News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending April 10, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending April 10, 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: AlgorithmWatch, Citizen Lab, Communia, Creative Commons, Digitale Gesellschaft, EDRi, IFLA, Knowledge Ecology International, medConfidential, mySociety, Open Rights Group, Pt2, Wikimedia.

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.


Hungarian Parliament Hands Full Control to Viktor Orbán
The Hungarian parliament has voted to allow prime minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree during the coronavirus emergency, and has set no time limit, Nick Thorpe reports at the BBC. At The Atlantic, Yasmeen Serhan ponders what the EU can and should do in response; the block cannot unilaterally expel a member state. Suspending some of a country's rights under Article 7 of the Treaty of Lisbon requires the agreement of all other EU members, and referring infringement proceedings to the European Court of Justice would take years.

Attacks on Press Freedom Rise Across the Globe
Attacks on media freedom are on the rise across many countries during the coronavirus crisis, Index on Censorship reports. The Indian government is pressuring media advertisers and has shut down channels; Myanmar has blocked more than 200 websites; and 400 Spanish journalists have asked their government to revise a policy that requires all questions to be filtered through the press secretary, who controls whether they get asked. The International Center for Journalists has compiled reports from international news outlets regarding the "extinction event" many are facing, along with their struggles to counter misinformation. In its daily newsletter, Poynter argues that newspapers should restore their paywalls for coronavirus-related stories because the collapse in advertising leaves them no other revenue. In a Twitter posting, Tor Books executive editor Beth Meacham explains the pandemic-related supply chain problems that will damage printed-book publishing for at least a year.

Palantir Provides Data Platform to UK's NHS and US CDC
The controversial data-mining company Palantir has started work on a data platform for Britain's National Health Service, the Economist reports. Critics are concerned that once embedded, Palantir could be hard to dislodge and that the company has no expertise in managing public health data. However, the crisis is pushing the NHS to improve its analytics in order to better predict the upcoming caseload. At Computing, John Leonard lays out further concerns voiced by the Open Rights Group and the campaigning group medConfidential: does the UK really want a powerful, secretive, foreign company embedded in its health service? At Business Insider, Tyler Sonnemaker finds that Palantir is also providing its software to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help it monitor the spread of COVID-19 and track resources. At its blog, medConfidential lays out a plan for the longer term to ensure that health privacy is protected in the apps, open standards, and platforms that will be built for future pandemics.

Twitter Takes Down National Leaders' Tweets for Spreading Misinformation
Twitter's pledge to take down tweets containing false or misleading information about COVID-19 cures has begun with deleting tweets by the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela and US president Donald Trump's personal lawyer, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Kim Lyons, reports at The Verge. The removed tweets included  Nicolás Maduro's endorsement of a method to "eliminate the infection genes" in the virus and Jair Bolsonaro's videos claiming hydroxychloroquine offers a cure and calling for an end to social distancing; Facebook also removed Bolsonaro's video.

NSO Group Offers Governments Tracking Software to Combat Pandemic
Israel's controversial NSO Group says it is in talks with governments around the world to provide mobile data analysis software that it claims can monitor and predict the spread of the coronavirus, Rory Cellan-Jones reports for the BBC. The company says its software works best if a country's mobile networks provide the records of all of their subscribers. At Vice, Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai quotes Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton, who calls the effort "an extremely cynical attempt from a notorious spyware company to branch out into mass surveillance." At Sky News, Alexander Martin sees a demonstration that NSO Group claims shows that data governments upload will not be accessible by the company.

UK: False Coronavirus Connection Leads to Vandalism of Mobile Masts
At least 20 UK phone masts have been torched or vandalised, mostly in the Liverpool and West Midlands areas of the UK, in the baseless belief that the rollout of 5G is connected to the coronavirus pandemic, Jim Waterson and Alex Hern report at the Guardian. Because the rollout has been slow, many of the attacks damaged existing 3G and 4G equipment. In a second Guardian article, Waterson and Hern outline the paths by which false claims about health risks from 5G have spread and why they're so hard to dislodge. Causes include rapidly growing neighbourhood social media groups, the networks' failure to promote scientific evidence about 5G, a frightened population looking for something to blame, and competing claims that make it hard to know what to debunk.


