News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 26, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 26, 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, EFF, La Quadrature du Net, Open Rights Group.


Manila Court Convicts Maria Ressa under Cyber Libel Law
A court in Manila has convicted Maria Ressa, the Philippines' most prominent journalist, and a former colleague at Rappler, the news site she founded in 2012, of cyber libel, Jason Gutierrez and Alexandra Stevenson report at the New York Times. Each was fined $8,000 and could face up to six years in prison. Ressa faces seven more charges, including tax evasion, all of which she has denied. Index on Censorship calls the verdict "part of a campaign to silence dissenting voices in the Philippines". At Rappler, Lian Buan provides legal background and analysis of the verdict. Finally, at YouTube, the Center for Investigative Journalism presents Ressa's talk at last year's summer school, where she described the challenges and successes of founding and running Rappler.

Big Tech Backs Away from Facial Recognition
In a letter to US Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and US Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), IBM CEO Arvind Krishna announced the company will no longer offer, develop, or research general-purpose facial recognition technology, Jay Peters reports at The Verge. Krishna went on to say that a national dialogue is needed to decide whether and how facial recognition should be employed by law enforcement. Within days, Isobel Asher Hamilton reports at Business Insider, Amazon and Microsoft promised to stop selling facial recognition systems to police, apparently inspired by the George Floyd murder and ensuing Black Lives Matter protests. At Fast Company, Kate Kaye looks at reactions to the ban, and quotes Safiya Noble, author of Algorithms of Oppression, who says the bans don't go far enough; instead what's needed is a wholesale recall of the technology. The Moscow Times reports that facial recognition cameras named "Orwell" will be installed in more than 43,000 Russian schools to ensure children's safety, take attendance, monitor teachers' working hours, and facilitate distance learning.

CJEU Strikes Down Hungary's NGO Foreign Funding Law
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that Hungary's 2017 Transparency of Organizations Receiving Foreign Funds law, which requires NGOs to register if they receive more than HUF7.2 million (€20,000) in foreign funding or face being shut down, is discriminatory and imposes restrictions contrary to EU rules, Lily Bayer reports at Politico. The law sparked protests in Hungary, and in July 2017 the European Commission began an infringement proceeding on the basis that it interferes with fundamental rights, particularly freedom of association.

French Constitutional Council Rejects Hate Speech Law
The French Constitutional Council has rejected the law passed in May that requires social media companies and search engines to remove flagged hate speech within 24 hours and flagged terrorist propaganda and child sexual abuse material within one hour or face substantial fines, Romain Dillet reports at TechCrunch. The Council objected that the law would lead to censorship because the technical list of illicit content makes deciding what should and should not be banned difficult, and the short amount of time prohibits asking a court. At Politico, Laura Kayali notes that the European Commission wrote to the French government in November asking it to wait for the Digital Services Act to create an EU-wide standard on policing illegal content online and cited a warning from La Quadrature du Net that the law puts the police in charge of deciding censorship criteria. At EFF, Christoph Schmon calls the French bill "privatized enforcement" and summarizes the amicus brief it filed to support a challenge brought by 60 French senators to the French Supreme Court before the bill's promulgation.

University of California and Springer Nature Reach Open Access Agreement
The University of California system and Springer Nature have reached agreement on an open access deal under which the publisher commits to explore making all articles published by UC corresponding authors free to read on publication, starting in 2022, Jeffrey Brainard reports at Science. The deal gives UC reading access to 1,000 more journals than under its current contract. In a press release, MIT Libraries announce that they have ended negotiations with Elsevier for a new journal contract because Elsevier could not meet the open access principles enshrined in the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts, which has now been endorsed by 100 other institutions. At the New York Times, Roni Caryn Rabin looks at the time and volume pressures the pandemic has placed on medical journals and asks if the peer review process can survive after The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine both had to hastily retract papers whose flaws were discovered by journalists rather than scientific reviewers.

EU Opens Two Antitrust Investigations into Apple
The EU has opened two antitrust investigations into Apple, Katie Collins reports at CNet. One, which covers the App Store, was triggered by Spotify's 2019 complaint about the 30% commission Apple charges on in-app purchases, which claims that Apple is distorting competition in areas where it competes with other app developers. The other, which covers Apple Pay, focuses on the restrictions Apple places on how rival apps and services use the iPhone's near field communications capabilities, which the EU's antitrust commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, argues are particularly important as the pandemic pushes many consumers and retailers to prefer contactless payments. At Engadget, Mariella Moon reports that Basecamp CEO Jason Fried has written an open letter to explain that the App Store's payment policies forcibly insert Apple between companies and their customers by barring companies from accepting payment via any route outside the App Store and on that basis refusing to include Basecamp's "Hey" multi-platform subscription email service. Fried complains the real issue is lack of choice: Apple's policies limit companies' options for offering discounts, refunds, and exemptions.


UK Political Parties Base Profiling on Inaccurate Data
In this report, the Open Rights Group studies the data profiling activities of the UK's main political parties, and finds, based on subject access requests that the data is highly inaccurate, that profiling does not work, and that the legal basis under data protection law is questionable. ORG recommends moving to an opt-in basis for profiling, and clarifying the legal basis; it also provides a tool individuals can use to help them understand the data parties have on them. In a Twitter thread, fantasy writer Claire Ryan explains the data corruption consequences for the Trump campaign of a prank in which teens on TikTok registered with fake email addresses and Google phone numbers for hundreds of thousands of tickets to his Tulsa, Oklahoma rally that they had no intention of using.

US Public Health Officials Face Violent Threats
In this article, Quartz considers the impact of the request by Team Telecom, a committee under the US Department of Justice, that the Federal Communications Commission block approval for the planned Pacific Light Cable Network. The 8,000-mile cable, announced in 2016 as a partnership between Google, Facebook, and others, would be the first direct US-Hong Kong submarine connection and is intended to turn Hong Kong into a global data hub. Team Telecom cited "national security" concerns and threats to US persons' data.

