News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 4, 2021

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 4, 2021

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: Access Now, AI Now Institute, Amnesty International Limited, Article 19, Big Brother Watch, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Creative Commons, Derechos Digitales, The Engine Room, English PEN, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Hiperderecho, The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, ISUR, Centro de Internet y Sociedad de la Universidad del Rosario, The Legal Resources Centre, Mozilla Foundation, Open Rights Group, Privacy International, Ranking Digital Rights, R3D: Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales.


European Court on Human Rights: UK's Bulk Data Interception Was Unlawful
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the methods used by Britain's GCHQ for bulk interception of online communications, which Edward Snowden revealed in 2013, violated the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and insufficiently protected confidential journalistic material, Haroon Siddique reports at the Guardian. The case joined three cases brought between 2013 and 2015 by 16 organizational applicants and two individuals, including Privacy International, Open Rights Group, ACLU, Amnesty International, Big Brother Watch, English PEN, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, The Legal Resources Centre, and human rights organizations in Ireland, Canada, and Egypt. However, the ECtHR did not rule bulk interception illegal in and of itself.

India Censors "Indian Variant" Term for Variant B.1.617.2
The Indian information technology ministry has asked social media companies to remove content using the term "Indian variant" for the variant WHO designates as B.1.617.2, on the basis that calling it "Indian" hurts the country's image, Aditya Kalra reports at Reuters. WHO has since adopted Greek letter code names to avoid national stigmatization, Erin Schumacher reports at ABC News. At Rest of World, Sonia Faleiro profiles Alt News, India's most reputable fact-checking organization, and its efforts to counter misinformation. Much of it emanates from the government and most of it focuses on religious minorities, particularly Muslims. At BuzzFeed,. Pranav Dixit reports that officers from an elite branch of the New Delhi police that investigates terrorism and organized crime "served a notice" to the head of Twitter in India three days after Twitter marked tweets from members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party "manipulated media". Finally, Diksha Madhok reports at CNN that WhatsApp has sued the Indian government to block its new social media rules, which impose numerous requirements for content moderation, compliance with law enforcement, and the ability to trace the origins of messages.

Court of Appeal: UK Home Office Must Show Immigrants Their Data
The Court of Appeal found unanimously that a clause in the 2018 Data Protection Act, which brings the EU's General Data Protection Regulation into post-Brexit UK law, that exempted immigrants' data from subject access rights is incompatible with Article 23, the Open Rights Group reports in a press release. ORG, which brought the case with the3million, notes that the Court will reconvene to decide on appropriate relief. The judgment reversed a High Court ruling in 2019.

Apple Bows to Chinese Government Requirements
Apple has made numerous compromises to do business in China, where the company assembles nearly all its products and earns a fifth of its revenues, Jack Nicas, Raymond Zhong, and Daisuke Wakabayashi report at the New York Times. Among them: localizing data storage with government access, removing the "Designed by Apple in California" label from the backs of iPhones, proactively censoring tens of thousands of apps, and blocking tools for organizing pro-democracy protests and bypassing internet restrictions. CEO Tim Cook responds that the world is better off with Apple in China.

Technology Companies Fail to Protect Freedom of Expression and Privacy
Only two companies out of 26 - Twitter (53%) and Verizon Media (52%) - scored more than 50% on their policies and practices affecting people's rights of freedom of expression and privacy, according to the newly published 2020 Ranking Digital Rights survey. In a blog posting at Access Now, Isedua Oribhabor and Peter Micek discuss how to bring these companies to accountability;. sSince the last RDR report, a number of companies took important steps such as improving transparency and updating their policies. Amazon, newly added this year, ranked last of the 26. Access Now has asked each company to review their ranking and respond publicly.

Musicians and NGOs Ask Spotify to Reject Speech Recognition
Access Now, Fight for the Future, Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, and a global coalition of over 180 musicians and human rights organizations including the Mozilla Foundation, AI Now Institute, Amnesty International, Article 19, Derechos Digitales, Electronic Privacy Information Center,, Hiperderecho, ISUR (Centro de Internet y Sociedad de la Universidad del Rosario), and R3D: Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales have called on Spotify to publicly commit to never using, licensing, selling, or monetizing its newly-patented speech recognition technology, Access Now reports. They are concerned that the technology, which Spotify claims can detect emotional state, gender, age, or accent in order to make better music recommendations, could be manipulative, discriminatory, insecure, and privacy-invasive. The company says it has not implemented the technology and has no plans to do so.


Reimagining the Internet
On this page are a video introduction and transcript introducing Reimagining the Internet from the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure, a series of podcasts hosted by Ethan Zuckerman presenting the views of activists, scholars, journalists, and entrepreneurs about how to create online spaces in the public interest. Interviewees include Black Software author Charlton McIlwain, The Markup co-founder and editor-in-chief Julia Angwin, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Wendy Liu, author of Abolish Silicon Valley, and Trebor Scholz, founder of the Platform Coopertivism Consortium.

The Disinformation Dozen
In this report, the Center for Countering Digital hate finds that just 12 people are responsible for as much as 65% of anti-vaccine content overall, and 73% on Facebook. The report lists all 12 and recommends platforms should remove them and the key organizations they use to disseminate their messages. Top of the list is alternative medicine proponent Joseph Mercola; second is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, who chairs the anti-vaccine advocacy group Children's Health Defense.

Technology Tools to Document Human Rights Abuses
In this report on research conducted with the Public Law and International Policy Group and Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems International, the Engine Room surveys the landscape of technology tools used by civil society organizations to document human rights abuses and considers how to meet the common challenges they pose.

