News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending Sept. 10, 2021

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News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending Sept. 10, 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. This is the second-to-last edition of the digest, which will cease publication at the end of September 2021.

Current and former grantees featured in this issue: EFF.


Apple Pauses CSAM Scanning
After considerable backlash, Apple has paused the introduction of its planned system to scan customers' devices and photographs uploaded to iCloud for child sexual abuse material (CSAM), Thomas Claburn reports at The Register. In a blog posting, EFF deputy executive director Kurt Opsahl argues that such a system is dangerous because, "If you build it, they will come". At the New York Times, cybersecurity expert Matthew D. Green and former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos explain the novel privacy risks such a system would bring.

China Issues Draft Regulations for Recommendation Algorithms
The Cyberspace Administration of China has published draft regulations for recommendation algorithms that are intended both to ensure platforms "spread positive energy" and to stop users from being manipulated, Kendra Schaefer reports in a Twitter thread. Stanford's DigiChina policy center has published a translation of the draft. At Reuters, Brenda Goh reports that China's National Press and Publication Administration will ban gaming companies from providing services to under-18s outside of one hour a day on weekends and public holidays. At the Guardian, Alex Hern says that while the West is unlikely to follow suit, gaming companies should think seriously about their business models and revenue sources.

Google Locks Accounts Belonging to Former Afghan Government
Google has locked accounts belonging to the recently-fallen Afghan government as reports indicate that the Taliban are seeking to examine emails sent and received by the two dozen government bodies that used Google's servers. The emails and related databases could provide information to put at risk former administrators, ministers, government contractors, tribal allies, and former partners.

Google Decommissions Clinical Support App Streams
Google is decommissioning its UK clinician support app Streams, Natasha Lomas reports at TechCrunch. The Streams "mobile medical device" was developed in 2015 by DeepMind in collaboration with the Royal Free NHS Trust soon after Google acquired it in 2014. The app, intended to be part of a five-year plan to bring AI into health care, apparently never incorporated AI and was the subject of a 2017 scandal over sharing patient data without consent. In a second disturbing development, 2018 DeepMind handed off the app to Google Health, raising privacy concerns. The company says it is changing focus to Care Studio, which it is testing with two US health systems.

US Court Rules AI Systems Cannot Be Awarded Patents
A federal judge has upheld a decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office that only natural persons can be awarded patents and recognized as inventors, ruling out awarding patents to AI systems, Katyanna Quach reports at The Register. Judge Leonie Brinema argued the requirement for applicants to take an oath swearing that they are the inventor on patent applications can only be met by natural persons.

UK Plans Overhaul of Data Protection Laws
The UK will overhaul its privacy rules looking to move away from the EU's General Data Protection Regulation while retaining the UK's data protection laws' adequacy status, Alex Hern reports at the Guardian. The government has published more details about its plans on its own website. At Ian Brown's blog, he and Douwe Korff discuss the areas where UK law is also at odds with GDPR. At Campaign, marketers express concern about the risk to consumer trust and the EU's adequacy decision if the UK strays too far.


Australian Research Council Bans Preprint Citations
The Australian Research Council has banned applicants for its fellowships from citing preprint material in funding applications, a particular problem for early-career researchers, Donna Lu reports at the Guardian. An application tracker has found that at least 23 people have so far been excluded because of this rule. Lu also reports that more than 600 members of the Australian research community have called on ARC to reconsider the rule, warning that excluding preprint citations means applicants will not be using the full range of contemporary knowledge in a given discipline. At Nature, Clare Watson reports that scientists are calling the rule "plain ludicrous".

Counting the Costs of the Post-9/11 Security State
In this article at the Guardian, Ed Pilkington reviews the rise of the US's surveillance state as the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches. Within days, the FBI and NSA began implementing the warrantless surveillance to keep tabs on digital communications they had long wanted. Despite the efforts of Congressional oversight committees and AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, the true extent did not become clear until Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations. A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies estimates that the militarized post-9/11 security state has cost $21 trillion.
20th anniversary 9/11 - cost of War on Terror, constant surveillance

Eight US States Agree to Store Driver's Licenses in Apple's Wallet App
Apple will begin storing in its Wallet app driver's licenses from eight US states later this year, Samuel Axon reports at Ars Technica. The system's first use will be identification checks at airports. The company says users will not have to hand over their phones or show screens; the information will be delivered by tapping the phone or an Apple watch on a reader. At Muckrock, BJ Mahal studies Freedom of Information Act responses from 24 states to understand whether the system will be fair and what its impact on privacy will be.

Accenture's Secret Role in Facebook Content Moderation
In this article at the New York Times, Adam Satariano and Mike Isaac reveal Accenture's crucial yet secretive $500 million-a-year role in moderating content on Facebook. Accenture employs more than a third of the 15,000 people Facebook says it pays to examine users' posts, and deals with the impact on workers of reviewing posts. The deal provides Accenture a presence in Silicon Valley. Also at the New York Times, Ryan Mac, Mike Isaac, and Sheera Frenkel report that Facebook is considering forming a commission to advise it on global election-related matters such as the viability of political ads and how to handle election-related misinformation.

Digital Media Is Broken
In this posting at Medium, Ryan Broderick argues that digital media is broken as a business. YouTuber Logan Paul's 31 million subscribers across four channels represent a vastly more efficient operation than the 25 million subscribers across ten channels counted by Vice, which recently announced layoffs to pivot to video via TikTok and YouTube. The last ten years have seen formerly distinctive sites like Vice become indistinguishable from one another as they become part of content farms.

US: Public Can Reclaim Ownership of Publicly-Funded Science
In this article at The Intercept, Alexander Zaitchik outlines US president Joe Biden's opportunity to roll back some of the effects of the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed private companies to patent government-funded research. Even at the time, the bill's opponents warned that it would promote greater concentration of economic power and slow technological innovation.


*** 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


We Robot
September 23-25, 2021
Online from Miami, Florida
We Robot's tenth annual conference will bring together the people designing, building, and deploying robots and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate.

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. The theme of the 2022 conference is "data protection and privacy in transitional times".

Enigma 2022
February 1-3, 2022
Santa Clara, CA, USA
Enigma centers on a single track of engaging talks covering a wide range of topics in security and privacy. Our goal is to clearly explain emerging threats and defenses in the growing intersection of society and technology, and to foster an intelligent and informed conversation within the community and 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.

LIBER 2022
July 5-8 2022
Odense, Denmark
LIBER's annual conference brings library directors and their staff together for three days of networking and collaboration. Delegates mainly come from Europe but people from around the world are welcome, and we regularly welcome guests from countries including Australia, Canada and the United States. The goal of the conference is to identify the most pressing needs for research libraries, and to share information and ideas for addressing those needs.


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.

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.


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This page contains a single entry by Wendy M. Grossman published on September 10, 2021 1:35 PM.

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