Wendy M. Grossman: August 2017 Archives

News digest | Open Society Information Program | Week ending 11 August 2017
The Information Program NEWS DIGEST, published 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 OSF. Prepared by Wendy M. Grossman.

Our staff, advisers and major grantees tweet at http://bit.ly/13j5fjq. Current and former grantees featured in this issue: Digital Rights Ireland, EFF.

For breaking news stories, visit: http://pinboard.in/u:osi_info_program/t:news/

China: Apple removes VPNs from the app store
Reuters reports that Apple is removing some VPN services from its Chinese app store. While the company has been criticized for giving in to pressure from the Chinese government, the company says it is complying with the law, which requires all VPN services operating in China to use the country's infrastructure. Phys.org reports on broader moves to limit Chinese internet users' ability to bypass the country's censorship controls. At EFF, Amul Kalia and Eva Galperin discuss the history and escalation of Chinese internet censorship.
Reuters: http://reut.rs/2vOTow5
Phys: http://bit.ly/2vmX2uD
EFF: http://bit.ly/2ftzf8D

Elsevier acquires Bepress and Digital Commons
The Scholarly Kitchen reports that Elsevier is acquiring Bepress, the academic software firm that developed the cloud-based institutional repository system Digital Commons. The article goes on to discuss Elsevier's strategy in broadening its business to include tools that serve researchers and universities at all stages of research and expresses concern that Elsevier may now be in a position to "tame" open access. At Science, Lindsay McKenzie reports that a study by biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein finds that Elsevier lawsuit target Sci-Hub, the website that bypasses journal paywalls, can provide instant access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles, and more than 85% of all papers published in subscription journals. For some publishers, notably Elsevier, more than 97% of their catalog is available, leading Himmelstein to ask whether subscription journals can survive. The article concludes with a short interview with Himmelstein to discuss his research methods.
Scholarly Kitchen: http://bit.ly/2uH5nr4
Science: http://bit.ly/2hKa6ay

Ireland: Government plan creates "compulsory" ID card
Digital Rights Ireland reports that the Irish government has adopted, without public consultation, a new "e-government" strategy that DRI calls "a compulsory ID card by the back door". Although the government denies the card is compulsory, it is required in order to apply for a driving license, passport, free senior travel card, or other government services. DRI says the underlying database will link the details of Irish lives across all sections of government, including education, police, and health services. No legal framework to safeguard this data from abuse has been proposed.
DRI: http://bit.ly/2uH5UJK

Machine learning powers customized malware
At BetaNews, Anthony Spadafora reports from the hacker convention Defcon that researchers at the security company Endgame have adapted Elon Musk's OpenAI framework to customize malware so that it fools anti-virus engines, even those that are themselves powered by AI. According to Hyrum Anderson, who presented the research, the attacking code was able to get 16% of its customized samples past the security system's defenses. The key, according to Anderson, is exploiting the blind spots all machine learning models have. In a video clip from Defcon, chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov discusses what it was like playing - and losing to - IBM's Deep Blue chess-playing machine, which he describes as "as intelligent as an alarm clock" and argues that the rise of AI is not a threat to humanity.
Betanews: http://bit.ly/2vnba7m
YouTube: http://bit.ly/2vmLfg5

Google employee publishes anti-diversity "manifesto"
At Gizmodo, Kate Conger reveals a ten-page anti-diversity memo circulating internally at Google, in which the unnamed author complains that the company's left-wind bias prevents it from accepting that men and women have differing biological capabilities and that these explain why women occupy only a small percentage of the company's engineering and leadership roles. The Guardian reports that in response the author has been identified and fired. At Medium, recently-departed Googler Yonatan Zunger deconstructs the memo, saying that the writer does not understand gender, engineering, or the destructive consequences of his writing. All the qualities the memo describes as "feminine", says Zunger, are the core traits that make someone successful at engineering. At The Atlantic, Ian Bogost argues that more women and minorities are needed in computing because the world being built may be much worse without them. At the Guardian, Angela Saini, author of Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong - and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story, picks apart the scientific errors in the manifesto, but notes the support the author has received on social media.
Gizmodo: http://bit.ly/2upHzZA
Guardian (lawsuit): http://bit.ly/2fuivhl
Medium (Zunger): http://bit.ly/2upYI5j
Atlantic: http://theatln.tc/2vjTL0Y

