News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending March 1, 2019

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending March 1, 2019

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: Center for Democracy and Technology, EDRi, EFF, Open Rights Group, Panoptykon, Witness.

The Information Program and Data Protection Support & Management are jointly conducting a survey of NGOs and their funders in order to understand the impact of the GDPR on civil society as the law approaches its first anniversary. The survey data will be used in a report to be published in May. The survey is open to all civil society organizations and their funders, and OSF and DPSM encourages them to share it widely across their own networks.


UK: Parliamentary committee calls Facebook "digital gangsters"
The final report from the UK Department of Culture, Media, and Sport's 18-month investigation into disinformation and fake news finds that Facebook deliberately broke privacy and competition law and should be urgently regulated, reports David Law at the Guardian. The report accuses Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of holding parliament in contempt by refusing three times to appear in person to testify, recommends electoral law reform, and calls for independent investigations into foreign influence, disinformation, voter manipulation, and data sharing in three British polls: the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, the 2016 EU referendum, and the 2017 general election. The report also warns that Facebook is using its dominance to shut out competitors. Separately, Jim Waterson reports at the Guardian that the independent Cairncross Review concludes that the collapse of the British media threatens the long-term sustainability of democracy, and recommends a public investigation into the dominance of Facebook and Google in advertising as well as direct funding and tax relief for public interest news outlets.

US pushes global passenger surveillance and profiling
The US is pushing the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to adopt a standard mandating government access to passenger name record data and the creation of airline passenger surveillance and profiling units in all ICAO member countries, Edward Hasbrouck reports at the Identity Project. Because many countries legally require airlines to comply with ICAO standards in the interests of aviation safety, the requirements would override national laws prohibiting governments from using commercial data about travelers for surveillance purposes.

Kenya rolls out National Integrated Identity Management system
Kenya has begun rolling out the National Integrated Identity Management system, which stores all types of biometrics as well as DNA samples and location information, and links that data to identity cards and use of health, education, and social services, Abdi Latif Dahir reports at Quartz. The project, costed at KES6 billion ($60 million) will give all citizens and foreign residents above six years of age a unique "service number", and is intended to introduce what president Uhuru Kenyatta has called a single "source of truth" on personal identity in Kenya. The Kenya Human Rights commission is suing to block the project's installation and implementation.

Data protection complaint focuses on real-time bidding
EDRi members Panoptykon (Poland) and Open Rights Group (UK) have joined Michael Veale of University College London and Johnny Ryan at the browser company Brave in filing a complaint with the Irish Data Protection Authority that the real-time bidding (RTB) standards defined by Google and the Internet Advertising Bureau violate the General Data Protection Regulation, Yannic Blaschke reports at EDRi. RTB systems broadcast highly sensitive personal data to thousands of companies in order to solicit bids on opportunities to show targeted ads. In his newly-published PhD thesis, Rob van Eijk concludes that RTB as presently conducted violates the requirements for consent as stipulated in the GDPR and ePrivacy Directive.

NGOs ask EU to reconsider approach to taking down terrorist content
EFF has signed onto letters sent by the NGOs Witness and the Center for Democracy and Technology asking the European Commission to reconsider proposals that would require companies to take down "terrorist content" within one hour, Jillian C. York reports at EFF's blog. EFF calls the one-hour requirement "absurd", and argues that filters neither work nor reflect the reality of how violent groups recruit and share information, and that the proposals will require companies to make hasty, unaccountable, and automated decisions. EDRi reports that the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights have published opinions that the proposals violate fundamental human rights and likely fail to comply with the GDPR. At the VOX-Pol project, Kyle Matthews and Nicolai Pogadl warn that the big technology companies have oversold their AI capabilities, and that regulating the companies themselves is essential to counteract the spread of social polarization and mistrust.

India: Pre-election rise in fact checkers offers little transparency
As India prepares for May's general election, a growing landscape of fact-checking initiatives have been certified by the International Fact Checking Network, Cyril Sam reports at Splice. However, although the certification requirements stress non-partisanship and transparency surrounding sourcing, funding, and methodology, most fact-checking initiatives only partially disclose their funding sources, and politically partisan schemes are rising in response to those run by journalists.


