Berkman Buzz: March 21, 2014

March 21, 2014

The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.
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Primavera De Filippi explores Bitcoin code


For many, bitcoin — the distributed, worldwide, decentralized crypto-currency — is all about money … or, as recent events have shown, about who invented it. Yet the actual innovation brought about by bitcoin is not the currency itself but the platform, which is commonly referred to as the “blockchain” — a distributed cryptographic ledger shared amongst all nodes participating in the network, over which every successfully performed transaction is recorded.

From Primavera De Filippi's post for Wired, "Tomorrow’s Apps Will Come From Brilliant (And Risky) Bitcoin Code"
About Primavera

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Striking graffiti of twitter birds formed into a peace sign.
Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep)

DMLP releases new resources, video on tax-exempt journalism and the IRS


With a decline in advertising revenue and a disruption of traditional business models threatening for-profit journalism, a growing number of news ventures have elected to operate as non-profit organizations. Many of these ventures depend upon receiving a federal tax exemption from the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Under Section 501(c)(3), non-profits organized and operated exclusively for certain purposes can be declared exempt from federal income taxes. But because journalism in and of itself is not a tax-exempt purpose recognized by the IRS, obtaining Section 501(c)(3) status for a non-profit newsroom can be a challenging and confusing process.

From the Digital Media Law Project, "Tax-Exempt Journalism and the IRS"
About DMLP | @dmlpberkman

Privacy Tools Project submits data privacy comments to OSHA

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On March 8, 2014, Micah Altman from MIT Libraries and David O’Brien and Alexandra Wood from the Berkman Center submitted comments to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on behalf of the Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data project.

OSHA has proposed a rule that would make more data related to workplace health and safety available to employees, the government, and the public. Under the proposed rule, the agency would require the electronic submission and public disclosure of certain occupational injury and illness records that are currently compiled by a large number of U.S. employers. The records to be publicly released include incident dates and times, descriptions of the injuries or illnesses and where and how they occurred, and the job titles of the employees involved.

The comments argue that a more nuanced approach to data disclosure is needed to balance privacy and data utility. Although OSHA intends to remove information such as name, address, date of birth, and gender from the public release, such traditional de-identification methods and standards may not be sufficient to protect employee privacy. Many examples from the privacy science literature suggest that the combination of information that would be released is likely to be uniquely identifying for many of the employees in the records.

From the Berkman Center: "Privacy Tools Project submits data privacy comments to OSHA"
Read more from Micah Altman: "How to Provide Public Transparency with Individual Privacy — Comments to OSHA"

Leah Plunkett speaks out against "zero tolerance" policy in schools

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At the start of this year, the President Barack Obama administration made a New Year’s resolution for schools nationwide. It urged them to drop the “zero tolerance” approach to discipline, joining a growing chorus of critics of policies that dispense serious punishments for small rule violations.

The recommendation from the Department of Justice is nonbinding, but comes as schools across the country have been edging away from zero tolerance on their own. It’s about time. The essence of zero tolerance is that normal but undesirable behavior counts as a strike against students. And students may get only one strike before they’re out—sometimes literally, in the form of suspensions or even expulsions. Zero tolerance is well known to harm students, especially minorities, so its apparent demise should be a relief for kids and teenagers.

From Leah Plunkett's post for Wired, "Punishing Students for Gadget Use Will Make Their Tech Etiquette Worse"
About Leah | @leahaplunkett

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New Book on Data and Power: I'm writing a new book, with the tentative title of Data and Power. Schneier (@schneierblog)

Berkman Center releases two new publications on cloud computing

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Since 2010, the Berkman Center has engaged in research and activities focused on understanding emerging issues and trends related to cloud computing. Led by Executive Director and Harvard Law School Professor of Practice, Urs Gasser, this initiative seeks to identify and evaluate the challenges and opportunities associated with cloud computing, with a particular focus on the technological, social, legal, and market contexts that shape it. Building upon the many inputs, written publications, conversations, case studies, and other materials gained throughout the history of this initiative, the Berkman Center cloud team worked towards mapping the interactions between governments, the private sector, and cloud computing. The outputs of these efforts are featured in a series of publications, including an in-depth study on the approaches used by governments around the world in responding to the emergence of cloud computing and a paper on the interplay between cloud innovation and the law.

From the Berkman Center, "Cloud Computing"

Is There Anything More Public Than Twitter?

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What are the ethics of publishing a tweet without permission? With millions of users, is everything we say on Twitter truly public? These are questions being asked in the wake of a controversy in which BuzzFeed republished a Twitter discussion on March 12, 2014 in which sexual assault survivor and Twitter user @SteenFox had asked women to discuss what they were wearing when they were assaulted. Although the women had given @SteenFox permission to retweet the tweets (and later, the Buzzfeed reporter too) some were still upset that BuzzFeed had republished them, sparking a discussion about the ethics of major publications further publicizing tweets.

From Jillian C. York's post for Global Voices' The Bridge, "Is There Anything More Public Than Twitter?"
About Global Voices Online | @globalvoices

This Buzz was compiled by Rebekah Heacock.

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Last updated

March 21, 2014