighter safeguards bulk interception would be allowed under the law. The case was brought by a group of 14 human rights and privacy NGOs led by Privacy International, which filed its original complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal in 2013. Other complainants included Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. In its analysis, Privacy International says the judgment has immediate implications for the UK's 2016 Investigatory Powers Act, which must now be revised to provide stronger oversight of GCHQ's activities tapping undersea cables and searching the communications gathered from them, and for the agency's use of metadata.

Israel-based NSO Group accused of actively aiding illegal spying
At the New York Times, David D. Kirkpatrick and Azam Ahmed report on two ongoing lawsuits against Israel-based NSO Group. Leaked NSO emails submitted in court show that the company, one of the best-known creators of smartphone spyware, sought to prove its technology works by sending top Emirati officials sample recordings from the phone of Abdulaziz Alkhamis, the editor of a London-based Arab newspaper. NSO's software has been sold to the governments of Mexico, Panama, and UAE, which have used it to spy on foreign government officials, human rights activists, and journalists. The software, known as "Pegasus", sends phishing texts to a target's smartphone; clicking on them secretly downloads the software. The Associated Press reports that the plaintiffs are five Mexican journalists and activists, who are being advised by the advocacy group R3D, and Qatari newspaper editor Abdullah Al-Athbah.

European research funders mandate open access by 2020
In Nature, Holly Else reports that eleven European research funders have announced the radical open-access "Plan S", which from 2020 will require all the scientific work they fund to be made freely available to download, translate, or reuse as soon as it is published. The agencies jointly spend €7.6 billion in research grants annually. Holding out from joining the initiative are the national research agencies of Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany.

Interactive fitness data tracking spreads in UK, US, and South Africa
Reuters reports that the 156-year-old US life insurance company John Hancock will stop underwriting traditional life insurance policies, instead selling only interactive policies that track health and fitness through the data collected by wearable devices and smartphones. Interactive life insurance is already well-established in South Africa and Britain, and is spreading in the US. While the company argues that the change will promote both health and profits, privacy and consumer advocates suggest the data may help insurers cherry-pick the most profitable customers (for further context see this panel from Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection 2017 on YouTube, which discusses the future of insurance in a big data world).

Facebook amplifies Libyan conflict
At the New York Times, Declan Walsh and Suliman Ali Zway report that Facebook has acted as a "force multiplier" in recent fighting between rival militias in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, enabling armed groups to target bombs and find opponents and critics. The company claims it is actively policing its Libyan platform with teams of Arabic-speaking content reviewers and AI with assistance from local organizations and international human rights groups. Nonetheless, the newspaper found evidence of open trading of military-grade weapons, and pages maintained by human traffickers and armed groups. For many people, stranded in their homes, Facebook is their only contact with the outside world. At MIT Technology Review, Zeynep Tufecki analyzes how social media has enabled authoritarians to master the internet.


US technology companies help India create surveillance state
In this article at the Huffington Post, Paul Blumenthal and Gopal Sathe await the Supreme Court of India ruling on the case against the Aadhaar biometric identification system by discussing the role of US technology in building India's "perfect surveillance state". Blumenthal suggests the nine-year-old Aadhaar program, which collects the fingerprints, iris scans, and photos of nearly 1.3 billion Indians, is a "gold mine" for companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. Bill Gates is funding a World Bank program to copy Aadhaar in other countries; Microsoft has integrated it into Skype; Amazon uses it to trace missing packages; Facebook favors Aadhaar-verified names; and Google has "inadvertently" added the Aadhaar helpline to Android phones without informing users.

Paywall: the movie
At Inside Higher Ed, Lindsay McKenzie reviews the documentary film Paywall, which outlines the dispute between open access advocates and journal publishers. McKenzie notes that few of the 70 people interviewed for the film work for publishers of subscription journals, but calls it a reflection of the growing power of the open access movement. The movie is freely available for download on the web. At BoingBoing, the film's creator Jason Schmitt outlines his research for the film, which includes a rare interview with Sci-Hub creator Alexandra Elbakyan.

Palantir sponsorship causes withdrawals from APC 2018
In this posting, Datactive and the Data Justice Lab explain why they have decided to withdraw from participating in the 2018 Amsterdam Privacy Conference even though both enthusiastically supported the "Digital Society and Surveillance" theme. Their complaint is the conference's acceptance of sponsorship from the US-based company Palantir, which develops big data analytics technologies for the military, law enforcement, and border control and whose work has attracted widespread concern from civil liberties and human rights advocates. At Motherboard, J. M. Porup discusses the controversy, which began when activist Aral Balkan posted a protest to Twitter. At Medium, Sidney Vollmer argues that privacy conferences lose their credibility by accepting sponsorship from Palantir, Facebook, and Google.

Solving the #MeToo drain of dedicated workers from non-profits
In this article at The Chronicles of Philanthropy, Sarah Schacht discusses #MeToo as it applies to non-profits: dedicated workers are leaving. As the young founder of open government technology organisation Knowledge As Power, reporting attempted rape by a prominent man in her specialty area led her to feel sidelined instead of supported. As a solution, Schacht proposes that funders should collect demographic data on applicants and grantees, review who is influencing their work and look for patterns of negative recommendations; train staff members to respond sensitively when grantees or others ask for a buffer zone between them and an alleged harasser; look actively for new influencers; and look for patterns in who has left the field.

An analysis of Brazil's new General Data Privacy Law
In this article at National Law Review, Melanie Ramey, an associate with Covington & Burling, analyzes Brazil's General Data Privacy Law, which was signed into law on August 14 and which closely mirrors the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. The law significantly increases Brazil's data protection regime, and appears to be aimed at making Brazil one of the few countries to provide data protections comparable to those of the EU. The law will come into force in February 2020.