Mueller investigation studies Israel's Psy-Group pitches to 2016 Trump campaign
In this article for The New Yorker, Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow examine the activities of Israeli private intelligence company Psy-Group, which recruits its staff from the ranks of Israel's secret services and specializes in using technological innovations to influence people's beliefs and behavior. Psy-Group's 2016 pitches to Trump campaign members now form part of the investigation being carried out by special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Increased funding risks destroying the open source community
In this article at Motherboard, Daniel Oberhaus looks at progress in funding the open source projects on which the internet infrastructure depends. The influx of funding since the 2014 discovery of the Heartbleed vulnerability in OpenSSL risks destroying the open source community by altering motivations, fostering disagreements about distribution, and creating dependency on funding that may be withdrawn in future.

Trust and the public blockchain
In this review of Wharton School professor Kevin Werbach's new book, Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust, Bruce Schneier discusses the feasibility of the idea that the public blockchain can provide a way of bypassing trust. In his book, Werbach outlines four trust architectures: peer-to-peer (morals and reputation systems), leviathan (institutions), intermediary (for example, credit cards), and distributed (blockchain). Blockchains cannot eliminate the need for trust, Schneier writes, and code cannot replace the social value of trust. At his blog, Ivan Ivanitskiy considers eight popular use cases for blockchain and explains why they don't work.

The invisible woman and the gender data gap
In this Guardian article, Caroline Criado Perez summarizes her forthcoming book,  Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, the results of three years of research into the many ways design fails to take account of women's different size, strength, and shape. Thinking of taller-than-average men as the norm means more than inconvenience: women are under-represented in all areas of design and data collection, from studies of poverty to medical testing. In some cases, such as crash tests and police body armor, women's lives are placed at risk by their omission from design specifications.

The problem with Silicon Valley's favorite business model
In this Quartz review of Blitzscaling, by LinkedIn Co-founder Reid Hoffman and entrepreneur Chris Yeh, Tim O'Reilly deplores Silicon Valley's favorite business model, in which companies' goal from the outset is to become monopolies. Cheap capital that subsidizes losses has led investors to pick winners rather than allow markets to develop organically. O'Reilly discusses the benefits and flaws of the approach, and its application in the Code for America project.


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

March 14-15, 2019
Madrid, Spain
The T3chFest of Computers and New Technologies brings together a variety of students, researchers, start-ups, companies and specialists in new technologies that are or are intended to be an element in our daily lives.

AI: Innovation and Governance Summit
March 18-19, 2019
Brussels, Belgium
The POLITICO AI Summit will gather global leaders to discuss issues at the intersection of innovation and governance and provide a launching point for solutions-driven conversations among policymakers, scientists, innovators, industry representatives, entrepreneurs, and academics. Issues to be considered will include: Europe's impact on the AI world order; the impact of machine learning on work in Europe and policymakers' response; education for success in the evolving jobs market; and ethics and regulations, and their enforcement.

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.

International Privacy+Security Forum
April 3-5, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
Organized bylaw professors Daniel Solove and Paul Schwartz, the International Privacy+Security Forum brings together global leaders in privacy and security. The 2019 conference offers an opportunity to learn in detail about Europe's General Data Protection Regulation, and privacy and security in Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere.

April 8-12, 2019
Geneva, Switzerland
The tenth World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum represents the world's largest annual gathering of the ICT for development community. WSIS provides an opportunity to exchange information, create knowledge, and share best practices while identifying emerging trends and fostering partnerships and taking into account the evolving Information and Knowledge Societies. By following up on the outcomes of the UN General Assembly Overall Review of the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes (Res. A/70/125) and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Res. A/70/1), the WSIS Forum is constantly evolving and strengthening the alignment between the WSIS Action Lines and the United Nations' sustainable development goals. WSIS Forum continues to provide a platform for a "just and equal information society" for all WSIS stakeholders as set by the Geneva Plan of Action.

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.

Theorizing the Web
April 12-13
New York, NY, USA
Theorizing the Web is an inter- and non-disciplinary annual conference that brings together scholars, journalists, artists, activists, and technology practitioners to think conceptually and critically about the interrelationships between the web and society. We deeply value public engagement, and consider insights from academics, non-academics, and non-"tech theorists" alike to be equally valuable.

Global Privacy Summit 2019
May 2-3, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
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.

Creative Commons Summit
May 9-11, 2019
Lisbon, Portugal
The five tracks at the 2019 Creative Commons Summit will include Creators; Building the Commons; Ethics of Openness; Open Education, Open Science, and Open Access; Galleries; and Legal, Policy, and Copyright Reform.

