“It’s sometimes information from several sources, not just one other source, but three or four different public records sources,” said David O’Brien, a researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, referring to how someone might re-identify someone whose name was scrubbed from the dataset by Yahoo.
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The fact is that we don’t yet know what kind of relationship humans will have with their robots, sexual devices or not. Robot ethicist Dr. Kate Darling, a research specialist at the MIT Media Lab and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center, who studies the way robots affect human empathy, told me that human feelings for robots will be “a different type of thing… I don’t think that it’s ever going to rival human relationships, because we’re so complex and we’re so far away from building that type of AI.”
Clark, and Harvard professor Yochai Benkler, one of the legal experts that shaped the Internet’s development, have issued a warning in joint papers published in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ magazine, Daedalus. More than three decades after the worldwide communications network was born, Clark and Benkler say they’re deeply concerned that the Internet is headed in a dangerous direction that its founders never intended.
“Let’s start not with technology but with values.” That was the opening remark from Jonathan Zittrain, professor of law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School and cofounder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, who gave a lively talk January 10 at the 2016 Midwinter Meeting in Boston.
The global digital assembly line has arrived. Its workers labor at computer keyboards, performing the behind-the-scenes tasks that make the Internet appear intelligent and functional. They assign labels like “family” or “theme park” to photos, check that Web URLs work, verify addresses on Yelp , review social media posts flagged as “adult.”
As part of their transparency efforts, Google reports the requests. Lumen, a project of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society (formerly called Chilling Effects), collects and publishes many of these requests. When Google does remove results, it provides a link to the URL where it’s preserved on Lumen, to questionable effect.
All this presents an odd paradox. In Internetty circles, especially among people who’ve been on the web for a long time, a common mentality is that open is good. And though email may be despised, it is still a cornerstone of the open web. “Email is the last great unowned technology,” said the Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain in an episode of the podcast Codebreaker in November, “and by unowned, I mean there is no CEO of email… it’s just a shared hallucination that works.”
Let’s say, though, that the whole Hippocratic oath thing doesn’t work out. What are we really looking at? A next-generation consumer advocacy battle, one in which a victory depends not on class action lawsuits or government oversight but on popular awareness and education. The ultimate goal would be getting consumers to “vote with their feet,” says Vivek Krishnamurthy, clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. He cites the digital civil liberties groups’ attempts to create a “nutrition label” for privacy. Indeed, Harris believes in “public awareness first,” more than a possibly nebulous oath.
Bruce Schneier, the Chief Technology Officer at www.resilientsystems.com also pointed at media as a source of misperception “The news has to report terrorism – and the more breathless the reporting, the better,” Schneier, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center, told The Media Line. The more journalists and politicians talk about terror the more the perception of its danger grows, he said, adding “we are all complicit in its effectiveness.”