News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending March 27, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending March 27, 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 Open Society Foundations. Prepared by Wendy M. Grossman.

Current and former grantees featured in this issue: Data and Society, EDRi, EFF, EPIC, Open Rights Group, Privacy International, SPARC.

Indela has opened its second Call for Proposals for projects that seek to advance digital rights in law and policy, as well as support the organizations and ecosystem of actors working to protect those rights, believing that protecting the rights of Internet users will support greater civic participation, and more empowered, inclusive and accountable societies. Indela will consider proposals for projects that include public campaigns, research, public policy advocacy, and litigation. Selected organizations can receive up to $75,000 for projects running over a 12 to 18 month period, as well as opportunities for specialized consultancies and communications support. The extended call deadline is April 30, 2020.


At the Open Society Foundations, it is our responsibility to put the public interest at the center of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means reducing the burden on our healthcare systems by helping prevent the spread of the virus to the extent possible. To help keep colleagues and our communities safe, all Open Society employees are working remotely from now until April 20. This decision will require some adjustments, as we tackle the logistical challenges involved. But we will do our utmost to maintain the momentum of our work, and our support for all of you, whose efforts are all the more vital at a time of crisis.

As a funder, we understand that COVID-19 may require shifts in strategy, reprioritization, and adjustments as you encounter unforeseen impacts on you, your organizations, and staff. We stand ready to find flexibility in our grants to help you respond to these challenges wherever possible. Please do not hesitate to contact your program officer with questions or concerns.

If you have a grant proposal currently under review, please be assured that we are continuing with business as usual despite working remotely. As we ourselves adapt to these new circumstances, there could be short delays in our consideration and processing of your grant. But we will be doing everything possible to keep things on track.


Privacy and Security for New At-Home Workers
The move to working from home creates new security and privacy issues, Bruce Schneier warns at his blog. Employees' own systems are less likely to be patched, and it's easy to incorrectly configure hastily-installed VPNs and newly set-up tools such as Zoom. To counter these problems, SANS has made freely available a Work From Home Awareness training kit. At Bloomberg, Crystal Tse and Jonathan Browning discuss the risks that home devices such as smart speakers and other listening and watching devices pose to confidentiality for lawyers and others when speaking to clients. At the New York Times, Taylor Lorenz warns that public Zoom conferences are being disrupted by attackers showing pornography or shock videos.

Automated Systems Become Humans' Bosses
The "robot apocalypse" of automating human employment is already here, but instead of replacing low-level workers automated systems are their bosses and managers, dictating how fast they must work, what they say, when they work and for how long, and eliminating "inefficiencies" a human manager would never notice, such as a minute's wait between phone calls, Josh Dzieza reports at The Intercept. The result is stressed-out workers, a rising injury rate, and, increasingly, worker protests. At Wired, Tom Simonite reports on workplace monitoring via technology such as Drishti's machine learning software-enhanced cameras.

Patent Suit Attacks COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests
The law firm Irell & Mandella has asked a court to enjoin the medical diagnostics company BioFire from making the COVID-19 tests it has developed, claiming BioFire is violating patents owned by its client, Softbank-funded Fortress Investment Group. Fortress bought up the patents, which were originally granted to the fraudulent blood testing company Theranos and its founding CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, in 2018 after Theranos went bankrupt. At EFF, Cory Doctorow reports that an engineer who answered a distress call from an Italian hospital to 3D print replacement parts for broken oxygen masks for the hospital's ventilator was unable to get the manufacturer to help by supplying design files. At Vice, Jason Koebler discusses ventilator manufacturers' broad opposition to granting local technicians the information necessary to enable on-site repair.

NGOs Sue US Immigration and Customs Enforcement over "Rigged" Algorithms
The New York Civil Liberties Union and Bronx Defenders are jointly suing ICE over its "rigged" risk assessment tool, which recommends detaining anyone arrested on suspicion of immigration violations, Sam Biddle reports at The Intercept. EPIC finds that in a 2014 report for former president Barack Obama, the US Department of Justice warned of the dangers of predictive analytics and algorithms in policing, arguing that justice should be dispensed based on each defendant's own conduct and personal history instead of historical data about other people. Obtaining the report took a FOIA request, lawsuit, and negotiated settlement.

Bot Study Finds Disproportionate Climate Change Denial
A draft study by Brown University PhD candidate Thomas Marlow finds that a quarter of all tweets about climate change on any given day are produced by bots and are disproportionately denialist, Oliver Milman reports at the Guardian. At BoingBoing, Xeni Jardin reports that Twitter's first-ever use of the "manipulated media label" it announced in early March was applied to a misleadingly clipped video of US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and was posted by White House social media director Dan Scavino and retweeted by US President Donald Trump.

