News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending November 29, 2019

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending November 29, 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: Access Now, Amnesty International, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Center for Democracy and Technology, Creative Commons, Dejusticia, EFF, EU DisinfoLab, Free Software Foundation, Internet Archive, Public Knowledge, Wikimedia.


Internet Society Privatizes .org Generic Top-Level Domain Registry
The Internet Society has announced it will sell the .org generic top level domain name registry to the private equity firm Ethos Capital, after which Public Interest Registry, the owner of .org since 2003, will discard its non-profit status, Kieren McCarthy reports at The Register. The sale follows the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decision to lift price caps on .org domains for the next ten years. At The Longest Now, Sam Klein calls the decision a race toward regulatory capture and provides additional background. At its blog, EFF details its six months of efforts to persuade ICANN to remove contract provisions that make it easier for authorities to censor NGOs' websites. A coalition of organizations including EFF, Free Software Foundation, Internet Archive, Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Wikimedia, and numerous others representing museums, the Scouting movement, volunteers, and non-profits have sent an open letter asking the Internet Society to reconsider. Organizations and individuals may sign on at the Save Dot Org website.

UK: AI Use Exacerbates Racism and Disempowerment
A new algorithmic tool for categorizing prisoners in UK jails risks automating and embedding racism, exacerbating the problems exposed in a 2017 review by the Labour MP David Lammy, Croften Black warns in a new report for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. At UK Authority, Michael Cross summarizes the objections of UK Supreme Court Justice Lord Philip Sales to digital government depersonalization of public services, which turns individuals into powerless "serfs".

Russian Law Requires Domestic Software on New Devices
Under a new law, Russia will ban the sale of an as-yet unpublished list of smartphones, computers, and smart TVs that do not include preinstalled Russian software, the BBC reports. Bill co-author Oleg Nikolayev claims the intention is to show users there are Russian alternatives to Western software; critics fear that the requirement will lead manufacturers to withdraw from the Russian market and that the software will be used to spy on users.

INTERPOL Specialist Group Seeks to Ban End-to-End Encryption
At the behest of the US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, the 37th meeting of the INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes against Children issued a draft resolution banning end-to-end encryption and blaming the technology industry for child exploitation, Sean Gallegher reports at Ars Technica.

Fake Local Media Outlets Seek to Spread Indian Influence
A coordinated network of 265 fake local media outlets in more than 65 countries is managed by India's Srivastava Group in order to influence institutions and elected representatives, provide NGOs with press material, and influence public perceptions of Pakistan, EU DisinfoLab reports. The lab will soon publish a full report and welcomes contributions.

Big Tech Business Models Depend on Systematic Violation of Human Rights
A new report from Amnesty International argues that Google's and Facebook's business models fundamentally depend on constant surveillance and systematic violation of human rights, and that while their power has so far kept governments and regulators from holding them accountable, the era of self-regulation is ending,  Christine Fisher reports at Engadget. In another new report, Dejusticia analyzes the privacy policies of 30 companies with data-driven business models active in Colombia to identify practices overlooked by the country's data protection regime. At Slate, Elena Botella examines leaked documents to reveal that Facebook gains $132.80 in revenues per US or Canadian user. At The Correspondent, Jesse Frederik and Maurits Martijn present data showing that we actually do not know whether online advertising works.


Proposals Favor Geoblocking Open Access Research
In this blog posting at the LSE, Martin Eve argues that we should resist proposals to use geoblocking to limit access to the countries that were involved in funding research and its publication or to countries that have strong open access policies. Giving in to insularity impedes the benefits of research and compromises the moral argument for open access.

Health Care Provider Ascension Hires Google to Manage Patient Data
In this radio clip and transcript at NPR, Shannon Bond discusses the $2 billion contract under which Google manages clinical data collected by Ascension, a large Catholic health care system that operates hospitals and doctors' offices in 20 US states and Washington, DC. Ascension and Google respond that Google is not allowed to use the data, which is kept encrypted, for advertising or research. The news broke a few days after Reuters reported that Google will acquire Fitbit for $2.1 billion, promising that Fitbit users' health and wellness data will not be used for ads.

