News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending July 9, 2021

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending July 9, 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: AccessNow, Data & Society, Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz, EDri, EFF, The Engine Room, Homo Digitalis, Panoptykon Foundation, Open Rights Group, Privacy International.


Digital and Civil Rights Organizations Call for Ban on Surveillance-Based Advertising
An international coalition of 55 digital, civil rights, and consumer protection groups, along with more than 20 data protection experts, has called for the EU to incorporate a ban on surveillance-based advertising in the upcoming Digital Services Act, Natasha Lomas reports at TechCrunch. Signatories include BEUC, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the New Economics Foundation. The call cites a new report from the Norwegian Consumer Council that finds that 90% of people oppose the collection of information about them online by commercial actors, 80% oppose ads based on personal information, and 60% feel powerless to do anything about it. Ongoing failure to enforce the General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect in May 2018, means that despite many complaints, rule-breakers still have not been punished. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is suing IAB Technology, a non-profit consortium representing dozens of ad brokers, media organizations, and technology companies that sets technical standards. The case, which is being brought in Hamburg District Court, covers real-time bidding advertising auctions.

Technology Companies Seek Changes to Hong Kong Security Law
The Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition, which represents the major technology companies, has sent an open letter to the Hong Kong authorities responding to provisions in the city's 2020 Security Law that allow police to fine the companies and arrest local employees for non-compliance, Paul Mozur reports at the New York Times. The coalition warns that the only way companies could avoid these sanctions it to cease investing or offering services in Hong Kong. The coalition is seeking changes that limit intermediary liability and improve support for freedom of expression; at issue are "anti-doxxing" rules implemented after protesters began identifying police online.

Russia Requires Local Presence for Internet Companies
Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a law that requires foreign entities on the internet in Russia with audiences of 500,000 or more people to open local offices, Reuters reports. The Russian government has also opened a new case accusing Google of breaching the country's data protection legislation. The new law potentially applies to 20 companies.

EU Grants UK Data Protection Adequacy Status
The EU has granted adequacy status to the UK's data protection regime, Jennifer Rankin reports at the Guardian. However, the EU limited the status to four years, and warned that it could be revoked at any time if British law changes and no longer offers EU citizens sufficient protection over their data. In a blog posting, the Open Rights Group argues that the decision should raise alarms in both the UK and the EU because UK law has a number of areas where protection is not equivalent, and the country's plans for future changes will take it even further away. At its blog, Privacy International discusses the UK's Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill, which PI argues contains insufficient protection for mobile phone extraction. PI has also signed a civil society letter to the European Parliament asking for revisions to the proposed Digital Markets Act to provide stronger consumer protection; the other signatories are EDri, EFF, Homo Digitalis, Panoptykon Foundation, Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz, LobbyControl, and Open Society European Policy Institute.

Facial Recognition Blocks Millions of Americans from Receiving Unemployment
Flawed facial recognition used by the identity-checking company in at least 21 US states, is locking unemployment recipients all over the US out of benefits, Todd Feathers reports at Vice. Many have gone months without support while struggling to establish their identities.

Discrimination Against Women Persists on Wikipedia
Biographies of notable women are disproportionately nominated for deletion on Wikipedia on the grounds that they are not notable enough, Francesca Tripodi finds in a journal article for New Media and Society. Less than 19% of Wikipedia's 1.5 million biographies of writers, inventors, and academics are about women; more than 70% of Wikipedia editors are male. While edit-a-thons have increased the numbers of biographies of women, the process is slow and countering the almost immediate nominations for deletion requires laborious follow-up. In a Twitter thread, Amelia McNamara summarizes the paper.


Pandemic Widens Digital Divide
In this article from the Journal of Information Policy, a group of Carnegie Mellon researchers examine the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the internet. Of particular importance has been the increase in uploads, as individual households began transmitting video as well as receiving it. The luckiest people were able to rely on high-speed broadband at home. The unluckiest struggled to find wifi hotspots at a time when libraries were closed; those without home broadband often could not attend school or work. The article concludes by suggesting appropriate government policies to encourage ISPs to adopt designs that will better meet subscriber needs.

Assembling Accountability
In this article at Medium, Emmanuel Moss, a researcher at Data & Society, summarizes a new report on making AI more accountable by building in algorithmic impact assessment practices from the beginning. Achieving this will require a broad consensus among many stakeholders; Moss draws parallels to environmental impact assessments and considers the role of current efforts such as auditing.

Digital Rights Groups and Social Justice Organizations Struggle to Collaborate
In this blog posting, Barbara Paes discusses the barriers to collaboration between social justice organizations and data and digital rights groups that The Engine Room has found in discussions for its new report on intersectional partnerships. The pandemic has brought these difficulties to the fore, as unequal access to digital technologies has led to unequal access to health care.