Syria: Bassel Khartabil executed in 2015
Global Voices reports that Noura Ghazi, the wife of open web advocate Bassel Khartabil, has been informed that Khartabil was executed in Syria in 2015. A leader of the open source technology movement in Syria, Khartabil was a prolific contributor to Creative Commons, Mozilla's Firefox browser, and Wikipedia, and founded Syria's first open technology lab, in Damascus. In an obit at the EFF Deeplinks blog, Danny O'Brien gives further background, stressing the breadth and depth of Khartabil's influence on topics like fair use and copyright across the Arab-speaking world. At Amnesty International, Anna Neistat calls Khartabil "a symbol of courage". Jimmy Wales and his foundation have condemned the execution.
Global Voices: http://bit.ly/2wv0jrZ
EFF: http://bit.ly/2vn8C99
Amnesty: http://bit.ly/2wubGAJ
Wales: http://bit.ly/2vQ7WfN

For more features and analysis selected by the Program team, visit:

You are the product
At the London Review of Books, John Lanchester reviews three books: Tim Wu's latest, The Attention Merchants; Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine, by Antonio García Martínez; and Jonathan Taplin's Move Fast and Break Things. In the process, Lanchester discusses the founding and inner workings of Facebook, the existential threats it may face, and the consequences to us if it continues to survive and grow. What, Lanchester asks, will these companies do when they run out of new humans to recruit as users? At Medium, Economist reporter Nicholas Barrett also reviews The Attention Merchants, focusing on its account of the last 180 years of the relationship between the media and the advertising industry. Companies like Google and Facebook try to colonize our attention; enduring quality requires the creator to seek appreciation rather than merely attention. Also at Medium, Tobias Rose-Stockwell discusses how this colonization works and the enormous changes it's bringing to our news, our politics, our global outlook, and our personal relationships. At ZDNet, Wendy M. Grossman reviews Taplin's book and finds it a one-sided account of a complex problem.
LRB: http://bit.ly/2vjOeHN
Medium (Barrett): http://bit.ly/2uGYKoT
Medium (Rose-Stockwell): http://bit.ly/2vnoUiw
ZDNet: http://zd.net/2wuzgNA

Africa: Ad-supported internet unsustainable
In this article at Quartz Africa, Bryan Pon (Caribou Digital) and Mark Surman (Mozilla) argue that the ad-supported business model will not work in newly-connected emerging economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. Facebook, for example, earns an average quarterly revenue per user of $19.81 in the US and Canada versus $1.41 in Africa and Latin America. Those new billions of internet users' lower incomes and small data footprints make them less desirable to advertisers, and high data rates make ad-blocking near-essential. An alternative may be offering free access in return for watching video ads. At The Atlantic, Ethan Zuckerman apologizes for inventing the pop-up ad, and discusses a talk by Maciej Ceglowski while considering how we might remake the web without the endemic surveillance. In a case study from Ghana at Global Voices, Kofi Yeboah argues that holding onto the open internet and network neutrality, rather than accepting the limitations of Facebook's "Free Basics", is in Africa's best interests.
Quartz: http://bit.ly/2vk0VlX
Atlantic: http://theatln.tc/2hL1gcn
Global Voices: http://bit.ly/2uGXuSN

Regulating the leading technology companies
In this Lawfare blog posting, Peter Swire reviews the arguments for and against regulating the leading online technology companies as public utilities and suggests the closest model may be the Federal Communications Commission's rules regarding television. Given the many calls around the world for regulating hate speech and other terrorist communications, opponents will need to make considered and persuasive explanations of the flaws in these proposals. At The Conversation, Ramsi Woodcock suggests that the EU's antitrust actions against Google and Facebook are not based simply on anti-American nationalism but draw on antitrust theories that the EU has retained but the US has abandoned.
Lawfare: http://bit.ly/2vPF2wd
Conversation: http://bit.ly/2upJcGF

The domain name system and owner protection
In this blog posting, EFF and Public Knowledge introduce a collaborative white paper that studies which internet registries offer the best protection for domain owners. Among the pitfalls they highlight: the newer global top-level domains give brand owners veto powers via the Trademark Clearinghouse; certain registries have private deals under which they will take down websites the Motion Picture Association of America accuses of copyright infringement; some registries suspend websites selling particular kinds of products or hosting certain kinds of content; and some fail at protecting registrant privacy. These are risks that concerned ICANN Watchers Michael Froomkin, Dave Farber, and David Post during the first decade of ICANN's existence.
EFF: http://bit.ly/2upVbYO
ICANN Watch: http://bit.ly/2vjUlM1

