News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 28, 2019

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 28, 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: Communia, Creative Commons, Open Rights Group.


US considers punishing local data storage laws by limiting access to work visas
The US has told India it is considering limiting the number of H-1B visas issued to skilled workers from countries that require foreign companies to store data locally, Neha Dasgupta and Aditya Kalra report at Reuters. Indians currently receive an estimated 70% of these visas; the cap would be set between 10% and 15%. India's data storage laws particularly affect payments companies such as Mastercard and Visa.

Facebook-led consortium announces global digital currency
Facebook has announced Libra, a digital currency to be governed by a consortium that includes Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Coinbase, Andreessen Horowitz, Stripe, Uber, Lyft, and Spotify, as well as non-profits Kiva, and Women's World Banking, Frank Chaparro and Aislinn Keely report at The Block. Corporate members pay $10 million to participate. At the New York Times, Matt Stoller finds four problems: the commingling of user and financial data is dangerous for both privacy and security; insiders can selectively exploit data in anti-competitive ways; theft or hacking of Libra could place the entire financial system at risk; and Libra challenges national security and sovereignty. At the Guardian, Alex Hern finds that user activity on Facebook has dropped by almost 20% in the last year. At, Karen Webster details Libra's system design, and explains why it won't bring financial inclusion for the world's 1.7 billion unbanked people as Facebook claims. Finally, at the Guardian, John Harris argues that Libra risks entrenching Facebook so deeply that governments will never be able to challenge it.

UK delays age verification system
The UK has delayed implementing age verification for online pornography as required by the 2017 Digital Economy Act for at least six months because the government failed to notify the EU as required by the Technical Regulations Directive, Jim Watterson and Alex Hern report at the Guardian. The system was due to take effect on July 15. The news broke shortly after the Open Rights Group published a report on the system's implementation, which it says offers consumers little privacy protection and does not help them make informed choices.,-misleading-and-potentially-dangerous

Yemen: World Food Programme suspends aid to regions refusing biometrics
The World Food Programme is partially suspending food aid in the Houthi-controlled regions of Yemen because they refuse to accept a biometric registration system the WFP says is essential to controlling food aid and combating fraud, Aaron Martin and Linnet Taylor report at Global Data Justice. The Houthis argue that the biometrics program is part of an intelligence operation and is counter to national security.

Canada: copyright review recommends expanding fair dealing
The 36 recommendations in Canada's five-yearly review of copyright law include expanding fair dealing, retaining internet safe harbor rules, and permitting circumvention of copy protection systems for lawful purposes such as exercising fair dealing rights, Timothy Vollmer reports for Creative Commons. At his blog, Michael Geist reviews the recommendations in detail, noting that the committee declined to recommend EU-style linking rights. At Communia, Paul Keller welcomes Canada's skepticism about the EU's approach to remuneration and online service provider liability.

Stress and low pay plague Facebook content moderators
Numerous Facebook content moderators working for the company's contractor, Cognizant, break their NDAs to tell The Verge's Casey Newton about their miserable and chaotic working conditions, the low pay, suicides, rapid turnover, and stress of reviewing disturbing content. Facebook, he concludes, needs to make contractors like Cognizant more accountable for their workers' mental health. In her newly-published book, Behind the Screen, Sarah T. Roberts reports on years of work investigating these invisible workers.


How to control artificial intelligence
In this video clip, Daniel Dennett's lecture argues that artificial general intelligence - synthetic consciousness - is possible, though distant, but human control will be essential for our own safety. In a paper for Artificial Intelligence and Law, Joanna J. Bryson, Mihailis E. Diamantis, and Thomas D. Grant conclude that conferring legal personhood on synthetic entities, which the EU is considering, creates too many difficulties regarding accountability for violations of the rights of humans. In late May, 42 countries adopted the OECD's principles on AI, which include holding organizations and individuals accountable for the systems they develop. In a blog posting, Bryson suggests holding AI accountable by keeping and securing logs; the car industry has been able to achieve this because it was already well-regulated.

Expanding video analytics creates army of robot surveillance guards
In this blog posting, ACLU's Jay Stanley summarizes his new report on the coming army of robot surveillance guards that is being created by sophisticated, high-speed video analytics, already a $3.2 billion industry. Billions of actively watching cameras in dashboards, doorbells, automated stores, when combined, he writes, will represent "an extension of corporate and bureaucratic power".

US: Platform safe harbor under threat
In this lengthy article at Wired, Christine Biederman tells the story of the Backpage prosecution, which threatens to end the protection from liability for content users post afforded by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996. At The Verge, Adi Robertson interviews Jeff Kosseff about his new book, The Twenty-Six Words that Created the Internet, on the history of S230.

The global landscape of local news
In this series of video clips, Index on Censorship and Global Journalist survey the landscape of local news, and finds deserts in the US and Mexico and constraints in India, Poland, and Argentina. British journalists, too, are losing confidence in their ability to hold powerful interests to account. The partners go on to suggest new business models and strategies for dealing with fake news.

