News Digest: White House Moves to Make Federally Funded Research Open to the Public

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 announces the Obama administration’s move to mandate federally funded research agencies make their research freely available to the public.

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

White House moves to make federally funded research open to the public
The Washington Post reports on the Obama administration's Executive Directive instructing the largest federal research agencies to mandate that research they fund be made freely available to the public. The directive, which affects agencies funding at least $100 million in research and development annually, was welcomed by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) whose director Heather Joseph called it “a huge step in the right direction.” The Chronicle of Higher Education provides more context for the story, including the surprising detail that, in contrast to the proposed “FASTR” law currently making its way through Congress and which achieves many of the same aims, this initiative is being welcomed by the incumbent publishing industry. This is due to perceived “wiggle room” in current negotiations over the length of a proposed “embargo period” for research before it is made available to the public. A New York Times editorial praising the policy hones in on this issue: “The new directive [allows] delays of a year before making papers freely available. That may be too long. Federal agencies should keep any delays as short as possible.”
WaPo | Chronicle of Higher Ed | NY Times

US: ISPs now monitoring for copyright infringement
Wired Threat Level brings the news that major internet service providers (ISPs) in the United States have launched a much-discussed surveillance scheme designed to curb copyright infringement on peer-to-peer networks. The scheme, overseen by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), “is backed by the Obama administration and was pushed heavily by record labels and Hollywood studios.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) provide a critique of the scheme and its presentation to the public.
Wired | CCI | EFF

Firefox to reject third party cookies
Mozilla has announced that the new version of its open source web browser Firefox, due to ship in June, will automatically reject third party cookies. The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) places the move, which they label a “bombshell” for the online advertising industry, in the context of the ongoing stalemate over giving web users meaningful control over their personal information online.
Announcement | CDT

Chinese military hacking story: follow up
Following last week’s Mandiant report into the extent of Chinese military–sponsored hacking attacks on U.S. corporations, Citizen Lab have published a new report into similar Chinese malware that has been used to target human rights organisations in Tibet. Meanwhile, Bruce Schneier argues that activities detailed in last week’s report should be viewed as cyber-espionage, not cyberwar.
Citizen Lab | Schneier

Spain: Citizens can have unflattering links deleted
This short report for Time highlights cases where Spain’s Data Protection Authority has forced Google to remove links to accurate, but unflattering, stories about people from its search results.

Index on Censorship Digital Frontiers Special
The new edition of Index on Censorship includes contributions from Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan Zuckerman, Gabriella Coleman, and Milton Mueller, plus an in-depth article on the state of censorship in Thailand, where editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is currently serving an 11-year prison term for publishing an article that insulted Thai royalty.
Digital Frontiers | Thailand story

Killer robots must be stopped!
The Observer reports on a campaign being launched to persuade nations to ban the use of autonomous weapons “before they reach the production stage.” The campaign, which includes groups that have successfully campaigned for international action against cluster bombs and landmines, comes on the heels of a Human Rights Watch report about the technology, “Losing Humanity: the case against killer robots.”
Observer | HRW
 
Three glimpses at the workings of the pseudo–public sphere
This essay for Monday Note is an important look at Google’s patent filing, explaining in (some) detail the algorithmic biases for displaying stories on Google News. Meanwhile, a short piece for AdWeek reveals that marketeers value a Facebook “like” at anything between $1–$7, and the Atlantic’s Alex Madrigal draws his readers’ attention to the fact that Facebook workers try to spend less than one second processing any one complaint about inappropriate content.
Monday Note | AdWeek | Atlantic
 
How bad is Africa’s internet?
This piece from IEEE Spectrum examines the state of internet access across Africa as measured by PingER, a technical project to measure the flow of data across the globe which has been established for twenty years. Connectivity is getting better, but still significantly lags the rest of the world.

Two principles to avoid common data mistakes
Writing on the Sunlight blog, Lee Drutman proposes two principles in response to recent critiques of the analysis of Big Data: “Cherry-picking works better with fruit than data,” and “correlation provokes questions better than it answers them.”

Open Data and Personal Data: working out the issues
The Open Knowledge Foundation’s new co-director, Laura James, lays bare some of the issues at the intersection of open data and personal data, including anonymisation, contextual privacy and control, as she invites participation in a new online working group to explore the topic. Separately, this report for the Economist asks whether the market for protected personal information is about to take off.
OKF | Economist

Book: Evgeny Morozov's “To save everything, click here”
MIT Technology Review précis Evgeny Morozov’s new book on the follies of our obsession with data: “life is messy, and not everything can be abstracted into data for computers to act upon.” Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Morozov picks up a related theme from the book—the proliferation of “smart” object equipped with sensors and plugged into the net, and the pursuant “intellectual poverty that awaits us in a smart world.”
MIT Tech Review | WSJ

Video: Aaron’s Law
Flagged on the BoingBoing blog, Lawrence Lessig marks his appointment as the Roy Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School to deliver a lecture on “Law and Justice in the Digital Age”—a eulogy to Aaron Swartz and “a riveting, bittersweet talk on the state of internet law, and law in general, and, always, corruption, money and the abuse of power.”

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