News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 9 November 2018

| | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 9 November 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: Citizen Lab; Tactical Tech.


Googlers stage worldwide walkout to demand structural change
On November 2 at 11:10 AM an estimated 20,000 employees at nearly two-thirds of Google's offices walked out in protest against abuse of power, systemic racism and sexism, and unaccountable decision-making within the company, Richard Lawler reports at Endgadget. Among the protesters' demands: an end to forced arbitration in harassment cases and a commitment to end pay inequity. In an essay at The Cut, the organizers cite as the final straw a recent New York Times article in which Daisuke Wakabayashi and Katie Benner reported that the company paid Android creator Andy Rubin a $90 million severance package while keeping secret accusations against him of sexual misconduct.

US: Government outsources immigration enforcement to Silicon Valley
Amazon, Palantir, and Thomson Reuters play important roles in storing, transferring, and analyzing data on both undocumented residents and citizens on behalf of the US government, Sean Captain finds at Fast Company. A new report from the immigrant advocacy group Mijente documents the government's shift of discretion and power via contracts with these companies, especially Amazon Web Services. Mijente is concerned that implementing safeguards will become increasingly difficult as the companies obstruct accountability by claiming trade secrets and citing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. At the Daily Beast, Jake Laperruque and Andrea Peterson report that Amazon is also pitching its real-time facial recognition technology to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

EU: Researchers target Elsevier in complaint to Competition Authority
On behalf of a group of researchers who produce and publish scholarly articles, Jonathan Tennant (UK) and Björn Brembs (Germany) have filed a complaint with the EU Competition Authority regarding RELX/Elsevier and the wider scholarly publishing market, Gary Price reports for Library Journal. The researchers accuse Elsevier and its parent, the RELX Group, of abusing a dominant position within the scholarly publishing market, and argue that the market itself actively prohibits competition.

China exports digital surveillance to African governments
Using a mix of official training, technological infrastructure provision, and demands that international companies adopt Chinese content regulations, China is exporting its digital surveillance methods to African governments, Abdi Latif Dahir reports at Quartz Africa. The article is based on a new study from the US-based think tank Freedom House, which finds that as internet freedom continues to decline globally, China remains its worst abuser, a problem that is becoming more urgent as the country deploys fiber optic networks across the developing world, and its largest technology companies expand internationally.

Apple CEO Tim Cook blasts the "data industrial complex"
In this article at the Washington Post, Tony Romm summarizes Apple CEO Tim Cook's keynote speech at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners and posts a full transcript. Cook denounced the privacy-abusive business model of Silicon Valley technology companies and the resulting "data industrial complex" and called for the US to implement a comprehensive federal privacy law similar to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation.

EU: Border trials "smart lie-detection system"
A "deception detection system" that claims to analyze the facial micro-expressions of immigrants seeking to enter the EU will be trialed at the border in Hungary, Greece, and Latvia, Daniel Boffey reports at the Guardian. The "lie detector" uses a personalized computer animation of a border guard to ask questions via a webcam. Academic critics have called the system "pseudoscience"; proponents say the lie detector is just one element of a series of risk analysis tools. Similar systems are being built in the US for law enforcement and border controls at the US-Mexico border. In Spain, Olivia Goldhill reports at Quartz, an AI tool claimed to be remarkably accurate at detecting written falsehoods is being rolled out to police stations.


Spyware's role in Jamal Khashoggi's murder
In this video clip from CNN, Citizen Lab senior research fellow Bill Marczak and Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz discuss the role NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, which the company sells to governments and which was found on Abdulaziz's phone, played in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The spyware allows comprehensive surveillance of the target; Abdulaziz, who was a friend of Khashoggi's, was being monitored by this means. In light of this discovery, Citizen Lab has sent an open letter to Francisco Partners, believed to have a majority stake in NSO Group, asking the company to remedy failures of oversight and act to ensure that illegitimate uses of the software cease. The New York Times finds that the Saudi activities of consultancy firms like Booz Allen, McKinsey, and Boston Consulting Group are contributing to famine in Yemen and the crackdown on dissidents.

"Fauxtomation" undervalues humans by crediting AI for their work
In this article at Logic, Astra Taylor, author of The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age, discusses "fauxtomation", the reality that a lot of what passes for AI relies on large amounts of low-paid human labor. Taylor regards automation as an ideology and a weapon against poor and working people, and argues that those hyping technology's capabilities are implanting the notion that we are disposable and ensuring that as much work as possible goes uncompensated. In a video clip from AI Now's recent symposium, Taylor presents further detail. At the BBC, Dave Lee finds that people in Kibera, Africa's largest slum, are paid to create training data for self-driving cars on behalf of the San Francisco-based company Samasource.

Rethinking mobility from horseless carriages to self-driving cars
In this podcast from their "A Secret History of the Future" series, The Economist's Tom Standage and Slate's Seth Stevenson ask what the early 20th century arrival of horseless carriages can teach us about navigating a future of autonomous vehicles. We will need to figure out what roads, transport, and cities will look like and who is responsible when things go wrong - and we have the chance to rethink the damaging choices we made then.

Brazil: Personal data fuels electoral campaign advertising
In this report, Tactical Tech studies the use of public and private data in the recent elections in Brazil, where until recently there has been little in the way of data protection legislation. Although Brazil's Federal Supreme Court declared in 2015 that corporate donations to electoral campaigns are unconstitutional, other changes in the law allow political parties, candidates, and party coalitions to advertise on all types of social media via sponsored ads, and personal voter data enables segmentation, targeting, and carefully directed propaganda. At Buzzfeed, Ryan Broderick reports that in the mid-October run-up to the general election, Folha, the country's biggest newspaper, uncovered the fact that local marketing companies were using purchased batches of phone numbers to mass-message voters anti-leftist propaganda on WhatsApp. It's unclear how Facebook can ban this practice without breaking the service's encryption.

A proposal for new child labor laws for the digital age
In this posting at Medium, Jordan Shapiro argues that we should pay children through taxes, dividends, or royalties to play video games and use social media in order to teach them the economic value of the work they do in extending, modifying, and adding content. Their labor becomes fuel for the artificial intelligence economic boom, which does not profit them. Without their contributions, the companies have no product.


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

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.

Digital Society Conference 2018
December 10-11, 2018
Berlin, Germany
The Digital Society Conference 2018 - Empowering ecosystems will cover new developments in security and privacy, digital politics, and industrial strategies. A particular focus will be the reality of the rise of AI - its societal implications, how to understand and harness the battle for AI dominance. The conference will also take a closer look at platforms - their role, their power, how to build them and how and when to control them.

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 9 November 2018.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on November 9, 2018 12:57 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 26 October 2018 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 23 November 2018 is the next entry in this blog.

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