African machine learning community blossoms
In this article for MIT Technology Review, Karen Hao explores the African machine learning community, which is blossoming despite difficulties such as international travel. IBM Research has offices in Nairobi and Johannesburg; Google has opened a lab in Accra; and ICLR will host its flagship AI research conference in Addis Ababa next year. While the goals of these initiatives are the same as elsewhere - increasing access to health care, improving financial inclusion, enhancing food security, and improving government efficiency - the context provides new problems to explore.

US House Intelligence Committee hears testimony on deepfakes
In this livestream from June 13, the US House Intelligence Committee hears testimony on the problem of deepfakes and artificial intelligence. Among those testifying about the future, legal challenges, and impact of deepfakes, University of Maryland professor and advocate Danielle Citron, co-founder of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), urges lawmakers to punish both producers and distributors. At the Huffington Post, Jesselyn Cook explores the impact of deepfake porn on the women whose faces are used without permission. CCRI has helped pass laws banning revenge porn in 38 US states. At the Guardian, Oscar Schwartz argues that deepfakes are a power problem, not a technology problem, and says technological solutions will not fix the "deep-seated social problem of truth decay and polarization".


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

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

PETS 2019
July 16-20, 2019
Stockholm, Sweden
The 19th Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium will bring 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 8-11, 2018
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
DEF CON is one of the oldest continuously running hacker conventions, and also one of the largest. The DEF CON 27 theme, in a way, responds to '1983' with new questions. What does it look like when we make the better choice? What kind of world do we hack together in the sunniest timeline? How does our real best-case scenario compare to the future we've been dreaming of for generations?

SOUPS 2019
August 11-13, 2019
Santa Clara, California, USA
The 2019 Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners in human computer interaction, security, and privacy. The program will feature technical papers on aspects of privacy and security such as innovative functionality and design, field studies, usability evaluations of privacy features, and longitudinal studies.

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.

September 5-7, 2019
Copenhagen, Denmark
Techfestival was created to find human answers to technological progress. In its third year, the festival will work across ten tracks to examine the ways technology shapes our societies, from building cities to exercising modern democracy.

October 21-27, 2019
London, UK
MozFest 2019 is the tenth anniversary gathering of educators, activists, technologists, researchers, artists, and young people dedicated to creating a better, healthier internet. This year's theme is "More responsible artificial intelligence".

Biometrics Congress
October 28-30, 2019
London, UK
The Biometrics Institute Congress provides an independent platform where the international biometrics community can gather to conduct off-the-record discussion among the institute's multi-stakeholder community. In 2018, representatives from over 30 nations attended. This year's theme is making the world a safer place through the responsible and ethical use of biometrics in an era where laws and regulations are often unable to stay abreast of technology change and the business models based on it.

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.

18th Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society
November 11, 2019
London, UK
The goal of this workshop, held in conjunction with the ACM CCS conference, is to discuss and find solutions to the privacy problems that result from the transformation of society brought by the Information Revolution. One of the major implications of this technological shift has been a massive increase in the collection, sharing, and analysis of personal data. The workshop will include academia, government, and industry, as well as communities such as law and business, who will present novel research on all theoretical and practical aspects of electronic privacy, as well as experimental studies of fielded systems.

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.

Munin Conference on Scholarly Publishing
November 27-29, 2019
Tromsø, Norway
The Munin Conference is an annual conference on scholarly publishing and communication, primarily revolving around open access, open data and open science.

CPDP 2020
January 22-24, 2020
Brussels, Belgium
The 2020 edition of Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection has issued a call for panels in all areas related to technological privacy and data protection.

FAT* 2020
January 27-30, 2020
Barcelona, Spain
ACM FAT* is an annual conference dedicating to bringing together a diverse community to investigate and tackle issues in this emerging area. Topics of interest include the theory and practice of fair machine learning, measurement and auditing of deployed systems, users' experience of algorithms, and the ethical, moral, social, and policy implications of big data and ubiquitous intelligent systems.

Meeting of the Minds Annual Summit
February 19-21, 2020
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Attending the Meeting of the Minds Annual Summit is an opportunity for anyone seeking cross-disciplinary strategies and partnerships that deliver scalable, transferable, and equitable solutions to urban neighborhoods.

We Robot 2020
April 2-4, 2020
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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 those who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate.

Global Privacy Summit
April 7-8, 2020
Washington, DC, USA
Global Privacy Summit will gather more than 3,600 professionals from around the world for an outstanding program with a truly global focus.

re:publica 2020
May 6-8, 2020
Berlin, Germany
re:publica is Europe's largest internet and digital society conference. More than 19,500 participants from 80 countries came together to discuss current issues of digital society at the three-day festival. Participants represent a cross-section of (digital) society, which include professionals from economics, politics, business, hacker culture, NGOs, media, and marketing, as well as bloggers, activists, artists, and social media experts.


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 June 28, 2019.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on June 29, 2019 4:08 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending July 26, 2019 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending July 26, 2019 is the next entry in this blog.

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