News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending January 24, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending January 24, 2020

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, noyb, Privacy International.


Uber Threatens to Sue Colombia under Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The controversial provision in international trade treaties for investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is being invoked for the first time by Uber, which is threatening to sue Colombia for millions of dollars for violating the 2012 United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, Glyn Moody reports at Techdirt. At CNBC, Lauren Feiner reported in early January that Uber would cease operations in the country after a Colombian court ruled in December that the company broke the county's market rules.

Preliminary CJEU Opinion Finds UK, French, and Belgian Data Retention Unlawful
The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, Campos Sánchez-Bordona, has written a preliminary opinion finding that British, French, and Belgian laws requiring telephone and internet companies to store and retain data on citizens' phone and internet activity are unlawful, Bill Goodwin reports at Computer Weekly. The British case was referred to the court by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in response to a challenge filed by Privacy International, which also intervened in the French case. In a backgrounder, PI explains that the opinion is non-binding, though normally followed by the court. The eventual final judgment will be sent back to each state's national court, which must apply the CJEU's ruling.

Norwegian Consumer Council and noyb File GDPR Complaints against Adtech Companies
The Norwegian Consumer Council and noyb have collaborated to file three GDPR complaints with the Norwegian Data Protect Authority against Grindr, Twitter, and adtech companies Smaato, OpenX, AdColony, and AT&T's AppNexus, based on the NCC's new report on adtech, Max Schrems reports at noyb. At TechCrunch, Natasha Lomas summarizes the report, which finds that ten popular mobile apps transmit user data to at least 135 different advertising or profiling companies, often along with location and IP address, and that mobile users have no hope of escaping being profiled in detail. NCC, with the help of cybersecurity company Mnemonic, subjected ten apps to forensic analysis, including Grindr, Tinder, OKCupid, and two fertility trackers. At Engadget, Violet Blue reports that Airbnb's "trait analyzer" algorithm, which scores the company's users by mining the comprehensive dossiers Airbnb assembles about them, penalizes involvement with drugs, alcohol, hate websites or organizations, or sex work; users with low scores are denied service. At Wired, Tom Simonite recounts the first results of the California Consumer Privacy Act (2019), which include exposing data collection by physical retail stores and restaurants.

Disputes Continue over Sale of .org Registry
A group of internet pioneers led by Esther Dyson, a former chair of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has proposed to take over the .org registry as an alternative to the Internet Society's planned sale for $1 billion to newly-formed Ethos Capital, Steve Lohr reports at the New York Times. At EFF, Mitch Stoltz notes that 21,000 people, 660 organizations, and six members of the US Congress have asked ICANN to halt the deal and argues that ICANN should answer many more questions from the community. In two articles at The Register, Kieren McCarthy lays bare the conflicts of interest among those associated with the Ethos deal and reports that ICANN has written to the Internet Society and the registry to halt the sale and demand greater transparency. In a third article, McCarthy examines the 2.3 million-name Colombian .co registry, which has issued tender requirements that actively exclude everyone in the market except the US-based registry operator Afilias.

UK: Counter-terrorism Police Place Extinction Rebellion on Extremist List
The UK's counter-terrorism police listed Extinction Rebellion alongside neo-Nazi groups and a pro-terrorist Islamist group in a guide to extremist ideological threats that should be reported to the authorities via Prevent, a program that requires police officers, government organizations, and teachers to report those who might commit terrorist acts, Vikram Dodd and Jamie Grierson report at the Guardian. At The Times, Fariha Karim reports that the same list also included Greenpeace, PETA, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In a follow-up, the Guardian reports that although the police quickly recalled the leaflet, home secretary Priti Patel defended the group's inclusion. At Byline Times, GP Adnan Siddiqui writes he saw in his Prevent training that the program criminalizes dissent; after explaining its inner workings he concludes it should be scrapped.

US: Tech Company CEOs Beg for Antitrust Regulation
In a hearing in front of the US House Antitrust Subcommittee in Colorado, CEOs from companies such as Sonos, Tile, Basecamp, and PopSockets begged lawmakers to rein in Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, complaining that the GAFA companies have copied their services' features and penalized them through algorithm changes, Tony Romm reports at the Washington Post. At CNBC, Lauren Feiner adds that the CEOs characterized this behavior as bullying, and noted that they were taking a risk in speaking publicly. At The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal writes that the culture that made Silicon Valley is changing as companies defend their size and dominance by citing China as a bigger evil whose repression could drown out America's free-speech values.


Democracy, Climate, and the Loss of Shared Truth
In this article at Byline Times, CJ Werleman connects Australia's raging bushfires to its leaders' ties to the coal industry, the opaqueness of political funding, and the pervasive influence of the Rupert Murdoch-dominated, climate change denialist press, which has even accused the Bureau of Meteorology of falsifying its temperature data records. At the Sydney Morning Herald, Zoe Samios and Andrew Hornery report that a News Corporation Australia employee has accused the company of  "irresponsible" and "dangerous" coverage of the fires as part of a "misinformation campaign". In a Sydney Morning Herald op-ed, Chris Zappone writes that the bushfires show that shared truth is essential for democracy to function. At the New York Times, Dana Goldstein analyzes the differences between the social studies textbooks used in Texas and California schools; though they credit the same authors, state-specific editions differ in their treatment of issues such as immigration, gun control, religion, and the history of slavery.