Scotland Votes for Biometrics Oversight
The Scottish Parliament has voted in favor of creating a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner to ensure that government and police use of biometrics data are underpinned by rules and safeguards, Mark Say reports at UKAuthority. In a press release, the Open Rights Group welcomed the development, which has been the subject of an ORG Scotland campaign for three years.


Tracking the Spread of Health-Driven Surveillance Legislation
On this page, Privacy International tracks the global response to COVID-19 as governments pass emergency legislation, restrict movement and assembly, try to control misinformation, and implement unprecedented levels of data exploitation and surveillance. Among its examples, the US Department of Justice has asked Congress for the power to detain individuals indefinitely during national emergencies and for one year afterwards, and Israel has granted its security service access to a previously secret cache of cellular phone data to enable contact tracing. In a blog posting, EDRi calls for responses to COVID-19 to take a fundamental rights-based approach and for exceptional measures to be limited to the duration of the crisis. At EFF, Jason Kelley calls for transparency and public access to government decision making. At his blog, Bruce Schneier adds five principles governments should apply. At the Center for Global Development, Michael Pisa discusses how to balance the social good deriving from having good information with the need to protect individual rights. Imperial College's Computational Privacy Group highlights good alternatives to mass surveillance, and says trust is crucial. In an open letter co-signed by numerous privacy scholars and data analysts, former doteveryone director Rachel Coldicutt reminds the UK's NHSx of social inequities and calls for placing ethics, governance, and transparency at the heart of the data technologies it is developing to suppress the coronavirus.

Abolish Big Data
In this video clip, Data & Society executive director Janet Haven hosts a talk in which Yeshimabeit Milner, the founder and executive director of Data for Black Lives, argues that big data is the latest installment of a historical legacy of "chattel slavery" via scientific and government oppression. Milner calls to "abolish big data" by rejecting its concentration in a few powerful hands.

Chinese State Media Strategies Seek to Control Narrative
In this article at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, Vanessa Molter studies how Chinese state media work to control the narrative around the novel coronavirus and deflect blame. Molter teases out China's approach by comparing Chinese postings on Facebook with those from US media outlets and then turns her attention to how US reporting has evolved over time.

Fear of Crime Leads Suburbanites to Enable Surveillance
In this article at Radical History Review, Matthew Guariglia attributes the suburban proliferation of camera-laden Amazon Ring doorbells to fear of crime, which is leading white suburbanites to willingly invite police, corporations, and bad actors into their homes. The result is that they are voluntarily subjecting themselves to levels of surveillance that black urbanites have long tried to escape.

Coronavirus Fight Needs Open Access
In this interview by Canadian law professor Michael Geist for his LawBytes podcast, SPARC executive director Heather Joseph discusses the importance of open access in the global fight against the novel coronavirus to enable scientists to build freely on each other's work. An LSE study found on March 5, however, that more than half of the 13,818 papers published since the 1990s on coronaviruses were behind paywalls even though the underlying work was typically paid for by taxpayers. SPARC Europe reports that the French Open Science Committee has made a record-breaking pledge of €450,000 to OpenCitations, the Public Knowledge Project, and the Directory of Open Access Books. At Wired, Klint Finley reports that government science advisors in a dozen countries including the US have published an open letter calling on scientific publishers asking them to make all research relating to the coronavirus and COVID-19 freely accessible through PubMed Central or through the WHO's COVID database. At Technology Review, Karen Hao reports that under the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, researchers at the US National Library of Medicine, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Microsoft have compiled the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, comprising over 24,000 research papers from bioRxiv, medRxiv, and peer-reviewed journals that cover SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, and coronaviruses.

End Internet Shutdowns to Save Lives
In this article, Access Now argues that internet shutdowns will help spread the virus, and asks visitors to tweet its calls on governments in Ethiopia, India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh to restore internet access in the areas of their countries where it's been shut down.


*** In light of the coronavirus outbreak, please follow your organization's travel guidelines, and check links to events listed below regularly for participation restrictions and updates as to whether events will go ahead.***

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

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.

CANCELED 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.

CANCELED 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.

was May 4-8, 2020; rescheduled to September 21-25, 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.

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.

CANCELED 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.

MOVING ONLINE 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.

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.

POSTPONED TO 2021 Wikimania
August 2020
Bangkok, Thailand
Wikimania 2020 will be the 16th Wikimania conference, an annual event for the international Wikimedia community.

TBC JUNE 1, 2020 DEF CON 28
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).

EIFL General Assembly
September 24-26, 2020
Vilnius, Lithuania
The GA is EIFL's major annual knowledge-sharing and networking event for library professionals in developing and transition economy countries.

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 April 24, 2020 2:11 PM.

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