News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending May 29, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending May 29, 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: Citizen Lab, Data Privacy Brasil, EFF, Gesellschaft fuer Freiheitsrechte, noyb.


China Seeks to Impose National Security Law on Hong Kong
Chinese leaders have announced the country's legislative body would impose national security laws on the city in order to "ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong", Vivian Wang and Austin Ramzy report at the New York Times. Some protesters began deleting their social media accounts and others planned large-scale demonstrations amid concern that the new laws could allow the authorities to criminalize efforts to organize.

Research Coalition Demands Transparency in Journal Publication Fees
cOAlition S, whose 22 members include European national research agencies, other organizations, and foundations such as the Wellcome Trust, has adopted rules requiring science journals to provide a breakdown of their editing, proofreading, and other prices as a way of keeping those costs down, Nicholas Wallace reports at Science Magazine. Failure to provide pricing details will mean members refuse to pay any publication fees associated with that publisher. Publishers may choose between two transparency frameworks, one based on a template based on a pilot conducted between January and March, the other the existing Fair Open Access Alliance framework in use by Frontiers, the MIT Press, Copernicus, and MDPI.

German Constitutional Court Finds Privacy Rights Protect Foreigners in Other Countries
The German Constitutional Court has ruled that the privacy rights enshrined in the German constitution protect foreigners in other countries, and that the Bundesnachrightendienst (BND) security service had no authority to conduct telecommunications surveillance on them, Matthrew Guariglia reports at EFF. In its announcement of the judgement, Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte, which led the constitutional complaint, notes support by the German Journalists Union, the German Federation of Journalists, Research Network, and Reporters without Borders; the plaintiffs were a collection of journalists and activists from numerous countries worldwide.

Brazilian Court Suspends Telecommunications Data Sharing
Brazil's Supreme Federal Court has ruled to suspend Executive Order 954, which provisionally mandates the sharing of data from telecommunications companies with the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), Gispar Pisanu, Rafael A. F. Zanatta, and Mariana Marques Rielli report at Access Now. IBGE, which conducts statistical research for the Ministry of Economy, was supposed to use the data to calculate unemployment rates, contribute to the National Household Sample Survey, and support other statistical production during the pandemic emergency. Privacy advocates hope the ruling sends a warning to President Jair Bolsonaro that proper data protection legislation is now necessary. Bruno Bioni, founder-director of the research association Data Privacy Brasil, has posted an English translation of his testimony to the court.

US Senate Allows Warrantless Inspection of Internet Histories
The US Senate failed to pass an amendment to parts of the PATRIOT Act (2001) that would have explicitly prevented law enforcement from using the law to support collecting individuals' internet browsing and search histories without a warrant, Rachel Kraus reports at Mashable. The amendment had bipartisan support but failed by a single vote. ACLU has responded with a letter, signed by 50 other groups including CDT and Human Rights Watch, asking leaders of the House of Representatives to provide an opportunity to vote on the amendment in the House.

Schrems Asks European Authorities to Speed Up Case Handling
On the second anniversary of GDPR's entry into force, Privacy activist and noyb leader Max Schrems has written to the European Data Protection Board, the European Commission, and the European Parliament urging them to push the Irish data protection regulator to speed up its handling of the cases he has brought against Facebook and its subsidiaries, Kirsti Knolle reports for Reuters. Schrems says he will seek a judicial review in the Irish High Court as soon as coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner says it has 23 inquiries open into Big Tech. At TechCrunch, Natasha Lomas reports that the DPC has submitted the draft of its first major cross-border decision, an inquiry into Twitter that the regulator instigated itself, for review by the other EU GDPR watchdogs, who now have a month to submit comments. Lomas notes that a decision is due on July 16 from the CJEU in the case Schrems has brought questioning the legality of Standard Contractual Clauses as a mechanism to support transfers of personal data out of the EU.

Spotify Expands Podcast Market Control
Following acquisitions of several leading podcast networks, Spotify will pay $100 million over an unstated number of years for an exclusive license to the future episodes and back catalogue of top podcaster Joe Rogan, Ashley Carman reports at The Verge. The deal will move full Rogan episodes off YouTube, where he fears censorship. At Substack, Matt Stoller explains that the deal heralds the death of independent podcasting as Spotify begins to wield new gatekeeping power over distribution and advertising and lead podcasting in the direction of web-style targeting and tracking.


Big Tech Targets Post-Pandemic Infrastructure
In this article at The Intercept, Naomi Klein outlines the "Pandemic Shock Doctrine" that she sees taking shape as leaders like New York State governor Andrew Cuomo enlist the likes of former Google head Eric Schmidt, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Michael Bloomberg to begin outlining a no-touch, tech-saturated future of post-pandemic redevelopment. In this dystopian future, tens of millions of anonymous workers are exploited in warehouses, data centers, content rating sites, and industrial plants while the privileged receive everything at home via physical or virtual delivery. The pandemic, she concludes, has derailed democratic pre-coronavirus pushback against Big Tech.

