News Digest: South African Parliament Passes Secrecy Bill

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. This week’s top story reports that the South African Parliament has passed a controversial bill to protect state secrets.

You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.

South Africa: Parliament passes secrecy bill
Index on Censorship’s Uncut blog reports that the South African Parliament has passed a controversial bill to protect state secrets. Campaigners had previously warned the law will chill free speech in the country. The Guardian carries more details.
Uncut | Guardian

U.S.: California proposes public access to publicly-funded research
Inside Higher Ed reports on a proposed state law in California that would mandate free public access to publicly-funded research. Creative Commons reveal details of the various aspects of the law for which different stakeholders are advocating.
Inside Higher Ed | Creative Commons

EU: Parliament opens the door to copyright in TAFTA
La Quadrature du Net reports on a recent vote in the European Parliament in support of keeping intellectual property (IP) rules on the table in upcoming trade negotiations with the United States. Civil society groups had previously campaigned to keep IP out of the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), following the appearance of provisions detrimental to privacy, free expression and access to knowledge in other trade treaties.

U.S.: CISPA is dead (for now)
U.S. News reports that the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), controversial cybersecurity legislation that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives a fortnight ago, will “almost certainly” be shelved by the U.S. Senate, due to concerns about privacy protections and the President Obama’s threat to veto the bill.

Egypt: AFTE releases legal guide to digital security
Global Voices reports on a new legal guide to digital security, released by Egypt’s Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE). The guide “stands out for its emphasis on the legal aspects of digital security and its attempt to explain the most important aspects to be considered during investigations and trials related to crimes of digital publication.”

US: Free digital textbook project drives down the cost of college
The Seattle Times reports how the Open Course Library, a project to promote open educational resources at colleges in Washington state, is estimated to have saved students $5m in just a few years.

Naked citizens unite!
To coincide with the renegotiation of Data Protection provisions in the European Union, privacy groups from across Europe including EDRi, Privacy International, La Quadrature du Net, Panoptykon, the Open Rights Group and Bits of Freedom have launched the Naked Citizens campaign. The campaign, which encourages citizens to contact their elected representatives about their needs for privacy protection in the digital age, is an attempt to counteract the “unprecedented lobbying from tech companies, the U.S. Government and the advertising industry,” who are “trying to weaken the Regulation and make it easier for companies to use personal information in opaque, unaccountable ways.”

Money wins US elections (most of the time)
Tony Chu’s visualization of the effect political donations have on lawmakers in the US includes details of the skewed spending related to the controversial (and now shelved—see News, above) Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). According to the Sunlight Foundation, Pro-CISPA forces spent 140 times more lobbying dollars than their opponents.
Chu | Sunlight

Reflections on open data
Three thought-provoking pieces on open data. David Eaves argues that the value for society in governments releasing open data sets will be money saved, not money made. Jeffrey Alan Johnson argues that for open data to do more good than harm it must be thought about within a framework of information justice. And Slovakian data journalist Eva Vozárová debates the changing role of the data NGO, as governments wake up to the possibilities of open data.
Eaves | Johnson | Vozárová

What to do after the vote is in
Ethan Zuckerman blogs about his ambitions to transform citizen-led election monitoring groups like Senegal’s Y’en a Marre (“Fed Up”), into “human sensors” auditing officials’ in-post performance against their pre-election promises using GPS-based data collection techniques.

This wristband could change healthcare
This article for the Monday Note showcases a wristband that records the activity of its wearer and details how the creators of “the Jawbone Up”—and its investors—hope it will revolutionize healthcare.

The power dynamics of global knowledge production and exchange
University of Cape Town Associate Professor Laura Czerniewicz examines the “double bind” facing academics in the global south, who often have to pick between local relevance and international recognition when setting their research agendas.

Principles on freedom of expression and copyright in the digital age
These principles, developed by Article 19 and endorsed by free expression advocates and academics from across the globe, seek to establish a framework to ensure copyright interests do not unduly restrict the right to freedom of expression and the ability to share knowledge and culture.

Audio: Rick Smolan on the human face of big data
CBC’s Nora Young talks to photographer Rick Smolan about his 2012 collection of photographs, stories and essays “The Human Face of Big Data,” and the challenge of making the concept of big data accessible on a human scale.

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