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

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

Current and former grantees featured in this issue: CyberBRICS, HRDAG, mySociety.

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.


Apple and Google agree collaboration for contact tracing platform
Apple and Google will collaborate to build an interoperable platform to enable phone-based contact tracing, Russell Brandom and Adi Robertson report at The Verge. Their system will use short-range Bluetooth connections to create a voluntary network, storing on the phone logs of which phones have been in close proximity, only giving access to health authorities if the phone's owner is diagnosed with COVID-19. In a blog posting, Cambridge University security engineer Ross Anderson explains why the technological proposals for contact tracing will not work in the real world; better, he concludes, to redistribute public resources from surveillance to public health. At The Markup, Julia Angwin discusses the benefits and risks inherent in the Apple-Google proposal, including the potential for data exploitation by the advertising industry. At ACLU, Jennifer Granick summarizes the principles that Apple and Google should follow in designing their platform, taken from the new white paper by Granick and Jay Stanley on the limitations of location tracking in a pandemic. At Ars Technica, Tim Bradshaw finds that the Apple/Google plan relies on modern chips and will exclude up to 1 billion older iOS and Android smartphones, plus the 1.5 billion people who run basic "feature" phones, all chiefly older or lower-income segments of society.

UNC Chapel Hill ends contract with Elsevier
After more than a year of trying to negotiate with Elsevier, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is ending its instant access subscription package to 2,000 journals, Lindsay McKenzie reports at Inside Higher Ed. UNC says the move will allow it to pay only for the journals it wants.

California attorney general urges ICANN to block .org sale
The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers has delayed deciding whether to approve the Internet Society's planned sale of the .org generic top-level domain, after receiving a letter from California attorney general Xavier Becerra urging it to reject the plan, Kieren McCarthy reports at The Register. Becerra, whose office oversees non-profit organizations registered in California - including ICANN itself - objects to selling .org to the unknown, for-profit privately-owned Ethos Capital and the $300 million debt the plan would place on the registry. He also suggests his office may take action to protect non-profits against ICANN's poor handling of the sale, its unresponsiveness to stakeholders, and its departure from its own stated public interest principles, as well as ISOC's behavior in proposing the sale in the first place.

Australia will force social media companies to pay for shared content
In response to the 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry final report concluding that Google and Facebook have distorted local media and advertising markets, Australia will force social media companies to pay for content shared on their networks, Simon Sharwood reports at The Register. Even though similar laws have failed in Spain and France, Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg intends to proceed, with legislation due in July.

Facial recognition advances to identify people wearing masks
The coronavirus pandemic has led Chinese AI leader SenseTime to roll out a new version of its facial recognition software in China that can recognize people even though they're wearing face masks, scarves, or fake beards, Masha Borak reports at AbacusNews. The update is based on research into disguised face identification that was published in 2017 by researchers at Stanford. The software works by identifying up to 240 facial feature key points around the eyes, mouth, and nose, using the parts of the face that are visible. Because of the problem of false positives in a larger population, so far the technology is best suited for smaller groups.

US pro-gun groups protest lockdowns in multiple states
Right-wing, pro-gun groups are behind the anti-lockdown protests in US states including Minnesota, Michigan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, among others, Jason Wilson reports at the Guardian. Some of these are long-time supporters of US president Donald Trump, and one is linked to Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. At CNN, Donie O'Sullivan reports that Facebook will remove some posts promoting anti-stay-at-home protests in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska after consulting with officials in those states, but will not remove similar posts in states where the protests do not violate official guidelines. It is seeking guidance from state governments in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. At the New York Times, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Davey Alba, and Marc Tracy report that Bill Gates is the biggest Facebook and YouTube target of all conspiracy theories about the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, based on a 2015 speech in which he warned that the greatest risk to humanity was an infectious virus.


Julia Reda launches strategic litigation project
In this blog posting for the Kluwer Copyright blog, former Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda outlines her new collaboration with the German fundamental rights NGO Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte, control ©, which will pursue strategic litigation to defend the communications freedoms embedded in the German Basic Law against the requirements of Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive 2019. Reda hopes the initiative will be replicated in other countries.

Law proposals seek to safeguard rights in contact tracing apps
In this LawArXiv preprint, Lilian Edwards and a host of co-authors present a model statute to provide safeguards for symptom tracking and contact tracing apps, as well as immunity certificates, given that these are likely elements of our immediate future. Uptake of the apps and data quality will both be much higher if people have confidence that their rights are being protected, the authors argue. At the Register, Gareth Corfield reports that more than 300 academics from 26 countries have published an open letter asking governments to ensure that contact tracing apps protect their users' privacy, and outlines the risks of the most common approaches. In a white paper for ACLU, Daniel Kahn Gillmor presents principles for technology-assisted contact tracing that call for such systems to be built with public health professionals, narrowly tailored for a specific epidemic, and not displace non-technical measures.

BRICS countries emphasize data protection
In this blog posting for the IAPP, Luca Belli describes the first results from CyberBRICS, a project to systematically analyze the digital policies developed by the BRICS grouping of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Data protection has become a key priority for these countries in order to assert "digital sovereignty"; they represent 42% of global population and almost 40% of internet users.

Data trusts and the pandemic
In this video clip at the Atlantic Council, Tim Clement-Jones, Wendy Hall, and David Bray discuss the role of data trusts and AI in the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Clement-Jones believes data trusts can offer greater transparency for organizations like public health systems, while Hall explains the importance of legal and ethical frameworks in creating the public trust needed to make them work.

TicTec activists give public participation technology assist
On this Google Doc, mySociety publishes the agenda for late March's TicTec 2020 with links to session recordings. Of particular interest are sessions on using technology to enable public participation in writing and changing Iceland's constitution; lessons learned from building a database to support democratic activism; and how projects and individuals in civic tech can ensure their longevity, particularly in the face of today's challenges.

Finding good science among the noise
In this blog posting for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, founder and CTO Patrick Ball explains how to assess the many visualizations and analyses the media are presenting every day and how to evaluate the many different models and the quality of the underlying science. Ball will follow up with details of how epidemiological models work.


*** 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


Open Rights Group
The Open Rights Group and its local offshoots are running weekly online presentations and discussions of digital privacy, democracy, and data exploitation. Recent topics have included a proposed law to ensure that contact tracing apps are surrounded with privacy-protecting safeguards, the effect of the pandemic on democratic institutions, and the NHS deal with Palantir.

Data & Society
Data & Society is converting all its weekly Wednesday and Databites programs into online interactive formats. Subscribe to its events newsletter for details.

Legal Frontiers in Digital Media 2020
May-June 2020,
The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology's online alternative to its annual conference on emerging legal issues at the intersection of digital media, freedom of speech, and law includes live seminars (recorded and available for later playback) on content moderation and the coronavirus (April 15); a series on Chinese law, trade, and intellectual property (beginning April 22 and extending through May); and the right to repair (August 28).

Privacy Law Scholars
June 4-5, 2020
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).


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.

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.

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.

Privacy Law Forum
October 9, 2020
Palo Alto, CA
The program will be very similar to the one originally planned, covering all the hot issues in privacy and cybersecurity law. Registration remains open.

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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