TAI Weekly | April 10, 2018

By TAI (Role at TAI)

The “next Cold War” is here, and it is all about control of the currency of the modern age: personal information (you are your metadata after all). Tom Pendergast claims we are in the midst of an ideological rivalry over absolute data rights. One camp proposes individuals should have complete ownership and control, as proposed by EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR). Another camp looks at data as a public good that should be traded in open markets (think Amazon, Google, and Facebook). And then there is the state as guardian (an emergent China model). The Economist sides with the first camp and argues that the US should follow EU’s steps. Meanwhile, as the  GDPR  takes effect on May 25, a group of advocates is calling on Member States for a strong ePrivacy Regulation to complement it.

It would be a mistake to have only the US and EU debating/shaping the appropriate regulatory model. The impacts of data privacy are truly global.  Stephen Lam pushes for Africa to more prominently join the discussions, noting Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in Kenyan and Nigerian elections.

But how to protect democracy from the threats of big data? Colin Koopman argues we need adequate data ethics, which would include managing issues around personal data privacy and implicit biases in algorithms, which the newly founded Ada Lovelace Institute will be looking into. New research on practical approaches to big data privacy may help, and we now have the reassurance of more insights to come, courtesy of collaborative investment by an interesting mix of donors (including TAI members) on Facebook’s role in elections and democracy.

In these scenarios, media can play a constructive (as well as destructive) role. Compelling cases point to the value of media and multi-stakeholder collaboration. In Russia, local investigative journalists exposed a  troll factory in St.  Petersburg. Ahead of Mexico’s July presidential elections, a group of journalists and tech companies have teamed up to fight fake news. Perhaps more concerning, is the US Department of Homeland Security’s plan to develop a database and monitor journalists and “media influencers” from over 290,000 global news sources and social media. Seeking light relief? A therapeutic reminder that even foundation presidents get affected by the discourse of the day (thanks @RealLarryKramer!)

Back to reality, more evidence that shrinking civic space reinforces marginalization. A new report by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law tackles how restrictions on registration, financing, and operations of NGOs, affect HIV response in East Africa. Meanwhile, in Hungary, NGOs linked to the philanthropist George Soros were targeted in undercover stings during the electoral campaign.  In Bahrain, NGOs have called for the immediate release of human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja after seven years behind bars. Will AI be the new tool in restricting civic space? Yes, according to ACLU. And unless safeguards and democratic participation are in place, AI can exacerbate inequality and obstruct human agency.

A rare encouraging week for those seeking accountability and rule of law. South Korea’s former president Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in jail for corruption while Brazil’s former president  Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva surrendered (in the end) to serve a 12-year sentence. Ann Simmons’ details some of the more prominent names to have lost their jobs, but TAI wanted to dig deeper. Add to our list and share your thoughts on what the trend means. How do established NGO actors tap popular mobilization? What of governments playing up their anti-corruption credentials?

In the Vietnamese context, Alejandro Salas argues a few high profile arrests do not amount to systemic change. He agrees on the importance of allowing space for popular action, but to be combined with government action that prevents as well as punishes. In the meantime, many regimes will continue to use corruption as a means of control at home and a weapon of influence abroad, as Ben Judah and Nate Sibley note in their new report on how to counter Russian kleptocracy. One potential response? Have more countries adopt a version of the Magnitsky Act as outlined by Anton Moiseienko.

Other corruption stories this week: Transparency International Hungary’s Black Book analyzes the country’s anti-corruption performance between 2010 and 2018. TI Pakistan talks about their project which seeks to provide a platform for grievances on poor medical services in rural areas. The biggest barrier to children’s education in conflict-rife Afghanistan? Not violence, but bribes and misspent funds. And here are the 5 best Netflix series about corruption (House of Cards excluded).

Language matters in tax justice work. Alex Denault talks about rethinking our use of “tax havens” (i.e. “legalizing theft”) in his latest book while Maya Forstater dives deep on why tax avoidance is not simply a subset of “illicit financial flows” (something we try to parse out in the TAI donors tax mapping).

How do you curb money laundering? The EU is losing the war on dirty money, according to the outgoing Europol boss, citing “black holes” – massive gaps in information-sharing among EU countries on financial crimes. Although according to the OECD, there are now over 2700 set of bilateral exchange relationships for the automatic exchange of offshore financial account information under the Common Reporting Standard. For Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, public beneficial ownership registers are “far less bureaucratic and more powerful measure” than anti-money laundering regulations. If you’re following tax stories in Africa, the African Tax Insights might be a helpful resource.

If you’re rushing to produce your annual report, halt! Hewlett Foundation’s Ruth Levine (also TAI’s new Chair) makes a pleaDon’t waste time and effort on annual reports that no one will read”. If you must do it, Ruth offers four tips on how to make annual reports worthwhile, complementing Lisa Schol’s list of Dos and Don’ts. One shared tip – use stories. Watch out for our upcoming publication on the power of stories in TAP and embedding story-making in development work. In the meantime, some inspiration on cartooning for change.

Our number of the week – seven. Ali Webb identifies the philanthropy sector’s seven deadly sins (which include lack of transparency) and reinforces Michael Edwards case for a “thorough moral and ethical cleansing” in the charity sector. One new area of potential failing? Use of algorithms in a way that can automate and amplify bias and disconnection. Something that Zoe Amar believes should be considered in developing a charity digital code of practice.

Bringing this week’s threads together, here are Wilneida Negron’s ten tech trends that will have implications for social justice work in 2018. The list includes focusing on digital privacy and security, tech for civic power building, greater transparency and accountability of government procurement of private sector technologies, and data ownership and governance over automation and prediction systems.


TAI spotlight

Omidyar Invests $2.5m Renewal for Open Data Institute to Build Open, Trustworthy Data Ecosystem | ODI secures third round of funding from Omidyar Network to support the uptake of data for public good while managing its harmful impacts

International and Brazilian Partners Announce a Fund for Marielle Franco | Open Society Foundations and Ford Foundation team up with Ibirapitanga Institute to honor the memory of slain activist Marielle Franco through a fund to mentor and support black women aspiring to be political leaders in Brazil

Moving from Generosity to Justice: A Conversation with the Ford Foundation President – Listen to an interview with Ford’s Darren Walker on his journey from rural Texas to leading one of the world’s biggest foundations

Read our blog!

Kleptocracy’s Fall from Grace: Are the Tides Turning on Corruption? 

11 world leaders have fallen due to corruption since 2016. Here’s our take on what it means for the anti-corruption movement.

Of potential interest



On The Calendar

Don't miss our latest publications Subscribe now to get our notifications