Once a week the Information Program of Open Society Foundations sends out a weekly digest of news, analysis and events all about … you guessed it, information. It is usually prepared by the inimitable Becky Hogge, the former executive director of the Open Rights Group, who now contributes to openDemocracy and co-hosts the Little Atoms radio show. Becky’s taking a short break from her digest duties, which means the subscribers now fall victim to my own subtle editorializing. What follows is a hyperlinked version.


Apple, Google Collect User Location Data

Google and Apple have been found to regularly collect and transmit the location of Android and iPhone mobile phone users. The Wall Street Journal reports that the companies are gathering location information as part of their race to build massive databases capable of pinpointing people’s locations via their cellphones. Apple and Google have each responded to the allegations.

Africa’s Governments Confront Social Media Protests

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Uganda Communications Commission for ordering telecom companies to block access to Facebook and Twitter as opposition activists organized a “walk to work” protest against high fuel prices and the current government administration. Voice of America notes that other protests organized via social networks are taking place in Burkina Faso, Swaziland, and Ethiopia.

India Puts Tight Leash on Internet Free Speech

New rules were quietly introduced this month by India’s Department of Information Technology that allow officials and private citizens to demand the removal of content they consider objectionable. Critics are concerned that the criteria are open to wide interpretation.

BRICS Invest in Undersea Cable Between Brazil, South Africa, Angola

The BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – agreed to build a 12.8Tbit/s undersea link between Brazil and South Africa and Angola.

Obama Administration Seeks Warrantless GPS Tracking

The Obama administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning a decision made last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals which ruled that police must get a warrant before tracking a suspect with a hidden global positioning device.

Joi Ito to Head M.I.T. Media Lab

Venture capitalist and veteran blogger Joi Ito has been named the fourth director of the M.I.T Media Laboratory, which was originally founded by Nicholas Negroponte in 1985. While some eyebrows have been raised at Ito’s lack of a college degree, colleagues are quick to point out that his global connections will benefit the center.

Features and Analysis

Mobile Phones in the Eyes of the Law

Upon news of location tracking by Apple and Google, Alexis Madrigal takes a closer look at what our smart phones know about us and how that information is increasingly coveted by law enforcement agencies. In part two, Madrigal examines some of the current legal debate around warrantless cellphone searches.

The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge

Legal scholar Lawrence Lessig travels to CERN to discuss the outdated publishing system of scientific research. Unlike artists and authors who often produce for money, Lessig argues that academics, researchers, and scientists do not get paid directly for their articles and thus operate under different incentives that require different rules.

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

Beginning with an anecdote of a Chicago-area cult that had to justify the passing of what they had anticipated to be the apocalypse, Chris Mooney reviews some of the latest research into why it is so difficult to change our minds when confronted with clear, concrete evidence. According to Mooney, the research leaves us with one question: “What can be done to counteract human nature itself?”

Fight for Spectrum Between Broadcasters and Wireless

While the New York Times reports on a lobbying battle between broadcasters and wireless companies for control of public spectrum in the U.S., Ars Technica profiles a Rice University research team that has extended WiFi signal reception to one mile by using frequency from an empty TV channel. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has published a helpful policy brief to understand spectrum governance.

Tragedy of the Data Commons

Jerry Brito interviews law professor Jane Yakowitz about her recently published paper, Tragedy of the Data Commons, which argues that scholars have overblown the risks of anonymized data sets and undervalued the social good that is derived from the release of aggregate data by sites like OkCupid and Facebook.

Malaysia: Government’s Free E-mail Plan Met with Opposition

Malaysia plans to offer every adult in the country a free Web-based e-mail account to ensure that tax returns, court documents and other official notices reach the population of 28.3 million. Rebekah Heacock of the OpenNet Initiative looks at mounting dissent to the plan. Malaysiakini asks its readers if they believe their privacy will be respected.


Mapping the Future of University Patenting

April 29-30, 2011
Davis, California, US
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act, which gave U.S. universities ownership of intellectual property that resulted from government funded projects – this conference will discuss the future of intellectual property as it relates to university research.

Transparency Camp 2011

April 30-May 1, 2011
Washington DC, US
US-focussed open government unconference which brings together government officials, technologists, journalists and advocates to share their knowledge around efficient and accountable government.

Brasil@home: Citizen Cyberscience for Brazil and Latin America

May 2-6, 2011
Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Held over five days in Brazil’s three largest cities, Brasil@home is an initiative to promote participation in science projects over the Internet, in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

Global Internet Governance: Research and Public Policy Challenges for the Next Decade

May 5-6, 2011
Washington DC, New York
A two-day conference to explore issues such as IP address scarcity, ICANN accountability, the role of social media in toppling dictatorships, censorship and privacy online, and the tensions between national security and internet freedom.

Cyber-surveillance in Everyday Life: An International Workshop

May 12-15, 2011
Toronto, Canada
This international workshop brings together researchers, advocates, activists and artists working on the many aspects of cyber-surveillance, particularly as it pervades and mediates social life.

1st Global Conference on Transparency Research

May 19-20, 2011
Newark, New Jersey, US
This conference will bring together governmental transparency scholars from a range of fields including sociology, anthropology, political science, public administration, economics, political economy, journalism, business, and law.

The Future of Islam in the Age of New Media

May, 2011
Dubbed “the world’s shortest conference on Islam ever,” 60 speakers from across philosophical and political spectrums will each speak for 60 seconds for a one-hour discussion about the future of Islam in the age of hyperconnectivity.

Agnotology: Ways of Producing, Preserving, and Dealing with Ignorance

May 30-June 1, 2011
Bielefeld, Germany
Philosophers, historians and nuerobiologists aim to come to a better understanding of that which we don’t. The aim of the workshop is to map out a new ignorance-centered terrain in an effort to determine just what and where it might add to knowledge-centered terrains such as pistemology and philosophy of science.

Federated Social Web Europe

June 3-5, 2011
Berlin, Germany
A workshop designed to bring together communities working on federated social networking with those involved in privacy and identity.

Mobile and Web Technologies in Social and Economic Development

June 4-5, 2011
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
This conference aims to understand the challenges associated with using mobile phones and Web technologies to deliver sustainable services for underprivileged populations in developing countries.

Personal Democracy Forum

June 6-7, 2011
New York, NY, US
The 8th annual personal democracy forum will continue to explore and analyse technology’s impact on politics and government and includes speakers Sami Ben Gharbia, Vivek Kundra and Susan Morgan.

Computers, Freedom & Privacy

June 14-16, 2011
Washington DC, US
Influential conference now in its 21st year which hosts discussions about the information society and the future of technology at the intersection of policy, technology and action.

CEU Summer University

June 20 – July 1, 2011
Budapest, Hungary
An intensive summer course entitled “Communication policy advocacy, technology, and online freedom of expression: a toolkit for media development” and designed to help researchers and activists gain new insights into the role which civil society can play in advocating for online free expression and communication policy change.

CERN workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication (OAI7)

June 22-24, 2011
Geneva, Switzerland
This international workshop aimed at those involved in developing open access repositories will mix practical tutorials with presentations from cutting-edge projects and discussion groups.

6th Annual Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon)

June 30-July 1, 2011
Deadline for call for proposals: May 1, 2011
Berlin, Germany
OKCon brings together individuals and organisations involved in open data, open access, open educational resources and many more issues from across the open knowledge spectrum for two days of presentations, workshops and exchange of ideas.