Privacy-Related Organizations Accept Funding from Google and Facebook
In this article at Bloomberg, Daniel R. Stoller investigates Google's and Facebook's donations to think tanks and NGOs that work on privacy issues, and suggests the donations influence these organizations' work with legislators and journalists. The seven organizations listed are: Center for Democracy and Technology, Future of Privacy Forum, Access Now (total donations $208,000), EFF ($30,000), Brookings Institution, Cato Institute, and American Enterprise Institute.

Digital Technologies Threaten Academic Freedom
In this forum from International Studies Perspectives, researchers examine various aspects of the impact of online centralization, censorship, and surveillance on scholarship. In order to avert the threats to academic freedom being brought by harassment, exploitation, centralized infrastructure, monitoring via "smart" campuses and classrooms, and anti-terrorism initiatives, it is increasingly essential to improve "digital hygiene".

Global Players Fund African Fintech Sector
In this Quartz article, Yomi Kazeem surveys the state of the fintech sector in Africa, where 66% of the adult population are unbanked and for whom new companies and technologies offer an opportunity for financial inclusion. In Kenya, financial inclusion has risen to 83% since M-Pesa mobile money launched in 2007. Entrants into these markets include startups backed by American giants PayPal, Visa, Stripe, and Mastercard alongside others backed by Chinese companies and investors. In a Twitter thread, Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson reports that the Apple Card's algorithm assigned him 20 times the credit limit offered to his wife even though they file joint returns, have been married a long time, and live in a community property state. At the New York Times, Yiren Lu explains the workings in China of WeChat's miniprograms, which offer easy access to payment processing for small and medium-sized businesses moving online.

How to Identify AI Snake Oil
In this interview at IEEE Spectrum, Janelle Shane, author of You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, explains to Eliza Strickland that the narrower the problem the AI is asked to solve, the smarter it will seem. At BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow summarizes Princeton computer scientist Arvind Narayanan's guide to recognizing AI snake oil. Narayanan divides current AI into three categories: perception (making rapid progress), automating judgment ("imperfect but improving"), and predicting social outcomes ("fundamentally dubious").

White Nationalists Operate Openly on Facebook
In this article at the Guardian, Julia Carrie Wong reports on the open operations of white nationalists on Facebook and the company's refusal to take action to stop them. Active groups such as Red Ice TV, now banned from YouTube, and VDare, the Affirmative Right, and American Free Press, as well as two Holocaust denial organizations, have longstanding Facebook pages. Despite critics' objections, Facebook includes Breitbart News on its list of trusted sources of information.


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

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.

March 5-6, 2020
Amsterdam, Netherlands
From automating simple tasks to predicting efficiencies, AI has much to offer business. Yet we have also been warned: AI will reinforce biases, hide important decisions, and deplete employment. Are we headed to a smarter workplace, or a dumber future? AI@Work will go beyond siloed debate: computer scientists, ethicists, academics, policy makers, and business leaders will come together to share ambitions, experiences, concerns, and visions.

AI Summit 2020
March 16-17
Brussels, Belgium
Politico's AI Summit returns to Brussels to tackle key questions about the future of AI global regulation and the technology's implementation. The conference will consider whether and how AI development should be limited, different cultural interpretations of "trustworthy," and the challenges of implementing a cross-border and coordinated European approach to AI.

TICTeC 2020
March 24-25, 2020
Reykjavik, Iceland
mySociety created TICTeC to bridge the gap between civic tech and research ñ 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 JosÈ, 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.

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.

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

Netroots Nation
August 13-15, 2020
Denver, Colorado, USA
For more than a decade, Netroots Nation, which began as a convention for the most active members of the DailyKos community, has hosted the largest annual conference for progressives and other organizers and advocacy groups, drawing thousands of attendees from around the country and beyond, to develop their work around topics such as sharing data, developing technology talent, and managing digital campaigns.

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 December 6, 2019 4:23 PM.

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