News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending November 27, 2020

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending November 27, 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: EDRi, EFF, InternetLab, Open Rights Group.


False Claims of US Election Fraud Circulate on Social Media
Disinformation about voter fraud has been repeatedly plugged by influential social media accounts for months, led by US president Donald Trump, Marianna Spring reports at the BBC. "Stop the Steal" groups on Facebook have amassed more than a million members, although several were removed after users posted threats of violence. Experts are concerned that the public's faith in democracy will be eroded as a result. At the New York Times, Sheera Frenkel reports that the independent report finds that YouTube videos endorsing false claims of widespread election fraud were viewed more than 138 million times in the week of the election. The BBC reports that Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and government and fact-checking organizations will collaborate to stop COVID-19 vaccine misinformation from circulating. Currently, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate says 95% of such material on social media is not removed. At Reuters, Elizabeth Culliford and Katie Paul report that Facebook estimates that ten to 11 of every 10,000 content views during the third quarter of 2020 included hate speech.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter Oppose Pakistani Censorship Law
Through the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents numerous technology companies, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have threatened to leave Pakistan because they are alarmed by new censorship laws, the Associated Press reports at The Hindustan Times. The laws give the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority the power to remove and block digital content that poses harm, intimidates, or "excites disaffection" toward the government or hurts the integrity, security, and defense of Pakistan in other ways, and allow for fines of up to $3.14 million for failing to block content deemed to be in violation. Social media companies are also required to provide any information or data in unencrypted format to the country's designated investigation agency.

UK: Japan-UK Trade Deal Threatens Privacy Standards
In this article at, Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock summarizes the recently announced UK-Japan deal, which commits the UK to accepting lower privacy standards for data transfers and undermines algorithmic transparency and access to source code, and may limit the right to repair. It also makes intermediary liability contingent on copyright enforcement. The government has provided very little detail to either the public or Parliament. At EDRi, ORG goes into more detail about why the deal is likely to make it impossible for the EU to grant the UK an adequacy ruling under the GDPR.

Japanese Companies and Banks Experiment with Digital Currencies
More than 30 Japanese firms including brokerages, telecommunications firms, utilities, and retailers, as well as the country's three biggest banks will experiment next year with providing a private digital currency to promote digitization, Leika Kihara reports at Reuters. In addition, the Bank of Japan plans to issue a digital yen.  In a podcast for FinTech Australia, David Birch, author of The Currency Cold War, discusses the future of digital currencies and the battle for global economic power between the US and China.

Airports Adopt Facial Recognition for Travelers
In this article at Policy Options, Tamir Israel reports that airports across the world are embedding facial recognition in border crossings and boarding procedures claiming it will increase efficiency, security, and safety even though the technology is error-prone and racially biased. Israel warns that its adoption as proof of identity or nationality is dangerous for refugees and others and threatens human rights. A report from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic documents this adoption, warns of the intrusive surveillance it brings, and calls for a reset. At the Guardian, Katy Fallon reports that Tendayi Achiume, the UN's special rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, has called for a moratorium on the use of surveillance technologies including AI lie detector tests, iris scans for refugees, and voice imprinting software in asylum applications. At Papers Please, Edward Hasbrouck says the recent US General Administration Office report on the use of facial recognition on travelers fails to address numerous legal and constitutional issues. At the New York Times, Shira Ovide argues that despite its flaws, given the right policies and oversight facial recognition can be a valuable tool for law enforcement.


Privacy Makes Progress in Brazil
In this blog posting at EFF, Katitza Rodriguez summarizes InternetLab's fifth annual report on telecom privacy and data protection in Brazil. This edition finds that half of its eight featured telecom providers for mobile and broadband services have made significant progress in data protection since 2019, but notes they also signed non-transparent data-sharing agreements with states and municipalities to help them combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In a joint letter, Access Now and Direitos na Rede Coalition express their concern that three of the nominated directors of the Brazilian Data Protection Authority are members of the armed forces; they ask the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and the Global Privacy Assembly to emphasize the importance of an independent DPA when engaging with the Brazilian government on data protection matters.

OpenStreetMap Has Become Critical Infrastructure
In this posting at Medium, Joe Morrison discovers that OpenStreetMap, which was founded as a collaborative atlas by a few British graduate students in 2004, is now critical infrastructure for some of the most-used software and the recipient of investment and contributions from Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. Increasing corporate involvement is creating dissent within OSM's diverse and vibrant community; 1.5 million people have contributed to the atlas, which incorporates 4.5 million changes per day.

Systemic Racism Inside Scientific Funding
In this article at Cell, Kaful Dzirasa examines systemic racism within US scientific funding despite ten years of effort by the National Institutes of Health to address the problem, and argues that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the black community is further proof of the desperate need for equity.

Privacy Is Hard
In this paper for the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Alessandro Acquisti, Laura Brandimarte, and George Loewenstein review streams of social science literature to find that although consumers fundamentally care about online privacy it's prohibitively difficult for individuals to protect themselves. Policy intervention, the remaining option, is often blocked by powerful interests that oppose it. In a paper for New Media & Society, Taj Morse and Michael Birnhack study attitudes towards privacy after death and find that users fall into three groups: one whose preferences and actions match; one who fail to act to implement their interest in privacy, extending the "privacy paradox" after death; and a third who wish to share their data posthumously but also fail to act, which the authors dub the "inverted privacy paradox".

Big Tech Prepares for Different Joe Biden
In a podcast at Bloomberg, Gigi Sohn explains why Silicon Valley expects to see a different Joe Biden from the one who left the vice-presidency four years ago, though she thinks it will be difficult to find remedies for platform power that Republicans and Democrats can agree on. Sohn would prefer the government to create a regulatory agency to oversee the technology companies rather than break them up.

Fixing the Internet: Third-Party Doctrine
In this third episode of EFF's podcast series, "How to Fix the Internet", Danny O'Brien, Cindy Cohn and Jumana Musa discuss the third-party doctrine, which allows government and law enforcement ready access to communications metadata, where contents of messages require a court order. This hole in US privacy law, originally conceived with physical envelopes in mind but broadly repurposed, enables highly invasive traffic analysis. EFF believes a warrant should be required.


*** 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.


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 4:49 PM.

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