Berkman Buzz: June 6, 2014

June 6, 2014

The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.
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Camille Francois discusses self-driving cars and surveillance


In the aftermath of the NSA spying revelations, our society is struggling to equip itself with the laws and public understanding necessary to deal with the spread of technology into every corner of our lives.

Self-driving cars are one place we can start to get it right. They provide yet another example of the challenges to autonomy and freedom brought by technology, and have the potential to bring the debate home for people who don’t feel as concerned by privacy issues related to email and laptops.

On Tuesday, Google unveiled a proper self-driving car, with no steering wheel, no brakes, no pedals. Google expects these no-hands-on-wheel cars to hit the roads in 2017 and it is up to us to craft the laws and policies that will govern their use. Such decisions cannot be left for tomorrow. As Google’s working prototype reveals, the robocars of the future are here. And because people have a long history of projecting personal freedom and autonomy onto automobiles, they will have an innate understanding of the stakes.

From Camille Francois's piece for Wired, "Self-Driving Cars Will Turn Surveillance Woes Into a Mainstream Worry"
About Camille | @camillefrancois

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"I paid $5 for 4,000 Twitter followers, and here’s what I found" by @gilgul
Internet Monitor (@thenetmonitor)

The DMLP releases study on media credentialing in the United States


The journalism market in the United States is more diverse than ever before, with a wide array of independent newsgatherers complementing the work of institutional news organizations. But regardless of where journalists practice, it is essential to their mission that they have access to information about the activities of government and private organizations. In many cases, laws that grant the public rights of access to government (such as open meetings laws, freedom of information acts, and constitutional rights of access to judicial proceedings) also guarantee that members of the media can obtain information they need.

But when journalists need access to government or private spaces beyond what is allowed to the public at large, they must obtain special permission. This frequently takes the form of a media credential, an official document or statement from an organization that the journalist is permitted to be somewhere or engage in particular activity, regardless of rules applicable to the rest of the public. The issuance of credentials is, however, far less uniformly regulated than other interactions between press and government. Diverse standards imposed by federal, state, local, and private organizations have led to confusion over who should receive media credentials in different contexts, and raised questions about the definitions of journalism used by these organizations.

From the Digital Media Law Project, "Who Gets a Press Pass?"
About DMLP | @dmlpberkman

Sara Watson reflects on a year at Berkman

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All kinds of people stop through Harvard and drop by Berkman to talk about their work and their latest burning questions about the internet. I got to participate in some of those conversations with Steve Ballmer, Travis Kalanick of Uber, Michael Fertik of Scott Howe of Acxiom, and Aneesh Chopra. The intersection of industry and academia, of doing and thinking, is strong here, and it’s part of what makes Berkman a special place. These conversations gave me a better impression of what is top of mind in industry, but also exposed the points where my work could shift the conversation. I also learned a lot in presentations from Jillian McLaughlin on inappropriate uses of data broker data for scoring consumer credit risk, and Margot Kaminski on robotic surveillance. Lauren McCarthy's lunch talk made me want to develop my own artistic and technical interventions.

From Sara Watson's blog post, "The Year at Berkman"
About Sara | @smwat

Ethan Zuckerman explores a record store in downtown Nairobi

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This past week, I was in Nairobi, Kenya, with Media Lab students, staff and faculty, working to build a partnership between the Lab and iHub, the remarkable tech incubator and coworking space built by the founders of Ushahidi. I wanted to make sure my Media Lab friends saw Nairobi for the wonderful, exciting city that it is, and I especially wanted to show Joseph Paradiso, the other lab faculty member on the trip, some different sides of the city. Joe is a celebrated builder of analog synthesizers and a massive prog rock fan, and while I knew finding music to suit his tastes in Nairobi might be a challenge, I figured a visit to a record store was in order.

From Ethan Zuckerman's blog post, "Melodica Music: stepping back in time in downtown Nairobi"
About Ethan | @ethanz

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Ancient history: a friend posted a 1997 Nightline feature on, featuring a 24-year old me: Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ)

Thailand's Coup Protesters Are Looking to The Hunger Games for Inspiration

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Protesters have found creative ways to express their opposition to Thailand's martial law regime. Many have adopted the three-finger salute from the Hollywood film ‘Hunger Games’ to signify the people’s yearning for ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity.’

But aside from the three-finger salute, protesters are also doing read-in protests in public places to dramatize their opposition to the coup. They do not carry placards, they do not march in the streets, but they seat in crowded places and read political books. Aside from Thai books on politics, protesters prefer to read George Orwell’s 1984 book. It seems apt considering that the army is intent on further tightening its control of Thai society.

From Mong Palatino's post for Global Voices, "Thailand's Coup Protesters Are Looking to The Hunger Games for Inspiration"
About Global Voices Online | @globalvoices

This Buzz was compiled by Rebekah Heacock.

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Last updated

June 6, 2014