Alleged BitConnect fraud may exceed India's biggest banking scandal
In this article at Bloomberg, Archana Chaudhary and Jeanette Rodrigues outline an investigation in the Indian state of Gujarat that alleges that BitConnect was a bitcoin-based Ponzi scheme. The fraud could be bigger than the country's largest banking scandal and reach as far away as Texas. The evidence so far uncovered by the Criminal Investigation Department has led to indictments against eight policemen and implicates a former lawmaker in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on charges of abduction and extortion. Inflows into BitConnect from Indian investors are thought to have been partly the result of Prime Minister Darendra Modi's sudden November 2016 demonetization of higher-value banknotes.


If you would like your event listed in this mail, email

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.

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.

Mozilla Festival
October 22-26, 2018
London, UK
Each year, MozFest features talks from luminaries at the intersection of technology and society, including hackers, journalists, activists, and others in a seven-day celebration for, by, and about people who love the internet, showcasing world-changing ideas and technology through workshops, talks, and interactive sessions.

Web Summit
November 5-8, 2018
Lisbon, Portugal
Web Summit began as a simple idea in 2010: to connect the technology community with all industries, both old and new. Since then, Web Summit has grown to become the largest technology conference in the world - it is expecting more than 59,000 entrepreneurs, investors, media, and others from 170 countries this year and will present more than 1,200 speakers.

Meeting of the Minds Summit 2018
November 27-29, 2018
Sacramento, CA, USA
The 12th annual Meeting of the Minds 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
One of the world's leading privacy conferences, CPDP is a multi-disciplinary event that offers the cutting edge in legal, regulatory, academic, and technological development in privacy and data protection. Within an atmosphere of independence and mutual respect, CPDP gathers academics, lawyers, practitioners, policy-makers, industry and civil society from all over the world in Brussels, offering them an arena to exchange ideas and discuss the latest emerging issues and trends.

Future of Health Privacy Summit 2019
January 28-29, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
The 8th International Summit on the Future of Health Privacy will feature keynote speakers Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, President of the French data protection regulator, CNIL, and the former chair of the EU Article 29 Working Party during the time when it was responsible for developing the General Data Protection Regulation, and Don Rucker, the US National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. This year's summit will focus on the impact that GDPR and the Cambridge Analytica scandal will have on health care and technology around the world.

FAT* 2019
January 29-31, 2019
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
The second annual ACM FAT* Conference 2019 brings together researchers and practitioners interested in fairness, accountability, and transparency in socio-technical systems. ACM FAT* 2019 builds on the success of the inaugural 2018 conference, which was held in New York. The 2019 conference will be held in Atlanta, Georgia.

TicTec 2019
March 19-20, 2019
Paris, France
TiCTeC 2019 will bring together individuals from academic and applied backgrounds as well as businesses, public authorities, NGOs, funders and education institutions to discuss ideas, present research and build a network of individuals interested in the civic technology landscape.

Internet Freedom Festival 2019
April 1-5, 2019
Valencia, Spain
The Internet Freedom Festival is one of the largest, most diverse, and most inclusive unconferences in the world. Every year, 1000+ activists, journalists, technologists and human rights defenders from over 100 countries gather for a week of sharing and learning. Made by the community for the community, the IFF is known for creating a positive and inclusive environment for hands-on, multidisciplinary collaboration. As an example of this, women make up 50% of participants and presenters, while every year some of the most affected communities get assistance to participate through IFF's well-known Diversity and Inclusion Fund.

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 globe, 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.

Privacy Law Scholars 2019
May 23-24, 2019
Berkeley, California, USA
Organized jointly by BCLT and the George Washington University Law School, PLSC assembles a wide array of privacy law scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss current issues and foster greater connections between academia and practice.

RightsCon 2019
June 11-14, 2019
Tunis, Tunisia
RightsCon Tunis will continue to be a space for civil society, technologists, businesses, startups, public servants, and lawyers to connect, collaborate, build strategies, draft declarations, and move forward real-world change. Whether in provocative plenaries, intimate roundtables, informal meetings, or the lively Community Village, RightsCon Tunis will help shape the future of human rights in the digital age.

LIBER 2019
June 26-28, 2019
Dublin, Ireland
The LIBER Conference 2019 will be held in collaboration with CONUL, the Consortium of National and University Libraries for the island of Ireland. The conference brings library directors and their staff together for three days of networking and collaboration. The goal of the conference is to identify the most pressing needs for research libraries, and to share information and ideas for addressing those needs.

85th World Library and Information Congress
August 24-30, 2019
Athens, Greece
The theme of IFLA's 2019 conference,"Libraries: dialogue for change", invites the library and information science international community to discuss, re-examine, re-think and re-interpret the role of libraries as promoters of change. In an era of rapid changes in the socio-economic-technological sphere, libraries ought to define their role as information providers, promoters of reading, settlers for the community they serve, key players in innovation, and leading actors for changes in society. A constant, open dialectic relationship between libraries and society will lead to well-informed citizens facilitating progress and development, implementing the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development and leading to prosperity in all fields of the democratic society.

This list is now managed by MailChimp.

Hear more from the Information Program!
If you have been forwarded this email by a friend and wish to subscribe to this fortnightly digest, please visit: You can also read more about our work on the Open Society Foundations website:

Our mailing address is:
Open Society Foundations, 7th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP, United Kingdom

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 28 September 2018.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on September 28, 2018 1:18 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 27 July 2018 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 12 October 2018 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.