News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending October 25, 2019

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending October 25, 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: EFF, Oxford Internet Institute, Ranking Digital Rights.


UN Special Rapporteur warns of "digital welfare dystopia"
The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, warns that the world must act quickly to "avoid stumbling, zombie-like, into a digital welfare dystopia", the United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports. Too often, the altruistic claims made for digitizing government benefits services mask the real intention of slashing welfare benefits, installing surveillance, and generating profits for private companies. One of Alston's examples is the Netherlands, whose System Risk Indication system allows central and local government authorities to feed broad categories of previously siloed data about claimants into an undisclosed model to score the likelihood that they will commit benefit fraud. To date, it has been used exclusively in areas with a high proportion of low-income residents, migrants, and ethnic minorities.

Automated Systems Place Poor People at Increased Risk
Campaigners in India are finding that benefit support is being withdrawn from the country's most vulnerable citizens whenever there is a glitch - such as an unrecognized thumbprint or a failure to link to the Aadhaar numbering system - leaving them to die of starvation, Rebecca Ratcliffe reports at the Guardian. The story is part of the "Automating Poverty" project, which explores the consequences of increased computerization and algorithmic scoring in government services across the world. In Bristol, UK, an algorithm tries to assess the likely futures of 11 and 12-year-olds based on comparisons to current adults when they were the same age.

Human Rights Index Adds Indicators for Transparency in Advertising
Ranking Digital Rights has published draft indicators for transparency and accountability in targeted advertising policies and practices and algorithmic decision making for inclusion in its index, which assesses corporate threats to rights to privacy and freedom of expression, Nathalie Maréchal reports at the RDR's blog. RDR will follow up with a pilot study and welcomes feedback. RDR is also advertising for consultants to undertake a scoping study to inform funding proposals for its new German affiliate.

Hate Speech Detection Systems Display Racial Bias
In this article at TechCrunch, Devin Coldeway summarizes a research paper that finds widespread racial bias in the training datasets used to develop hate speech detection systems such as Google's Jigsaw algorithm, which flags black American slang as "toxic". In a blog posting at 20 Minutes Into the Future, Daniel Harvey highlights the pattern of using contractors to give technology companies plausible deniability for unsavory practices. His example: to improve the face unlock feature of its Pixel 4, Google increased the diversity of its facial recognition training dataset by sending contractors to US cities and offered $5 certificates in return for scanning faces. In Atlanta, contractors targeted homeless people and low-income students, often without explaining the purpose of the scans or that they worked for Google.

Russian Hacking Group Masquerades as Iranian Cyber-Espionage
The Russian "Turla" hacking group has exploited an Iranian cyber-espionage operation to conduct attacks on government and industry organizations in dozens of countries, primarily in the Middle East but including Britain, Al-Jazeera reports. The practice, known as "fourth party collection", has also been used by US and its Western allies, according to documents released by Edward Snowden. Danny Palmer reports at ZDNet that researchers have found that the sophisticated Russian "Cozy Bear" hacking group, also known as "APT29", which was one of the groups that hacked the Democratic National Committee in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, has not, as previously thought, ceased operations but has used four new families of malware to target ministries of foreign affairs in at least three European countries, as well as the US embassy of an EU country in Washington, DC. Both Turla and Cozy Bear are thought to be associated with the Russian intelligence service. At Wired, Andy Greenberg recounts the history of Russian hackers' false flags.

FBI Traces Child Sexual Exploiters via Bitcoin Payments
The US Department of Justice rescued 23 children in abusive situations in the US, Spain, and the UK, arrested 330 people, and seized 8TB of child sexual exploitation videos by tracing $370,000 in bitcoin payments to the Welcome to Video child sexual exploitation site that it closed down in 2018, Merrit Kennedy reports at NPR. The site was hidden on the Tor network, and, prosecutors said, was one of the first of its kind to monetize child exploitation videos by using bitcoin.


Open Access Continues Growth
In this blog posting summarizing a new study of open access by Heather Piwowar, Jason Priem, and Richard Orr, Our Research finds that green (especially when made available within a year of publication), gold, and hybrid papers receive more views than their closed or bronze counterparts. In 2019, OA articles received 52% of article views, even though only 31% of articles are available as OA. The researchers estimate that by 2025 those numbers will be 70% and 44%.

The Many Ways in Which AI Contributes to Climate Change
In this posting at Medium, Roel Dobbe and Meredith Whittaker from the AI Now Institute explore the connections between AI and climate change. The technology sector is expected to contribute 3-3.6% of global greenhouse emissions by 2020, roughly equivalent to aviation and larger than the world's fifth biggest polluting country, Japan. Little of these energy demands are filled by renewables; in 2018 OpenAI reported that the amount of computation used in the largest AI training runs has been doubling every 3.5 months. In addition, companies like Google, Microsoft, and Google are all pitching AI services to fossil fuel companies to help optimize and accelerate fossil fuel production and extraction.

US House Committee Considers How to Build a Healthier Internet
In this recorded livestream, the US House Committee on Energy & Commerce holds a hearing on fostering a healthier internet to protect consumers, with testimony from Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman, recent MacArthur award winner and anti-revenge pornography campaigner Danielle Citron, EFF legal director Corynne McSherry, UC Berkeley's Henry Farid, Google's head of intellectual property policy, Katherine Oyama, and Gretchen S. Peters, the executive director for the Alliance to Counter Crime Online. Among the topics discussed are deepfakes, revenge porn, and the difficulties of content moderation.

