Berkman Buzz: March 17, 2015

March 17, 2015

The Berkman Buzz is a weekly collection of work, conversations, and news from around the Berkman community.
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Should the US Adopt "The Right to be Forgotten"?

Watch Berkman Co-founder Jonathan Zittrain and Digg and Instapaper CEO (and former Berkman fellow) Andrew McLaughlin successfully argue against the motion "The US Should Adopt the 'Right to be Forgotten' Online" in this Intelligence Squared debate.

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In 2014, the European Union's Court of Justice determined that individuals have a right to be forgotten, "the right-under certain conditions-to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them." It is not absolute, but meant to be balanced against other fundamental rights, like freedom of expression. In a half year following the Court's decision, Google received over 180,000 removal requests. Of those reviewed and processed, 40.5% were granted. Largely seen as a victory in Europe, in the U.S., the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. Was this ruling a blow to free speech and public information, or a win for privacy and human dignity?

Watch the debate | About Intelligence Squared

What's It Like As a Woman Where You Work?

Developer Anita Patel tells what it's like to be a woman in tech at the Berkman Center.

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by Anita Patel

To be honest, I never think about my work environment at the Berkman Center as it relates to me being a woman. That is likely because there is a pretty even distribution of sexes among the entire staff. While among the developers and engineers I am the only female, it never really crosses my mind when working with my peers. I consider myself to be lucky to work with such open-minded and forward thinking 'geeks,' as we lovingly call ourselves. So much so, that my male colleagues have helped organize and participate in 'women-friendly' Ruby developer workshops to help foster women entering the programming field. If I had to stop and reflect on what it is like to be a woman where I work, I would have to say it is pretty awesome!

From | @anitapatel

So Sayeth Google: The search engine should not be the arbiter of truth

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by David Weinberger and Dan Gillmor

Search for "vaccines." At least within our filter bubble, the top item in Google's "In the news" section earlier this week was an anti-vax column about the "feds' plan to force vaccines on adults." The first of the regular search results was the pro-vaccination page of the CDC, the Wikipedia page, and then, which is also in favor of childhood immunizations. The fourth gives both the pros and the "cons," weighting them equally. The fifth was a Mercola site that is resolutely anti-vax and that is loaded up with "facts" such as "Kids given vaccines have 22 times the rate of ear infections," not to mention the always popular "and 19 times higher odds of Autism."

So, the top results at Google include lies, junk science, and exhortations for parents to engage in behavior that is likely to sicken or even kill children infected by preventable diseases. It's a disservice-to put it mildly-that Google's top results make it look like there is a serious argument about the connection between vaccines and autism.

From Slate
About David | @dweinberger
About Dan | @dangillmor

In our modern surveillance state, everyone can be exposed

From an excerpt from Schneier's latest book, "Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World," published earlier this month by W. W. Norton & Company.

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by Bruce Schneier

Maintaining Internet anonymity against a ubiquitous surveillor is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, you've permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous provider you're using. The level of operational security required to maintain privacy and anonymity in the face of a focused and determined investigation is beyond the resources of even trained government agents. Even a team of highly trained Israeli assassins was quickly identified in Dubai, based on surveillance camera footage around the city.

The same is true for large sets of anonymous data. We might naïvely think that there are so many of us that it's easy to hide in the sea of data. Or that most of our data is anonymous. That's not true. Most techniques for anonymizing data don't work, and the data can be de-anonymized with surprisingly little information.

From The Christian Science Monitor | @schneierblog

More from Bruce:
Hacker or spy? In today's cyberattacks, finding the culprit is a troubling puzzle (The Christian Science Monitor)
Data and Goliath: Bruce Schneier on the Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World [VIDEO] (Democracy Now) Interview: Online security expert Bruce Schneier [VIDEO] (Lateline ABC)

S. Craig Watkins: The Promise of Connected Learning


an interview from Alison Head of Project Information Literacy

While most young people still look at traditional civic engagement--electoral politics--through a jaundiced eye, they are more likely than ever to get involved in civic-minded activities, such as buycotts, online petitions, and citizen journalism. In many instances, they are using social and mobile media to re-imagine civic engagement.

From Project Information Literacy's "Smart Talk" interview series

Rights in the Digital Era

This publication is the second installment in the series Trends in Archives Practice and features an introduction by Berkman fellow Peter Hirtle.

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by Peter Hirtle

These modules are an important resource for all archivists who want to understand some of their legal obligations when providing access to archival materials. They provide a useful introduction to the law of copyright, privacy, publicity, and trademarks from an archival perspective.

Turning Data Into Powerful Visualizations of Detroit


by Ethan Zuckerman

What's a "holy shit visualization?"

It's a way of looking at data that turns a statistic you might have flipped past in a book or skimmed by on a web page into something that you can't forget. It's a visceral reminder of the power of images and the power of looking at dry numbers in human terms.

For Mike Evans, the map below was a holy shit visualization. Properties in yellow are in tax distress. Those in orange are under tax foreclosure. Those in red have been foreclosed.

In 2014, 50 percent of properties in the city of Detroit were in danger of foreclosure, being foreclosed, or owned by the city. That's a frightening statistic. But seeing what it looks like on the map makes the scale of the problem more visceral.

From Idea Lab and | @ethanz

Five Young Feminists Still Missing in China

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by Oiwan Lam

The five young women who were arrested by Chinese police ahead of the International Women's Day have now been missing for more than one week. On 12 March they were criminally detained on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles" but the police refused to reveal further information.

Civic groups in Hong Kong will protest to representatives of the mainland Chinese government in the city on March 21 demanding their release.

From Global Voices | @globalvoices

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Last updated

March 17, 2015