Creative Commons Licenses Versus NFTs
In this blog posting, University of Sussex lecturer Andrés Guadamuz analyzes the interaction between commercial Creative Commons licenses and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which some artists are using to uniquely identify and sell digital copies. NFTs are typically just metadata, often incorporating a link to the original work; it's therefore possible for a third party to create and profit from the NFT while paying the creator earns nothing. Guadamuz argues that this would be legal, violating the spirit, but not the letter, of Creative Commons.

The Value of Insurrection
In this blog posting, Ethan Zuckerman discusses his new book, Mistrust: How Losing Faith in Institutions Provides the Tools to Transform Them, including links to an adapted version of the first chapter at The Atlantic and a radio interview. Zuckerman began working on his ideas about the value of insurrection as Occupy was winding down and finished it in the wake of the January 6 invasion of the US Capitol.

The Full Story of the RSA Hack
In this article at Wired, Andy Greenberg tells the full story of the 2011 hack into RSA, which compromised the security of companies and government agencies worldwide, publishing details that have come to light only now that ten-year non-disclosure agreements have expired. This first supply chain attack, like the recent SolarWinds attack, exposed the fragility of our digital infrastructure and taught that every network should be regarded as "dirty".


*** 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 2021
June 3-4, 2021
Online from 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.

June 7-11, 2021
AccessNow's tenth RightsCon will bring together business leaders, policy makers, general counsels, technologists, advocates, academics, government representatives, and journalists from around the world to tackle the most pressing issues at the intersection of human rights and technology.

CPDP LatAm 2021
July 2021
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. The conference will especially focus on data protection at a time of social emergency - COVID-19, 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.

SOUPS 2021
August 8-10, 2021
Vancouver, BC, Canada
The 17th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners in human-computer interaction, security, and privacy. It will be colocated with USENIX 2021.

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 change-makers for talks on AI, augmented/virtual reality, blockchain, the future of work, impact, investing, robotics and more.

Wikimania 2021
August, 2021
Online from Bangkok, Thailand
Wikimania 2020, now Wikimania 2021, will be the 16th Wikimania conference, an annual event for the international Wikimedia community.

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).

Modern Law Review: Are We Owned?
October 8, 2021
Stirling, Scotland, UK
The Modern Law Review will present a one-day conference, "Are We Owned? A Multidisciplinary and Comparative Conversation on Intellectual Property in the Algorithmic Society". The conference will discuss the future of autonomy as the terms of service that apply to phones and computers become embedded in "smart" physical objects throughout our environment and within our bodies.

September 6-10, 2021
Online from Geneva, Switzerland
The Geneva Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication will focus on     scholarly publishing, digital research data, reproducibility and research integrity, diversity, inclusivity and collaboration, and the future of open science.

ALPSP Annual Conference
September 15-17, 2021
Online from UK
The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers' annual conference provides a friendly forum to share information, learn about new initiatives and engage in open discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing the scholarly publishing community. The main themes for 2021 are "Discoverability and Accessibility" and "The Great Reset: Scenario planning for life after COVID".

Open Education Global
September 27-October 1, 2021
Each day of the 2021 2021 conference program will have webinars comprised of five presentations and interactive asynchronous activities focused on that day's action area. Sessions may be in any of the six official languages of the United Nations - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, or Spanish.

October 8-9, 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.


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. Late-2020 events included discussions of regulating for algorithm accountability and "almost-future" AI.

Bace Cybersecurity Institute
Recent webinars sponsored by Bace Security include a "fireside" discussion with prominent women in security, security problems in online voting, methods for privacy-protecting digital contact tracing, advanced botnet researcher, and using marketing techniques to improve cybersecurity communication.

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.

The Communication and Media Institute (CAMRI) at London's University of Westminster hosts a series of online events presenting the work of sociologists, historians, economists, and activists studying online developments around the world. Spring 2021 offerings include a reassessment of the 2010 Arab Spring and studies of internal communication connections within the Global South, the changing role of public service media, decolonizing the curriculum, and using Facebook to reduce polarization.

Data & Society
Data & Society has moved its weekly Databites and Network Power Hours programs into online interactive formats. Its first event for 2021 examines digital technology and democratic theory.

The Research Group on Data, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Law & Society is presenting a series of discussions on topics such as robotics (Frank Pasquale, April 1), rights, technology, and society (Anne-Sophie Hulin, May 19), and justifiability and contestability of algorithmic decision systems (Daniel Le Métayer, June 1).

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.

Geneva Internet Platform
The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), a Swiss initiative run by DiploFoundation is organizing monthly briefings on internet governance, providing updates and news and projections of how they will influence future developments.

In Lieu of Fun
Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at St John's University School of Law who specializes in online speech and governance, and Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and co-founder and chief editor of Lawfare, hold a nightly discussion of current affairs, law, politics, and digital media with invited guests. Daily at 5pm Eastern Time.

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.


Hear more from the Information Program!
If you have been forwarded this email by a friend and wish to subscribe to this fortnightly digest, please visit: You can also read more about our work on the Open Society Foundations website:

Hear less from the Information Program!
Our mailing address is:
Open Society Foundations, 4th Floor Herbal House, 8 Back Hill, London EC1R 5EN, United Kingdom

© 2021 Open Society Foundations. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
Your privacy is important to us. View our Privacy Policy:

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 4, 2021.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on June 4, 2021 11:31 PM.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 11, 2021 was the previous entry in this blog.

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending June 11, 2021 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.