Berkman Buzz: August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014

The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.
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Nate Matias explores the dangers of gratitude in social technologies


Gratitude is a basic part of any strong community. Thanks are the visible signal of a rich economy of favors and obligations, a building block in relationship formation and maintenance. Gratitude is common in the life stories of people who give back to their community, and it's the hallmark of the most successful long-term collaborative relationships. Despite the importance of gratitude, processes for collaboration and crowdsourcing much more frequently focus on rewards, reviews, and other short-term incentives for participation. Gratitude does have a dark side when it overrules consent, fosters favoritism, and even hides systemic injustices.

From Nate Matias' blog post, "Gratitude and its dangers in social technologies"
About Nate | @natematias

Bruce Schneier digs into the case of 1.2 billion stolen passwords


I've been doing way too many media interviews over this weird New York Times story that a Russian criminal gang has stolen over 1.2 billion passwords.

As expected, the hype is pretty high over this. But from the beginning, the story didn't make sense to me. There are obvious details missing: are the passwords in plaintext or encrypted, what sites are they for, how did they end up with a single criminal gang? The Milwaukee company that pushed this story, Hold Security, isn't a company that I had ever heard of before. (I was with Howard Schmidt when I first heard this story. He lives in Wisconsin, and he had never heard of the company before either.) The New York Times writes that "a security expert not affiliated with Hold Security analyzed the database of stolen credentials and confirmed it was authentic," but we're not given any details. This felt more like a PR story from the company than anything real.

From Bruce Schneier's blog post, "Over a Billion Passwords Stolen?"
About Bruce | @schneierblog

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Apparently it's international cat day, and really, could we resist posting about it? #worldcatday @HathiTrust
Digital Public Library of America (@dpla)

Ethan Zuckerman ponders becoming Bambaataa's biographer


I asked a room full of students and colleagues who they’d most like to read a biography of, and the responses were a fascinating picture of my friends as individuals and as part of a group trying to invent the field of civic media.

When the question came around to me, I told the room that I wanted to read the biography of Afrika Bambaataa, one of a few men who can reasonably claim the title “Godfather of Hip Hop”. What I didn’t admit is that I’ve periodically considered dropping my academic pursuits and researching this fascinating figure.

From Ethan Zuckerman's blog post, "The biography I’m waiting for: Bambaataa and the parallel universe of hip hop"
About Ethan | @ethanz

Integrating Approaches to Privacy Across the Research Lifecycle: Long-Term Longitudinal Studies

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Written by Alexandra Wood and David O’Brien, with Micah Altman, Alan F. Karr, Urs Gasser, Michael Bar-Sinai, Kobbi Nissim, Jonathan Ullman, Salil Vadhan, and Michael Wojcik, this paper explores interdisciplinary approaches to privacy in long-term longitudinal studies of human subjects. Long-term longitudinal studies collect, at multiple points over a long period of time, highly-specific and often sensitive data describing the health, socioeconomic, or behavioral characteristics of human subjects. The value of such studies lies in part in their ability to link a set of behaviors and changes to each individual, but these factors tend to make the combination of observable characteristics associated with each subject unique and potentially identifiable.

Using the research information lifecycle as a framework, the paper discusses the defining features of long-term longitudinal studies and the associated challenges for researchers tasked with collecting and analyzing such data while protecting the privacy of human subjects. It also describes the disclosure risks and common legal and technical approaches currently used to manage confidentiality in longitudinal data. Finally, it identifies urgent problems and areas for future research to advance the integration of various methods for preserving confidentiality in research data.

From the Berkman Center, "Integrating Approaches to Privacy Across the Research Lifecycle: Long-Term Longitudinal Studies"

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What role might 'wikified' national statistics (linkable pages; versions; discussions on each) mean for post-2015 #datarevolution #wikidata
Tim Davies (@timdavies)

Israel, Gaza, War & Data – The Art of Personalizing Propaganda

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If you’re rooting for Israel, you might have seen videos of rocket launches by Hamas adjacent to Shifa Hospital. Alternatively, if you’re pro-Palestinian, you might have seen the following report on an alleged IDF sniper who admitted on Instagram to murdering 13 Gazan children.

The better we get at modeling user preferences, the more accurately we construct recommendation engines that fully capture user attention. In a way, we are building personalized propaganda engines that feeds users content which makes them feel good and throws away the uncomfortable bits.

We used to be able to hold media accountable for misinforming the public. Now we only have ourselves to blame.

From Gilad Lotan's post for Global Voices' The Bridge, "Israel, Gaza, War & Data – The Art of Personalizing Propaganda"
About Global Voices Online | @globalvoices

This Buzz was compiled by Rebekah Heacock.

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Last updated

August 8, 2014