UK: Study Attributes Universal Credit Failures to Flawed Policy Assumptions
The failures of the UK's digital welfare system, Universal Credit, are not due to IT, but to flawed assumptions and trade-offs the Department of Work and Pensions is making between cost reductions, claimants' needs, and policy intent, says Pt2 in a new report. The policy framework is insufficiently flexible, and the focus on automation prioritizes efficiency for the DWP rather than claimants, meaning that decisions are opaque. Pt2 concludes with many recommendations for reform to make the system more responsive, transparent, and better suited to claimants' needs.

Privacy Camp Highlights Activists
On this YouTube channel, Privacy Camp provides recordings of this January's event, organized by EDRi, VUB, IEE, and Privacy Salon. Of particular note were the panel on the impact of surveillance on today's children featuring's Jen Persson; "Actually, in Google We Trust"?, in which activists from Russia explain why they are safer using Google and Facebook than the more arcane tools recommended in the West, and "Stories of Activism", in which activists working on a varied group of causes discuss how they work and how they use technology.

Canada: Implementing Open Educational Resources
On this episode of the LawBytes podcast, David Porter explains the benefits of open educational resources and open textbooks to Michael Geist as Canada, like many other countries, abruptly shifts to distance or online learning. Porter, who has long been a leader in advocating for OER, explains the copyright and financial arrangements that had to be put in place to make OER a reality in Canada.

Principles for Guiding Automated Decision Making
In this blog posting, AlgorithmWatch publishes a set of principles to guide countries in implementing automated decision-making systems to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Successful solutions are grounded in public health policies, as this is not a technological problem.; eEach national context is different; and fundamental rights should be protected - particularly if the surveillance measures being implemented don't actually work as anti-virus strategies. At The Markup, Julia Angwin warns against rushing headlong into massive surveillance while ignoring our post-9/11 lessons: that it's very invasive and doesn't necessarily work. Via FOIA, she is collecting the algorithms that determine who gets tested in US states.

Open Letter Calls for Removing Intellectual Property Impediments in Coronavirus Crisis
In this open letter, IFLA urges the World Intellectual Property Organization to ensure that IP  regimes do not hinder efforts to tackle both the coronavirus outbreak and its consequences. It is co-signed by dozens of other organizations such as India's Centre for Internet and Society, Communia, Creative Commons, Digitale Gesellschaft, Knowledge Ecology International, Public Citizen, and the German, Spanish, and Italian branches of Wikimedia. The letter recommends that rights holders should remove licensing restrictions that inhibit remote education and research, create a global pool of rights in technology related to COVID-19, and support countries' rights to use exceptions in the interests of ensuring equitable access to medicines and medical technologies. At The Register, Kieren McCarthy explains the growing conflict between authors' and publishers' organizations and the Internet Archive, which has stripped restrictions off its Open Library collection of 1.4 million copyrighted books for the duration of the pandemic emergency. McCarthy suggests that authors and publishers fear that if uncontested the move will set a precedent that will be hard to dislodge.

Ban Adtech
In this article at Wired, Gilad Edelman asks why we don't simply ban companies from using personal data for targeting advertising, the practice that lies behind most of the problems on the technology platforms. Removing the financial incentive is a lot simpler than cleaning up each issue - abuse, election manipulation, tracking, and so on. The result might including making companies like Google and Facebook less powerful.


*** 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

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.

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.

CANCELED 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.

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.

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.

POSTPONED We Robot 2020
Will update June 1, 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.

Digitising Early Childhood
June 11-12, 2021
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.

MozFest 2021
March 2021
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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.

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


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on April 24, 2020 2:12 PM.

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