Coming Attractions: Death or Utopia in the Next Few Decades
In this YouTube clip of a recent Stanford seminar, a group including Silicon Valley journalist John Markoff, Foresight Institute co-founder Carol Dumaine, and Penn State environmental expert Michael Mann, among others, discuss the challenges of the next three decades: the end of Moore's Law, the disrupted global economy, and the existential risk of climate change. The way we view the future is significant, Marjkoff argues, because so many of today's technologies have been inspired by science fiction.

Pandemic Raises Financial Challenge for Journalism Despite Rising Demand for News
In this blog posting, Nic Newman summarizes this year's digital news report from the Reuters Institute, which finds, based on surveys in the UK, US, Germany, Spain, South Korea, and Argentina, that the pandemic has fueled consumption of news from both traditional and online, but is causing income to crater as advertisers prepare for the inevitable recession. The report examines the growing importance of email newsletters and podcasts in increasing engagement and loyalty and considers the good and bad sides of paywalls, which provide a revenue stream but lock away quality journalism at a time when public access is sorely needed. It also finds that 60% of those surveyed prefer news that has no particular point of view.

Citizen Lab Data Leads to Criminal Hacking-for-Hire Investigation
In this article at the New York Times, Nicole Hong, Barry Meier, and Ronen Bergman outline a federal criminal investigation into a hacking-for-hire operation that over many years has targeted the email accounts of government officials, journalists, banks, environmental activists, and other individuals. The investigation is based on information provided by Citizen Lab in a new report that finds that hiring hackers may be a common practice among private investigators. In the case covered by the Times, Citizen Lab has concluded with "high confidence" that the operation was carried out by a company in India that advertises "ethical hacking" services. One man, who ran a private investigations company in Israel, has already been arrested and charged with four criminal counts.

EU Considers AI's Future
In this blog posting, Joanna Bryson, professor of technology and ethics at Berlin's Hertie School, critiques the EU's white paper consultation on AI, which she believes is heading in the right direction. Among her main points, explaining AI is actually easy; humans are always the responsible parties; more data doesn't automatically mean more intelligence; and the EU needs to add program code, architecture documents, and specifications to the list of documents companies are required to be able to produce for inspection. In its latest issue of Technology Quarterly, the Economist outlines the limitations of AI; for both practical and cognitive reasons we need a new breakthrough to make any further progress.


*** 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


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.

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.

Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security
August 9-11, 2020
The 16th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners in human computer interaction, security, and privacy. The program will include technical papers, workshops and tutorials, lightning talks, and a poster session.


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.

Bace Security
Recent webinars sponsored by Bace Security include a "fireside" discussion of voting methods with Rebecca Mercuri, conducted the first security analysis of electronic voting in 2000, and security veteran Peter Neumann, and methods for privacy-protecting digital contact tracing with Arka Bala (ContextGrid) and serial entrepreneur and investor Aman Johan.

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 has moved its weekly Databites and Network Power Hours programs into online interactive formats for the rest of 2020.
Network Power Hours:

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.

Future in Review
Future in Review is running a series of online "FiReSide" events. Recent topics include China and the future technology struggle.

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 frequent online presentations and discussions of digital privacy, democracy, and data exploitation. Recent topics have included the launch of ORG's data and democracy report, a proposed law to ensure that contact tracing apps are surrounded with privacy-protecting safeguards, and the effect of the pandemic on democratic institutions.

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
Singularity University has an ongoing series of events. July will see four discussions on the topic of the future of food, agriculture, food supply chains, and nutrition. Past topics have included the future of work and AI.

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).


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.

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.

MOVED ONLINE 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).

September 11-12, 2020
Chicago, Ilinois, 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.

AI for Good
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.

CANCELED 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.

POSTPONED We Robot 2020
Awaiting update
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.

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.

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.

Web Summit
November 2-5, 2020
Lisbon, Portugal
At a time of great uncertainty for many industries and indeed, the world itself, Web Summit gathers the founders and CEOs of technology companies, fast-growing startups, policymakers and heads of state to ask a simple question: Where to next?

Freedom not Fear
November 6-9, 2020
Brussels, Belgium
Freedom not Fear is supported by a broad alliance including political parties, professional associations, trade unions, and freedom activists and hopes to join forces with NGOs from all over the world in order to build a strong alliance to oppose the threat increasing surveillance poses to freedom of speech in a digitized world and privacy in the knowledge society.

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.

December 14-15, 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.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 27-29, 2021
Brussels, Belgium
As a world-leading multidisciplinary conference CPDP offers the cutting edge in legal, regulatory, academic and technological development in privacy and data protection. Within an atmosphere of independence and mutual respect, CPDP 2021, "Enforcing Rights in a Changing World", will gather academics, lawyers, practitioners, policy-makers, industry, and civil society from all over the world to offer an arena to exchange ideas and discuss the latest emerging issues and trends.

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.

Privacy Law Scholars 2021
June 3-4, 2021 TBC
Washington, DC, USA
Privacy Law Scholars is a paper workshop intended to improve the quality of legal scholarship in the area of privacy. Participants submit works-in-progress for workshop discussions led by commenters on the papers.

Digitising Early Childhood
June 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.

CPDP LatAm 2021
Postponed from 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.

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.

Singularity University Global Summit 2021
August 23-25, 2021
Los Angeles, California, USA
Global Summit 2021
Singularity University's premier annual gathering brings together 2,000 changemakers for talks on AI, augmented/virtual relity, blockchain, the future of work, impact, investing, robotics and more.

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 July 6, 2020 10:19 PM.

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