News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending February 14, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending February 14, 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: EDRi, Open Rights Group, Privacy International, SPARC, The Engine Room.


Privacy International Files Personal Data Complaint Against MI5
In collaboration with Liberty UK, Privacy International has filed a complaint against the security agency MI5 with the UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal based on the agency's admission that it was holding personal data in an "ungoverned space", PI reports in a press release. The complaint adds to previous cases in which longstanding and serious failings have emerged regarding MI5's collection and use of personal data.

Dutch Court Shuts Down Benefit Fraud Prediction System
A Dutch court has shut down the government SyRi system, which flagged thousands of immigrants and people in low-income communities as likely to commit benefit fraud, on the basis that it violates European human rights and data protection laws, Tom Simonite reports at Wired. In coming to its decision, the court heard testimony from representatives of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, who submitted an influential report on the dangers of the digital welfare state to the UN General Assembly last year. The fact that the ruling cites international human rights laws and norms means the case is likely to be widely influential.

Facial Recognition App May End Privacy in Public Places
The little-known and secretive company Clearview AI has built a groundbreaking facial recognition app that can match a single uploaded image to its database of 3 billion public images and provide details of where it appeared, Kashmir Hill reports at the New York Times. The company says more than 600 law enforcement agencies now use its app, potentially ending all privacy in public places. In a follow-up story, Hill and Bariel J.X. Dance report that the company's technology is being used to identify child victims of sexual abuse. At CNet, Alfred Ng reports that the company believes that despite the cease-and-desist letters it's received from Twitter, Facebook, and Google the First Amendment protects its right to scrape these "publicly-available" images. At The Verge, Casey Newton considers 15 years of diminishing privacy by drawing a straight line to Clearview AI from Google Maps.

UK: School Data Passed to Betting Companies
A Sunday Times investigation found that the UK Department of Education Learning Records Service database had granted access to personal data about more than 28 million British pupils over the age of 14 to betting companies, Jen Persson reports at DefendDigital.Me. The group calls for a full investigation and a system-wide audit given previous complaints about the misuse of children's data. At TES, Amy Gibbons reports that using the information enabled one gambling firm to increase the numbers of young people passing its identity checks by 15%. Recent surveys and reports have found that nearly half of all children between the ages of 11 and 16 have spent money on gambling. In November 2018, the Guardian reported that 55,000 British 11-to-16-year-olds were classed as problem gamblers.

US: President Considers Mandating Open Access to All Federally Funded Research
US president Donald Trump is considering issuing an executive order requiring all federally funded research to be immediately accessible to the public for free, Kelsey Brugger and Sean Reilly report at E&E News. At STAT, Robert M. Kaplan reviews the reasons to support the move, although 125 publishers and scientific organizations oppose it. SPARC reports that it has submitted a letter of support, along with numerous other scientists, patient advocates, and publishers.

US: Companies Lobby to Weaken Internet Liability Law
IBM and Disney are among a wide array of companies lobbying to weaken S230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, the law that shields online platforms from liability for content posted by their users, David McCabe reports at the New York Times. Also lobbying to weaken the law are Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt, who want S230 modified so Airbnb and other home-rental services can't use it to block local regulations.


Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
On this page at YouTube, CPDP lists video clips of this year's conference sessions, the vast majority of which covered one or more aspects of AI. Among the most notable are panels on data protection in the smart city; the ethics of adtech (organized by the Open Rights Group); AI and migration control (organized by EDRi); adtech and the future of the internet; and algorithmic regulation of transportation.

Inside the Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Re-Elect President Trump
In this article at The Atlantic, McKay Coppins describes the billion-dollar disinformation campaign to re-elect US president Donald Trump, which depends on tools and techniques developed by dictators elsewhere. Having created a separate Facebook account and liked a few pro-Trump pages, Coppins is swamped by pro-Trump propaganda videos and winds up doubting every news story of any stripe. Coppins goes on to trace these tactics' history of being used to support Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte and discredit journalists who have criticized Trump. The Economist's annual report on the state of democracy finds that although 2019 scored lowest since assessments began in 2006, there is hope in the form of popular protests. At Al Jazeera, Santiago Zabala argues that digital populism is even more dangerous than the emotional appeals of right- and left-wing populist politicians. Finally, at CNBC, Salvador Rodriguez reports that the new oversight board Facebook is setting up is "filled with loopholes" and its influence over the company's actions will be very limited.

New Study Finds Exclusion and Empowerment in Digital Identity
In this report, the Engine Room studies the real-life social and cultural consequences of digital ID systems among marginalized communities in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Thailand. Among the key findings: while digital ID can both empower and increase surveillance of marginalized groups; these systems are growing, partly because one of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals is for everyone to have a legal identity by 2030; context matters; and both the ID itself and the process of obtaining it can be exclusionary.

The Misinformation Virus
In this BBC radio program, "The Misinformation Virus", Angela Saini investigates how and why pseudoscience continues to spread, no matter how often it's debunked. At Wired, Omer Benjakob reports on Wikipedia's efforts to contain disinformation about the coronavirus. At Patreon, internet pioneer Howard Rheingold, author of Net Smart, republishes an essay for the New School's Public Seminar in which he suggests that solving today's lopsided deception arms race will require legislation to curb the monopoly power of digital megacorporations. At New Humanist, Eleanor Gordon-Smith discusses the importance of emotion and trust in persuading people to change their minds about long-held beliefs. Finally, The Economist reviews Under the Influence, a new book by Cornell professor Robert Frank, who suggests we could harness "behavioral contagion" to support social goals.

Price-Fixing Lawsuit Strangled Ebooks
In this article at Vox, Constance Grady delves into the records of a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in 2012 against Apple and five of the then-Big Six publishing houses in order to understand why ebooks are so expensive - and why they still command only 20% of the book market. The DoJ contended that Apple and the publishers were conspiring to fix prices; Apple and the publishers claimed they were merely countering the predatory threat posed by Amazon. Antitrust law professor Christopher Sagers tells Grady that the underlying problem is industry consolidation at all levels; he believes the government should also have sued Amazon.

OECD Oversees Talks on Taxing the Digital Giants
In this article at Politico, Mark Scott and Aaron Lorenzo explain the key issues and proposals for discussion in the late-January international talks on taxing the digital giants. The talks are overseen by the OECD, which has been tasked with finding a compromise between countries who want the companies to pay tax where they earn revenues, such as Austria and Italy, which have already passed digital tax rules targeting US companies, and countries that believe the companies should pay tax where their headquarters are.


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

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.

May 8-9, 2020
Chicago, IL, USA
The 11th Chicago-based Thotcon hacking conference is a non-commercial event intended to combine a top-quality information security conference with a casual and social experience.

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.

CPDP LatAm 2020
June 23-25, 2020
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The first Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection Latin America will be held in conjunction with the first Latin American Privacy Law Scholars conference and MyData's first Latin American meeting. The theme will be "Data Protection in Latin America: Democracy, Innovation, and Regulation". The organizers hope it will be a unique opportunity to bring together varied and complementary perspectives on data protection and its impact on democracy, innovation, and regulation in Latin America.

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.

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 February 20, 2020 7:58 PM.

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