News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending November 13, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending November 13, 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, Ian Brown, Open Rights Group.


US Elects Democrat Joe Biden as 46th President
Multiple US media outlets have projected that Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States, defeating incumbent Donald Trump, Marguerite Reardon reports at CNet. Reardon considers Biden's potential influence on technology policy, including infrastructure, broadband deployment, security, digital divide, intermediary liability, and monopolistic practices. At Substack, Matt Stoller surveys, more specifically, Biden's possible approach to bringing antitrust actions against the companies. At AdWeek, Scott Nover suggests that Biden will push tougher enforcement on antitrust, privacy, misinformation, and China, while resurrecting network neutrality. At Law360, Dani Kass says that Biden's record on intellectual property and recent statements suggest he will protect US IP via trade enforcement and anti-piracy measures and tackle drug pricing (despite his history of favoring Big Pharma).

US Department of Justice Files Antitrust Complaint Against Google
The US Department of Justice, joined by 11 states, has issued an antitrust suit against Google, the largest against a technology company since its late-1990s complaint against Microsoft, Brian Fung reports at CNN. The suit alleges that Google pays billions of dollars a year to device and browser manufacturers to be their default search engine, allowing it to own or control roughly 80% of search queries in the US. At The Conversation, Hemant K. Bhargava suggests that the agreement under which Google pays Apple $8 to $12 billion a year to make its search engine the default on iOS is itself potentially illegal behavior - on the part of Apple. At Substack, Matt Stoller calls the case a "carbon copy" of the DoJ's Microsoft complaint and calls it a stunning victory for anti-monopolists. At Netzpolitik, Brussels journalist Alexander Fanta and Ingo Dachwitz publish their study of Google's strategic funding of the media industry. Since 2013, Google has handed €200 million in cash to leading media companies, as well as funding fellowships, media conferences, and journalism research, all while resisting political efforts to force the company to share advertising revenues with the publishing industry. The Free Press Journal reports that the US Federal Trade Commission could follow up with an antitrust suit against Facebook by the end of November that could force the company to unwind past acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Separately, the EU has sent a statement of objections to Amazon over the use of seller data and has begun a second antitrust investigation into Amazon's possible preferential treatment of its own retail offers and those of marketplace sellers that use the company's fulfillment and delivery services.

California Legislation Increases Data Protection Rights
The US state of California has passed Proposition 24, the California Privacy Rights Act, which adds to the 2019 California Consumer Privacy Act, Sara Morrison reports at Vox. The CPRA grants additional rights and closes loopholes in the earlier law, and also makes it harder to weaken legislatively. At CNN, Sara Ashley O'Brien reports that California also passed Proposition 22, which exempts Uber, DoorDash, and Lyft from classifying drivers as employees. Labor and union organizers, who opposed the proposition, are concerned it will lower labor standards across the entire delivery and logistics industry.

Transnational Digital Repression Spreads Across the World
Saudi Arabia, China, and Rwanda, among others, lead the world in transnational digital repression, Citizen Lab reports, based on an annotated bibliography it has compiled of summarized relevant media reports, technical reports, and academic literature on states' use of digital tools to exert pressure on citizens living abroad to constrain dissident political or social action. Further research is needed to understand how to address this repression once identified, and to understand the impact on targets.

Canadian Internet Regulation Bill Expands Regulation of Speech
Canada's Internet Regulation bill is expected to grant the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission extensive new powers to regulate internet-based video streaming services, including mandating payments to support Canadian content production and discoverability requirements, Michael Geist reports at his blog. Geist, who characterizes the bill as "get money from web giants", argues that all of these proposed reforms are based on fictions but do represent significant new regulation of speech.

Open Rights Group Launches Legal Action Against UK Information Commissioner's Office
The Open Rights Group and UCL academic Michael Veale have launched a legal action against the UK's Information Commissioner's Office over the latter's decision in September  2020 to close their complaint against the adtech industry practice of real-time bidding, Carly Page reports at Forbes. Veale and ORG executive director Jim Killock brought the original complaint in September 2018; in June 2019 the ICO found the adtech industry to be in breach of data protection law. The ICO said it wanted to avoid placing undue pressure on any industry during the coronavirus crisis.