Citizen Lab Researches Signals Intelligence Software
In this profile, Stephanie Kirchgaessner highlights Ron Deibert's work leading 19-year-old Citizen Lab's research into the signals intelligence software made by companies like NSO Group. The work allows Deibert to explore questions about abuse of power and the efforts of governments and corporations to control the information space.

Pandemic Normalizes Surveillance Technology
In this article at Quillette, Alex Gladstein discusses the search for technological fixes for the pandemic and the resulting normalization of surveillance as governments demand to use cellphone tracking, and phone apps to automate contact tracing and quarantine enforcement. It is dangerous, Gladstein writes, to underestimate the effects of "creeping authoritarianism" in the name of public health. At the EFF blog, Katitza Rodriguez, Svea Windwehr, and Seth Schoen discuss the pandemic-related proposals for warrantless location surveillance popping up in Israel, Poland, Ecuador, South Africa, Slovakia, Croatia, and Bulgaria, Peru, and South Korea.

Human Behavioral Change Means AI Models Need Repairs
In this article at MIT Technology Review, Will Douglas Heaven discusses the impact of the pandemic-related changes in our behavior on the machine learning models that manage inventory, detect fraud, and write marketing copy for Facebook ads. AI systems are not fit-and-forget, but must be overseen and tweaked by humans when conditions change abruptly.

The Post-Pandemic Future of Online Education
In this article at the New York Times, NYU associate professor Hans Taparia argues that a lasting effect of the coronavirus pandemic will be to move university education online, lowering student costs and widening universities' reach. Also at the New York Times, Steve Lohr finds that the lockdown has revived MOOCs. In a Twitter thread, social scientist Barbara Smith summarizes advice and resources for moving courses online midstream as was necessary at the beginning of the lockdown and may be again. At the LA Times, high school teacher Jeremy S. Adams explains why the lockdown experience has convinced him that classrooms are essential while worrying that the dire reality of many state budgets will lead policy makers to push education online without recognizing the life-changing consequences.


*** 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


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).

Virtual CogX
June 8-10, 2020
London, UK
Festival of AI and Emerging Technology (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".

July 25-August 2, 2020
New York, NY, USA
As part of reimagining the convention as an online event, HOPE will expand to nine days filled with the normal number of talks. Ticket-buyers will have exclusive access to presenters to ask questions, participate in workshops, and interact with other attendees, and will also receive an exclusive conference T-shirt and badge. HOPE expects that some who would have trouble traveling to the US will now be able to attend. The program is still being finalized. HOPE expects to return as a physical conference in 2021.

August 7-9, 2020
DEFCON is one of the oldest and largest continuously running hacker conventions.


Ada Lovelace Institute
London's Ada Lovelace Institute, founded in 2019 to ensure the ethical use of AI, is running a series of events on the issues surrounding the use of technologies in response to the pandemic.

Civic Hall
New York's Civic Hall has moved a number of events online. Coming up toward the end of May are events on designing stories to expose racial inequities and an interactive discussion of the new book by Sasha Costanza-Chock, Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need.

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

EFF and its local counterparts in the Electronic Frontier Alliance are running numerous events on subjects such as technology education, open source, voting security, and content moderation.

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).

London Futurists
The London Futurists group, led by former Psion and Symbian architect David Wood, is presenting near-weekly speaker-led events focusing on potential radical transformations of humanity and society. Upcoming topics include genetic engineering (May 16). Event recordings are made available soon after meetings conclude.

Open Data Institute
The ODI's Friday lunchtime talks have moved online. These one-hour talks cover topics such as data ethics, social equity, and trust.

Open Rights Group
The Open Rights Group and its local offshoots are running 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.

Public Knowledge
Public Knowledge is running public web events on subjects such as algorithmic amplification of hate speech, the survival of local journalism, and how to protect privacy during a pandemic.

London's Royal United Services Institute is running frequent online events considering topics relating to international politics, terrorism, financial crime, policing, and warfare, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it will bring.

Singularity University
May, 2020
next:Work is a four-week series of digital events on the changing jobs, careers, and workforce of the future.

Transnational Institute
TNI's series of weekly COVID Capitalism webinars covers various aspects of transforming democracy, politics, and the economy for a fairer post-COVID world. June events include COVID-19 and incarceration (June 3); big tech, data, and human rights, a joint event with the Just Net Coalition (June 10); borders and migration (June 17); and the broken trade system (June 24).


June 9-12, 2020
San José, Costa Rica
Each year, RightsCon, organized by AccessNow, gathers over 1,000 expert speakers from around the world.

POSTPONED TO JUNE 2021 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.

POSTPONED TO December 14-15, 2020 WEIS
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.

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. They've drawn 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.

CANCELED 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).

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 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.

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.

August 5-8, 2021
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Def Con is one of the oldest and best-attended hacker conferences. Each year it attracts thousands of professional and amateur security researchers.

World Library and Information Congress 2021
August 2021
Rotterdam, Netherlands
WLIC is the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on May 31, 2020 9:45 PM.

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