How China Built Its Technological Powerhouse
In this special report, The Economist's Hal Hodson surveys technology in China, studying state subsidies, legal issues, and sector weaknesses to show how the country has built its capabilities and technological access, and how its capacity for developing new technologies is changing. The report includes articles on IP law in China, the role of state subsidies, and its increasing expertise in microchip design, especially for AI applications. Separately, in a blog posting Andres Guadamuz discusses a Chinese court's ruling that articles generated by artificial intelligence are protected by copyright.

Four Lessons from Ten Years of Crowdsourcing Eyewitness Accounts
In this article at The Correspondent, Esra'a Al Shafei outlines four lessons from ten years of work on Bahrain-based CrowdVoice, a platform to crowdsource eyewitness accounts from protests all over the world. Among them: eyewitness testimony and evidence-based reporting are crucial, and these depend on large networks and anonymity.

Russia Poses Stealthier Threat to US 2020 Presidential Election
In this article at the New York Times, Matthew Rosenberg, Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger examine the stealthier tactics Russia's intelligence agencies are set to deploy for the 2020 US presidential election. While defenses have improved since 2016, many of the same vulnerabilities remain, and new attackers, such as Iran, have entered the field. Widespread distrust means the fear of an attack could be as dangerous as the reality.

Brexit Endangers the EU's Unitary Patent Court
In this article at The Register, Kieren McCarthy explains the arguments being heard in the German Constitutional Court that could kill the planned European Unitary Patent Court. Very few recognize that the risk is serious, he writes; among other arguments, the complaint contends that the court's legitimacy rests on support from the three compulsory signatories which jointly generate most of Europe's patents - France, Germany, and the UK, which will shortly no longer be an EU member. The UPC was expected to be operational in early 2021.

The Inherent Conservatism of Artificial intelligence
In this article at the LA Review of Books, Cory Doctorow discusses Molly Sauter's 2007 proposition that AI and machine learning are inherently conservative. Empiricism-washing, he writes, "is the top ideological dirty trick of technocrats everywhere"; he concludes that far more important than what technology does is "who it is doing it for and who it is doing it to".


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

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.

ECogS 2020
March 23-26, 2020
Okinawa, Japan
The International Conference on Embodied Cognitive Science (ECogS) will bring together approaches that are theoretically and methodologically diverse yet united in their commitment to an alternative orientation, one in which embodied interaction plays the primary organizing role of life, mind, and consciousness.

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.

Personal Democracy Forum CEE 2020
April 23-25, 2020
Gdańsk, Poland
The eighth PDF CEE is organized by the ePaństwo Foundation together with the City of Gdańsk and the European Solidarity Centre and will be followed by the fourth edition of the Festival of Civic Tech for Democracy. The 2020 conference is inspired by the 21 Demands proposed in 1980 by strikers in the Gdańsk Shipyard, and is expected to attract around 500 democracy activists, civic tech enthusiasts, media, business and academic representatives, public administration officials, opinion makers, influencers, cultural activists, digital media specialists and activists to debate human and digital rights, transparency of governments, cybersecurity, civic technologies and countering disinformation.

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.

Digitising Early Childhood
June 11-12, 2010
Milan, Italy
Contemporary children and their parents are inventing what it is to have a digital childhood, and in doing so are introducing families, schools and policy makers to new ways of thinking, doing and being. This conference discusses and expands research trajectories through these uncertainties and aims to build bridges across the different disciplines and strands of research in this area. It will forge a new way forward and consolidate the base of what we already know, revealing what we have yet to investigate and address, and what important insights are emerging that must be taken seriously.

Workshop on the Economics of Information Security
June 15-16, 2020
Brussels, Belgium
The annual workshop on the economics of information security is a cross-disciplinary event to develop more effective approaches to information security.

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).

MozFest 2020
October, 2020
Location TBD
MozFest programs and events are co-created by a group of dynamic, vibrant and varied community collaborators, all working towards one goal: the opportunity for everyone to live a healthy online life.

Future in Review
October 6-9, 2020
La Jolla, CA, USA
Future in Review 2019 is a global conference on the intersection of technology and the economy, offering new partnerships, projects, and plans, and the opportunity to analyze and create the future of technology, economics, pure science, the environment, genomics, education, and more.

International Open Data Conference
November 18-20, 2020
Nairobi, Kenya
The sixth edition of IODC will be hosted by the government of Kenya with support from the OD4D Network, IDRC, and the World Bank. The conference program will be co-created with the community via an open call for proposals to ensure a diverse agenda of interactive sessions, workshops, and ancillary events. A special focus will be placed on building bridges with the broader data community, exploring how to bring the power of the newest technologies to some of the world's oldest problems, and creating new models for collaboration in order to drive social and economic value from open data in Africa and around the world.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on January 30, 2020 1:20 PM.

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