School Surveillance Rises in US and UK
In this Guardian article, Lois Beckett examines the rampant growth of school surveillance in the US, where its adoption is being fueled by free offers and the fear of school shootings, and in the UK, where it's being billed as "de-radicalization". A spokesperson for Gaggle, which supplies one of the US systems, argues that school surveillance prepares children for their adult lives of workplace monitoring. At Wired, Tom Simonite examines the growing use of AI-enhanced facial recognition in schools.

Women Form Primary Deepfakes Target
In this blog posting, Giorgio Patrini discusses Deeptrace's work researching the evolving capabilities of and threats posed by deepfakes and synthetic media. The lab's latest work finds that the number of deepfake videos has doubled over the last seven months to 14,678, 96% of them non-consensual deepfake pornography that has attracted 134 million views on the top four websites offering videos targeting female celebrities worldwide. This growth is supported by the increasing commodification of tools and services that enable non-experts to create them, particularly in China and South Korea.

Tackling Misinformation Requires Collective Action
In this report from the Oxford Internet Institute, Phil Howard and Lisa-Maria Neudert make four recommendations for tackling the spread of misinformation: governments should verify campaigners and track expenditure, political parties should be more transparent about data sources, social media platforms should create open archives of ads and report on moderation and takedowns, and civil society should act as external auditors. At openDemocracy, Peter Osborne finds that the UK media from the Daily Mail to the BBC are failing to challenge claims made by prime minister Boris Johnson regarding Brexit or to report corrections when they have been proved untrue. Finally, in a WhatsApp-funded study of WhatsApp lynchings in India find that mainstream media act as an accelerant that gives misinformation added credibility, and ideology and prejudice are bigger factors than ignorance or digital illiteracy.


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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.

Tech Giants, Monopoly Power, and Public Discourse
November 14-15, 2019
New York, NY, USA
At this symposium, convened by the Knight First Amendment Institute, leading legal scholars, economists, and technologists will examine the extent and nature of the technology giants' ability to structure, shape, and distort public discourse, and consider whether anti-monopoly tools might usefully be deployed to limit, expose, or counter this power. Speakers include Ellen P. Goodman, Lina Khan, Tim Wu, and Ethan Zuckerman.

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 dedicated 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.

TICTeC 2020
March 24-25, 2020
Reykjavik, Iceland
mySociety created TICTeC to bridge the gap between civic tech and research - to bring two different communities together, to emphasize the importance of being able to demonstrate impact, and to share what those impacts are. Because Reykjavik's city Council has pioneered using digital tools to elicit feedback from citizens on council policies, expenditures, and projects, the 2020 conference will provide a special opportunity to learn from Iceland's extensive civic technology and civic engagement experience.

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.

AI for Good
May 4-8, 2020
Geneva, Switzerland
The AI for Good Global Summit is the leading United Nations platform for global and inclusive dialogue on AI. The Summit is hosted each year in Geneva by the International Telecommunications Union in partnership with sibling UN agencies, the XPRIZE Foundation, and ACM.

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.

Creative Commons Global Summit
May 14-16, 2020
Lisbon, Portugal
The 2019 CC Summit gathered nearly 400 Creative Commoners from across the globe to attend over 130 sessions and seven keynotes. The Summit, comprising discussion, debate, workshops and planning, talks, and community building, is for anyone who's interested in the global movement for the commons as an activist, advocate, artist, librarian, educator, lawyer, or technologist.

Privacy Law Scholars
June 4-5, 2020
Washington, DC, USA
Organized jointly by BCLT and the George Washington University Law School, the Privacy Law Scholars Conference (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. PLSC brings together privacy law scholars, privacy scholars from other disciplines (economics, philosophy, political science, computer science), and practitioners (industry, legal, advocacy, and government).

Festival of AI and Emerging Technology
June 8-10, 2020
London, UK
CogX draws together speakers from industry, government, and academia to create "a space to learn, discover, and connect with the people and technologies that are shaping the future of humanity".

June 9-12, 2020
San José, Costa Rica
Each year, RightsCon, organized by AccessNow, gathers over 1,000 expert speakers from around the world.

Aspen Ideas Festival
June 27-July 3, 2020
Aspen  Colorado
Presented by the Aspen Institute in partnership with The Atlantic, the Aspen Ideas Festival is a public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to present and discuss the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times. Anyone may purchase a pass to attend.

WEIS 2020
June, 2020 (TBD)
Brussels, Belgium
The annual Workshop on the Economics of Information Security crosses the disciplines of economics, behavioural science, and computer security.

August 6-9, 2020
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
DEF CON is one of the oldest and largest continuously running hacker conventions.

FTC PrivacyCon
July 21, 2020
Washington, DC
The US Federal Trade Commission's fifth annual PrivacyCon, which is free and open to the public, will focus in particular on the privacy of health data collected, stored, and transmitted by mobile apps.

August 2020
Bangkok, Thailand
Wikimania 2020 will be the 16th Wikimania conference, an annual event for the international Wikimedia community.

86th World Library and Information Congress
August 15-21, 2020
Dublin, Ireland
WLIC is the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on November 10, 2019 4:30 PM.

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