Internet Governance Forum
On this YouTube page, the Internet Governance Forum has posted videos of the pre-events for this year's meeting. Of particular interest are a session on stalkerware and helping victims of domestic violence, and another on child rights, safety, and lessons from the pandemic led by Baroness Beeban Kidron, whose 5Rights Foundation advocates for children's privacy.

Chinese Draft Data Protection Law Follows Lead of GDPR
In this article at LinkedIn, Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna summarizes China's draft data protection law. Most of the 13 key points she picks out loosely match provisions in the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, such as the right to access, copy, correct, complete, delete personal information and get explanations. The new law will apply to all companies offering services and products inside China or analyzing the activities of people inside China; fines may be as high as 5% of a company's turnover.

The Face of Facebook in India Resigns
In this article at the Mumbai Mirror, Kunal Purohit discusses the resignation of Facebook India's public policy head, Ankhi Das, after reports linked her to India's ruling BJP party. Purohit chronicles her nine years of acting as the company's chief lobbyist in its biggest global market; she was hired to protect the company from government regulation. However, over time her role grew to include influence over numerous other departments, including content moderation. At Fast Company, Alex Pasternack profiles the work of former Facebook ads team employee James Barnes, who in 2016 worked for the Trump campaign's Project Alamo data operation and in 2020 turned his inside knowledge to building a system to motivate young Democratic-leaning voters to turn out to vote.

Five Myths About Misinformation
In this article at the Washington Post, sociologist Brendan Nyhan debunks five myths about misinformation. He finds that filter bubbles are often overstated, that most people have varied information diet, that the "backfire effect" is exaggerated, and that most people can distinguish between truth and distortion. The bigger problem, he concludes, that partisanship undermines accountability.

Interoperability as a Tool to Boost Competition
In this blog posting, Jonathan Todd summarizes Ian Brown's new research paper on interoperability as a tool to give the EU the means to boost competition in digital markets. Requiring the largest platforms to implement interoperability would force them to compete on the merits of their products and services, enable new market entrants to offer real choice, and enable society to benefit from network effects without giving any one provider market power.

Section 230, Intermediary Liability, and Competition
In a posting for Verfassungsblog, cyber rights lawyer Mike Godwin discusses the political and legislative background of intermediary liability, enshrined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which is under review in the US Congress. If the goal is competition among content hosting companies, he writes, best not to alter S230, as today's most successful companies are best placed to adapt, while biased content moderation leaves a market opening for a new service.


*** 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


TICTec Seminars
mySociety is running a series of events between September and November on open data (September 22), digitizing parliaments (October 20), and the climate crisis (November, day TBC).

Web Summit
December 2-4, 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?

Workshop on the Economics of Information Security
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.


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 October 29 event considers what forms of mandatory reporting can help achieve public sector accountability.

Bace Cybersecurity Institute
Recent webinars sponsored by Bace Security include a "fireside" discussion of with prominent women in security, a discussion of the security problems in online voting, and methods for privacy-protecting digital contact tracing.

Benchmark Initiative
The Benchmark Initiative is running regular events on topics such as the use of location data to end the global sanitation crisis, 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 political influence, 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 Chinese-US relations after the presidential election, and the future technology struggle.

Legal Frontiers in Digital Media 2020
The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology's online seminars on emerging legal issues at the intersection of digital media, freedom of speech, and law include AI, privacy law, technology law as a vehicle for anti-racism, and a look ahead to the next telecommunications act.

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 anticipating future pandemics and a discussion of Michael Baxter's new book, Living in the Age of the Jerk. Event recordings are made available soon after meetings conclude.

Open Data Institute
The ODI's Friday lunchtime (London time) talks have moved online. These one-hour talks cover topics such as data ethics, social equity, trust, and converting weather into music.

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
Singularity University's upcoming events include reimagining primary education and a series of executive programs aimed at various countries.


POSTPONED International Open Data Conference
New date in 2021 TBC
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.

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.

May 14-15, 2021
Chicago, Illinois, 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.

TILTing Perspectives
May 19-21, 2021
Tilburg, the Netherlands
TILTing perspectives 2021 brings together, for the seventh time, researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and civil society at the intersection of law and regulation, technology, and society to share insights, exchange ideas, and formulate, discuss, and suggest answers to contemporary challenges related to technological innovation.

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 reality, 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 December 2, 2020 4:47 PM.

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