The Internet is Rotting
In this article at The Atlantic, Jonathan Zittrain writes that the internet is "rotting" - that is, links that break as web pages are moved or removed, or whose meaning is altered when the content on the linked page changes. Zittrain is particularly concerned about legal judgments, which may include web pages and even TikTok videos in their reasoning, and discusses the potential for save-everything systems such as Amberlink and the services Perma and Robustify, which create permanent snapshots of cited material.

Voice Recognition Poses New Questions for Regulators
In this blog posting at AccessNow, Daniel Leufer discusses the kind of regulation that's needed for voice recognition, which he warns is becoming widespread beyond the voice assistants we're already used to. Among the issues Leufer highlights are reinforcement of gender stereotypes, the risks of voice recognition when deployed to protect bank and other accounts, and AI voice analysis, which makes guesses about people and their emotional states  based on their voice data. In a second posting, Jennifer Brody and Leanna Garfield cite six examples of how technology companies listen to us.

US and EU Approaches to Antitrust
In this episode of the Sway podcast, Kara Swisher interviews European Commission vice-president Margrethe Vestager, who has proposed regulations requiring Apple to permit alternative app stores and warns Apple not to use security and privacy as excuses. Vestager discusses recent cases where the EU has lost to the technology giants in court, and future directions for regulation and taxation. In an episode of In Lieu of Fun, guest Randy Picker analyzes the recent court dismissal of the US Federal Trade Commission's complaint against Facebook with hosts Kate Klonick, Genevieve DellaFerra, and Ben Wittes. The states' complaint was rejected for filing too late, and the federal complaint failed to define the market it claimed Facebook dominates. Picker and his hosts discuss how the FTC might fix this and refile  under incoming chair Lina Khan.


*** 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


CPDP LatAm 2021
July 14-16, 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".

We Robot 2021
September 23-25, 2021
Miami, Florida, USA
We Robot is the leading North American conference on robotics law and policy.  It is designed to foster conversation between the people designing, building, and deploying robots and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate. Papers and presentations are often interdisciplinary collaborations relating to how citizens and officials are or will be using robots, AI, and related technologies, and the implications of those technologies for policy and law.

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.

Web Summit
November 1-4, 2021
Lisbon, Portugal
At a time of great uncertainty for many industries, Web Summit will gather  founders and CEOs of technology companies, fast-growing startups, policymakers, and heads of state to ask a simple question: Where to next?

Tech for Democracy
November 9, 2021
Copenhagen, Denmark
The Danish Government will host an international conference, Tech for Democracy, to bring states, tech sector representatives, media, academia, and civil society around the same table to focus on concrete ways to make technology support - and not undermine - democracy and civil society.

Policy & AI
November 9-10, 2021
Palo Alto, California, USA
With artificial intelligence rapidly transforming every aspect of our world, calls for regulation, governance, and oversight are on the rise. HAI's 2021 fall conference will consider four radical proposals for policies that respond to the challenges and opportunities of an AI-powered future. Can basic income address the future of automated work? Should a public agency certify algorithms? How would we regulate AI-based decisions on platforms? Should there be ownership rights in data that fuel algorithms?  Each substantive session will feature the short presentation of one radical proposal with discussion by a panel of experts from multiple disciplines and backgrounds.

Internet Governance Forum
December 6-10, 2021
Katowice, Poland
The Internet Governance Forum is an international meeting, held at the initiative of the United Nations, that enables a global discussion on the development of the Internet. It is a place for exchanging thoughts and experiences in the field of Internet governance.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 26-28, 2022
Brussels, Belgium
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 gathers academics, lawyers, practitioners, policy-makers, industry and civil society from all over the world in Brussels, offering them an arena to exchange ideas and discuss the latest emerging issues and trends. This unique multidisciplinary formula has served to make CPDP one of the leading data protection and privacy conferences in Europe and around the world.

Mozilla Festival
March, 2022
MozFest is a unique hybrid: part art, tech and society convening, part maker festival, and the premiere gathering for activists in diverse global movements fighting for a more humane digital world.


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.

Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
The Carnegie Council runs frequent events on topics such as illiberal threats to democracy, the societal limits of AI ethics, AI and ethics in Africa, and inclusion. The Council posts audio and a transcript after each event.

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.

Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence at Stanford
HAI's series of events covers AI-related topics such as upcoming regulation, issues with algorithms, health, and AI and society.

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.

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


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on July 12, 2021 1:57 PM.

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