Net Positive
On this page of Mozilla's "Net Positive" collection of video clips, a group of filmmakers examine the health of the internet. In HITRECORD x Firefox: Too Much Information, Joseph Gordon Levitt explores privacy and the collection of personal data, a topic he discovered when he played Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone's 2016 film. In the animated film It Should Be Easy, Ben Meinhardt shows a young man taking a technical support call from his mother ("Do computers ever hurt people?"). In Pizza Surveillance, honored by the ACLU, Micah Laaker shows the consequences of linking together myriad information sources.
Mozilla: https://mzl.la/2vQb37f

Taiwan: Scaling up civic tech
In this video clip from the Personal Democracy Forum, Taiwanese digital minister and prolific open source coder Audrey Tang discusses the Taiwanese government's use of machine intelligence to spur large-scale participation in policy formation. At Civic Hall, Aaron Wytze Wilson discusses the talk with particular focus on vTaiwan, a site that gets myriad stakeholders to collaborate on formulating policy. The site, Wilson says, is a rare example of a civic technology project that has scaled to a national level. However, Taiwan's openness and participation is waning; use of vTaiwan is limited to digital economy-related issues.
YouTube: http://bit.ly/2vPxA49
Civic Hall: http://bit.ly/2wurSla


To see more events recommended by the Information Program team, visit:
https://pinboard.in/u:osi_info_program/t:events/. If you would like your event listed in this mail, email info.digest@opensocietyfoundations.org.

Robots Exhibition
February 8 - September 13
London, UK
The Science Museum's 2017 robots exhibition includes robotic artifacts over five centuries, from a 16th century mechanized monk to the latest research developments. Focusing on why they exist rather than on how they work, the exhibition explores the ways robots mirror humanity and the insights they offer into our ambitions, desires and position in a rapidly changing world.

IFLA World Libraries and Information Congress
August 19-25, 2017
Wroclaw, Poland
The theme of the 83rd annual IFLA congress will be "Achieving a healthy future together: diverse and emerging roles for health information professionals".

WikiCon 2017
September 8-10, 2017
Leipzig, Germany
The meeting of German-language Wikipedia, its sibling projects, and anyone who is interested in free knowledge. WikiCon will provide space for workshops, lectures, and panel discussions to be designed in collaboration with its participants.

#CivicTechFest 2017
September 10-16. 2017
Taipei, China
Asia's first-ever civic technology festival and conference, #CivicTechFest" will feature a series of forums, workshops, roundtables, conferences, and hackathons related to open data and open government.

Expanding from its annual conference in Florence in April, mySociety's annual conference, TICTeC, which focuses on the impacts of civic technology, will provide two days of sessions as part of #CivicTechFest.

Summit on Internet Freedom in Africa
September 27-29, 2017
Johannesburg, South Africa
This event convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing the right to privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination, and the free flow of information online.

Privacy + Security Forum
October 4-6, 2017
Washington, DC
The conference breaks down the silos of security and privacy by bringing together leaders from both fields.

Mozfest 2017
October 27-29, 2017
London, UK
The world's leading festival for the open internet movement will feature influential thinkers from around the world to build, debate, and explore the future of a healthy internet.

ORGcon 2017
November 4, 2017
London, UK
ORGCon is the UK's biggest digital rights conference. This year's theme is: The Digital Fightback.

OpenCon 2017
November 11-13, 2017
Berlin, Germany
OpenCon is the conference and community for students and early career academic professionals interested in advancing Open Access, Open Education and Open Data. Applications to attend are due by August 1.

Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection
January 24-26, 2018
The theme of the 11th edition of CPDP is the "Internet of Bodies". Data collection increasingly focuses on the physical body. Bodies are increasingly connected, digitized, and informatized. In turn, the data extracted is reassembled in ways that give rise to significant questions - challenging fundamental assumptions about where the corporeal ends and the informational begins. Biometrics, genetic data processing and the quantified self are only some of the trends and technologies reaching into the depths of our bodies. Emerging technologies such as human enhancement, neural implants, and brain wave technology look likely to soon become a daily reality.

May 16-18, 2018
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
RightsCon has become one of the world's largest gatherings on human rights and technology, and it's people like you that make it an engine for change. The 2018 event is staged in Canada for a conversation built on the principles of diversity, inclusion, and respect.


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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Wendy M. Grossman in August 2017.

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