The Information Program works to increase access to knowledge and protect civil liberties in the digital environment. The following is a roundup of news and analysis that the program team has been watching in the past week, compiled by Wendy M. Grossman, a freelance writer specializing in science and technology. This week’s top story discusses two new developments in Open Access to research: a new bill in the U.S. Congress and a new publishing model by PeerJ.
You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.
Open Access: New OA bill introduced in US Congress, and PeerJ introduces new model of OA journal publishing
A new bill mandating OA to federally funded research was introduced on Thursday in both houses of U.S. Congress—the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research, or FASTR. Also this week, privately held open access publisher PeerJ, announced in September, has published its first 30 articles. PeerJ offers researchers lifetime memberships: $99, which allows authors to publish one article per year for free; and $299, which allows authors to publish as many articles as are accepted for publication. This is the first new business model for open access journal publishing to be developed in many years. Founders are Peter Binfield, previously managing editor of PLOS ONE, and Jason Hoyt, formerly chief scientist at Mandeley; board members include Tim O’Reilly, who has spoken of the need to experiment with new business models.
New OA bill | PeerJ (TechDirt) | PeerJ (Scientific American)
Journalists' accounts hacked in Burma
The New York Times reports that several journalists who cover Burma last week began seeing warnings from Google that their email accounts may have been hacked by “state-sponsored attackers.” The Times notes that despite the lifting of many restrictions on news media in Burma, leading private publications such as Eleven Media and The Voice Weekly have been the targets of cyber-attacks several times in the last month.
U.S.: Electronics subject to “suspicionless” seizure along border
Wired reports that the Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded after three years of consideration that travelers within 100 miles of the U.S. border may have their electronics seized and their contents inspected for any reason. The ACLU has filed a FOIA request asking to see the full DHS “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment.”
Russia: Pirate Party launches censorship bypass website
Global Voices reports that on February 4 the Pirate Party of Russia announced a new, specialized internet hosting service, PirateHost, to offer users protection against DDoS attacks and subvert the official Roskomnadzor blacklist by blocking government IP addresses. Global Voices also links to a report and map showing which areas of Russia are least friendly to bloggers and netizen journalists.
Global Voices | Report and Map (Russian)
EU: Copy and paste: lobbying to legislation
Emulating earlier German projects that analyzed the speeches and writings of politicians for plagiarism, the “LobbyPlag” project from the site Europe vs. Facebook makes plain which changes desired by lobbyists for organizations such as Amazon, eBay, EuroISPA, and the American Chambers of Commerce went unaltered into data protection reform amendments proposed by EU committee members. Lobbying papers were supplied by La Quadrature du Net and Dataskyddsförordningen.
Open Knowledge Foundation competitions
The Open Knowledge Foundation and the Guardian Data Blog have teamed up to offer a top prize of $2,000 for the best visualization of open government data. The competition is open to citizens of the UK, United States, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and Sweden. The goal is to find “imaginative, clear, and beautiful visualizations that give a unique perspective on an open government data set of your choice.” In addition, OKF, with support from the Digital Humanities Quarterly, is organizing a competition offering €15,000 in prizes for innovative open projects that further humanities research using open content, open data or open source.
Government Data Visualization | Open Humanities:
U.S.: Security, Wiretapping and the “Malware–Industrial Complex”
In a journal paper, “Going Bright: Wiretapping without Weakening Communications Infrastructure” (IEEE), Matt Blaze, Susan Landau, Steve Bellovin, and Sandy Clark argue that because mandatory surveillance back doors in telecommunications equipment under U.S. law (CALEA) and other national legal interception laws create inherent infrastructure security vulnerabilities, the FBI would be wiser to learn to wiretap by exploiting existing known vulnerabilities in hardware and software. Tom Simonite's “Welcome to the Malware–Industrial Complex” (Technology Review) considers U.S. government involvement in the global market for zero-day and other vulnerabilities.
Going Bright | Malware–Industrial Complex
The case against patents
Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, conservative economists at the U.S. Federal Reserve, argue that patents should be abolished, because “historical evidence suggests that... strong patent systems retard innovation with many negative side effects.” Admitting that complete abolition is a distant possibility, they recommend a series of steps in which patents could be phased out, including gradually shortening the period of validity, rolling back extensions to what can be patented, and barring patents for publicly subsidized research.
Ghana: Internet use and exclusion
In this blog posting, Ethan Zuckerman summarizes a talk given at the Berkman Center by UC Berkeley professor Jenna Burrell on Internet usage in Ghana and her book on the subject, Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana. In six years of fieldwork, Burrell built up a picture of the Ghanaian Internet, largely built out of recycled and repurposed computer equipment, and new types of exclusion due to cross-cultural differences.
Transparency versus corruption
In this blog posting, David Eaves discusses two reports, one from the IBM Center for the Business of Government on government transparency and the other a study of electoral audits in Brazil, and argues that transparency by itself makes a difference to behavior even if it appears that no one is actually watching.
Pan–African Intellectual Property Organization
This timeline from Knowledge Ecology International, including links for further information, tracks the development of the proposal for a Pan African intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO), culminating in January 2013, when the proposal was adopted. A meeting to implement the decision is to take place by May 2013.
Big data, big mistakes
In this Wired op-ed, Nassim Nicholas Taleb argues that “Big Data” means not only more information but more false information: more signal, true, but also much more noise, making it very easy to produce spurious results. Taleb goes on to draw comparisons between Big Data and observational medical research (as studied by John Ioannidis) explaining why both are liable to produce spurious results.
Authors and artists on copyright
In this video clip from the Berkman Center, an adjunct to both the Harvard Law School course on copyright and the parallel EdX course on copyright, Professor Terry Fisher hosts a discussion to try to remedy the fact that most discussions of copyright include lawmakers and publishers—but rarely artists or authors. Participants are photographer Richard Dale Kelly, novelist William Landay, musician John Drake (also director of communications and brand management at Harmonix, maker of Guitar Hero and RockBand), and intellectual property litigator Dale Landawi, whose clients include JK Rowling and 20th Century Fox. This is the first of a series of six events on various aspects of intellectual property.