TILTing Perspectives 2019
May 15-17, 2019
Tilburg, Netherlands
TILTing Perspectives 2019, "Regulating a world in transition", brings together for the sixth time researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and civil society at the intersection of law and regulation, technology, and society to share insights, exchange ideas and formulate, discuss and suggest answers to contemporary challenges related to technological innovation. The conference will include plenary sessions, parallel sessions, and panel discussions with invited speakers, as well as presentations from respondents to a call for papers.

Stockholm Internet Forum
May 16-17. 2019
Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) is a platform for advancing a free, open, and secure internet as a driver of development. The SIF 2019 theme is the shrinking online democratic space. Both online and offline, repressive measures against civil society have grown both in geographic spread and in the diversity of measures that are applied. Despite many worldwide similarities, the expression of threats to democracy and the phenomenon of "shrinking space" varies depending on the regional and national context, the level, and the target actors. Shrinking online space often has negative consequences for not only political rights, but also social and economic rights and development. SIF 2019 will offer an opportunity to explore the shrinking democratic space, share experiences, and identify effective responses.

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.

International Communication Association Conference
May 23-27, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
The International Communication Association Conference Washington, organized by the International Communication Association (ICA) will take place from 23rd May to the 27th May 2019 in Washington, USA. The conference will cover areas like Digital media and social change, information media and digital journalism, and entertainment media and culture..

GigaNet ICA Pre-conference
May 24, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
Organized by the Internet Governance Lab at the American University and the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) and co-sponsored by the ICA Communication Law and Policy and Communication and Technology divisions, this pre-conference aims to bring together ICA participants interested in questions of governance, GigaNet members from other disciplines, and the Washington, DC community of practitioners and policymakers. The goal is to provide a mutual learning process and exchange of ideas and challenges for the further development of internet governance research.

AI for Good Global Summit
May 28-31, 2019
Geneva, Switzerland
The AI for Good Global Summit is the leading United Nations platform for global and inclusive dialogue on artificial intelligence. The summit is hosted each year in Geneva by the International Telecommunications Union in partnership with UN sister agencies, the XPRIZE Foundation, and ACM.

WEIS 2019
June 3-4, 2019
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
The Workshop on the Economics of Information Security is is the leading annual forum for interdisciplinary scholarship on information security and privacy, combining expertise from the fields of economics, social science, business, law, policy, and computer science.

Data for Policy
June 11-12, 2019
London, UK
The fourth international Data for Policy conference has "Digital Trust and Personal Data" as its main theme. The conference will also welcome contributions in the broader data science for government and policy discussions. In particular, the organizers encourage submissions around the value and harm of using data in the public sector, deployment experience in government, "digital ethics" and "ethics engineering" concepts, personal data sharing frameworks and technologies, transparency in machine learning processes, analytics at source, and secure data transaction methodologies.

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.

The Web That Was
June 19-21, 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
As the first generation of web users ages, the early web has become simply another object of nostalgia. The third biennial Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials (RESAW) conference will rethink our relationship to the web's past and the past web, and consider how to reconstruct and re-evaluate its history. The conference will host a lecture-performance by Geert Lovink and guests on the history and preservation of Amsterdam's early internet culture.

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.

July 13, 2019
London, UK
Themes for this years ORGCon are digital privacy; free speech, censorship, and the role of algorithms; mass government surveillance; and data and democracy.

August 14-18, 2019
Stockholm, Sweden
Wikimania 2019 will be the 15th Wikimania conference, an annual event for the international Wikimedia community.

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.

Web Summit
November 4-7. 2019
Lisbon, Portugal
The Web Summit gathers the founders and CEOs of technology companies, fast-growing startups, policymakers, and heads of state to ask a simple question: where to next? In 2018, speakers included Margrethe Vestager, Tim Berners-Lee, and Microsoft CEO Brad Smith.

IGF Global
November 25-29, 2019
Berlin, Germany
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was set up in 2006 as an open discussion platform of the United Nations for key legal, political, social and technical issues relating to the internet. IGF's multi-stakeholder model aims to ensure that all relevant societal groups are equally involved in preparations and implementation: governments, civil society, business, academia, international organizations, and the technical community. This is particularly of note in terms of representatives from developing and newly industrializing countries, which otherwise tend to be under-represented.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on March 8, 2019 12:00 PM.

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