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

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending July 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 OSF.  Prepared by Wendy M. Grossman.

Current and former grantees featured in this issue: Black Stripe Foundation, EIFL, Fundación Karisma, noyb.


Hong Kong Begins Imposing Censorship Under New Security Law
The Hong Kong government is creating web controls to comply with its new security law and has warned that non-compliance could include jail time for company employees, Paul Mozur reports at the New York Times. Many big technology companies have said they would stop complying with requests for user data from the Hong Kong authorities, and TikTok has announced it will withdraw its app entirely. Under the new law, the companies could be fined and have their equipment seized. At CNBC, Arjun Kharpal reports that a number of VPN companies have shut down their Hong Kong servers because of the new law. At Raw Story, Agence-France Presse reports that Hong Kong's government has ordered teachers and school librarians to review and remove books and learning materials that might breach the new law in any of the four categories of subversion, secession, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces; libraries have already begun the process of removing titles for review.

European Court of Justice Strikes Down EU-US Privacy Shield Agreement
The European Court of Justice has ruled in favor of Max Schrems and noyb and struck down the Privacy Shield transatlantic data sharing agreement on the grounds that its provisions do not sufficiently protect EU citizens from surveillance in the US, Stuart Lauchlan reports at Diginomica. The court also found that the US side is insufficiently policed; however, it said Standard Contractual Clauses can still be used as a legal basis provided that the receiving country "ensures an adequate level of data protection". In a statement, noyb says the ruling means that the US will have to change its surveillance laws if it wants American companies like Facebook to continue to play a major role in the European market and that the court has strengthened the data protection authorities' obligation to act.

Open Technology Fund Shift Endangers Internet Tools
Michael Pack, the new chief executive of the US Agency for Global Media, has fired the top officials and bipartisan board at the agency's Open Technology Fund, Pranshu Verma and Edward Wong report at the New York Times. The fund has been important in developing tools supporting freedom and privacy, such as Signal and Tor, which are used by more than 2 billion people in 60 countries. Critics are concerned that a shift in the fund's focus could set back the fight for internet freedom by decades. Pack's move is being challenged in the courts. Verma and Wong note that the fund is under pressure to fund Ultrasurf, circumvention software favored by US political players who are members of Falun Gong. At Politico, Daniel Lippman reports that the fund is set to cancel its $2 million-a-year contract with Psiphon, a Canadian effort that makes the circumvention software currently used by audiences around the world to access publicly-funded US content without their government's awareness.

Facebook Fails Independent Civil Rights Audit
An independent audit of the state of civil rights on Facebook calls the company's handling of these issues is "too reactive and piecemeal", Rebecca Heilweil and Shirin Ghaffary report at Vox. Among the problems: allowing US president Donald Trump exceptional latitude; valuing free speech above all else; and the persistence of hate speech. In response, in a blog posting, COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company would put more of the audit's proposals into practice but won't make every change it calls for. At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum takes a contrarian view and highlights the audit's positive findings.

Indian Authorities Use New Laws to Keep Protesters in Prison
Indian authorities are using sedition and antiterrorism laws that criminalize everything from leading rallies to posting political messages on social media to avoid releasing protesters who were arrested earlier this year for demonstrating against India's controversial citizenship law, Sameer Yasir and Kai Schultz report at the New York Times. With the courts closed due to the country's coronavirus restrictions, lawyers can't file bail applications or meet their imprisoned clients privately.

Google Docs Emerges as a Tool for Social Organizing
Google Docs has emerged as a top tool for those organizing protests and education because it's more accessible, quicker, and more persistent and searchable than any social media site, Tanya Basu reports at MIT Technology Review. Social media is fine for publicizing movements, but is not suited to creating stable resources people can return to over time.


Copyright Licensing Rules Pose Difficulties for Move to Online Education
In this blog posting at EIFL, Teresa Hackett discusses the immediate challenge the COVID-19 pandemic is posing for the copyright and licensing framework as education moves online. Among her highlights: the different rules for offline and online teacher, the upcoming expiration of special access publishers granted at the beginning of the pandemic, ebook pricing models, inconsistencies in the scope of education exceptions, and the need for new approaches.

Privacy Laws Fail to Address Collective Harm
In this Q&A, Marietje Schaake and Martin Tisne discuss his new paper, "The Data Delusion: Protection Individuals Isn't Enough When the Harm Is Collective", which argues that the EU's General Data Protection Regulation fails to meet many current regulatory needs and that lack of funding and capacity has hobbled enforcement. Crucially, current laws fail to address collective harm; other cultures such as the indigenous data rights movement, may be a source of innovation in this area.

Ethical and Practical Flaws Plague Immunity Passports
In this blog posting, the Ada Lovelace Institute recounts a recent livestream discussion of immunity passports that weighed up the practical potential against the ethical and human rights issues they bring. There are technical problems, in that scientists still don't know whether and for how long immunity to COVID-19 might last, while Françoise Baylis (Dalhousie University) noted the permanent damage that would come with creating a system for monitoring people; the proponents of these passports are already publicly envisioning their expansion as a broader health certificate.

Smart Cities, Data, and Power
In this video clip, the Benchmark Initiative hosts a discussion of smart cities, data, and power featuring experienced urban managers and data users. How, moderator Maria Farrell asks, can we ensure that smart city implementations do not replicate or amplify existing inequalities in society? The need to share data to combat the coronavirus has made this question more urgent.

US Efforts Derail South African Copyright Reform
In this podcast, Michael Geist interviews South African documentary filmmaker Ben Cashdan, founder of the Black Stripe Foundation production company, who argues that US efforts to derail South African copyright reform is a racist policy. South Africa has spent a decade trying to update its copyright law in response to concerns from creators, educators, and the visually impaired, only to have the bill derailed after passing the parliament because of the pressure the US has placed on South African president Cyril Ramaphosa not to sign it.

Colombia's Pandemic Tools Fail Privacy Analysis
In this blog posting at Fundación Karisma, Stéphane Labarthe and Andrés Velasquez find that the technological tools adopted by the Colombian government to curb the coronavirus do not provide information about the purposes, fail to comply with basic data protection requirements, and recklessly deploy solutions that put the sensitive data relating to hundreds of thousands of users at risk. They conclude by offering recommendations for improvement.


*** 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.

July 28-August 18, 2020
In a series of multiple tracks over multiple weeks, the Responsible Data Summit will run a virtual convening space that brings together top thought leaders in the field of AI - innovative technologists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and advocates. The goal is to tackle the problem of building a responsible data economy.

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.

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.


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. The July 8 event considered the impact of rolling out a public health identity system.

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.

Benchmark Initiative
The Benchmark Initiative is running regular events on topics such as the safe use of location data in human migration; data, power, and the pandemic; and managing social distancing in public spaces. All events are posted on Vimeo soon after they conclude (

Civic Hall
New York's Civic Hall has moved a number of events online. Recent events include a session 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 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.

Big Tech and Antitrust Conference
October 3, 2020
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Yale Law School's Information Society Project and Thurman Arnold Project co-host a half-day conference to explore the role of antitrust and competition law in shaping the future of the digital economy. The conference will discuss the kinds of harms antitrust law needs to address in the digital age; the relationship between antitrust law and broader concerns such as privacy, innovation, and inequality; and policy recommendations, including changes in the interpretation of antitrust laws and doctrines, enforcement practices, and the institutional organization of agencies. We encourage submissions from all disciplines that contribute to related legal, economic, regulatory, or policy discussions.

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 24, 2020 4:21 PM.

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