I am pleased to post Show # 229, February 11, my interview with Prof. Stephanie Pell of the Army Cyber Institute and Chris Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union on StingRay and their newly-published Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article entitled Your Secret Stingray’s No Secret Anymore: The Vanishing Government Monopoly over Cell Phone Surveillance and Its Impact on National Security and Consumer Privacy. Stephanie and Chris have taken on the fascinating and disturbing problem of intentional exploitation of known security flaws in cell phone operations by governments (and, if you’d like, the private sector) to monitor private individuals (i.e., StingRay). From law enforcement on down, the issue is as much about the technology itself as it is about the lack of discussion about that technology, exploits and its implications. Based upon their backgrounds in law enforcement and the security worlds, respectively, they approach this issue with a deep depth of knowledge and balance. We discussed StingRay from policy and technological perspectives in this broad discussion. I hope that you enjoy it!
I’m pleased to post Show #228, January 28, my interview with Prof. Lisa Lynch of Concordia University, on WikiLeaks and information leakers. Lisa has written extensively about the nature and role of information leakers in society today. Having interacted with Julian Assange for several years — including before he was the infamous figure that he is today (she’s even benefited from his editing suggestions) — her insights regarding the role of WikiLeaks draws on both scholarly and personal experience. Because the notions of “secrecy” and “democracy” are in a massive state of flux, Lisa’s work and insights are sorely needed, timely and unique. We had a wide-ranging discussion on information policy and leaking; Lisa’s candor and humor made for a terrific interview. I hope that you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed the discussion.
Happy new year! I’m pleased to post the first show of the winter quarter, Show # 227, January 14, 2015, my interview with Solon Barocas, Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy, co-author of the article Big Data’s Disparate Impact (with Andrew D. Selbst). Algorithmic computing and decision-making have entered our world much faster than our understanding of it. In Solon’s article, he takes a close look at the massively under-explored impact of algorithms on traditional forms of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (think discrimination on the basis of race or gender). Identifying both the technical and legal issues involved is a challenge, but this article does a wonderful job exposing the risks of algorithms in this space, which often (although not exclusively) includes embedding human prejudices in the code itself. We examined these and other ramifications of algorithmic computing and civil rights discrimination in our discussion. I greatly enjoyed it (recorded at Princeton!) and hope that you find it illuminating.
Those of you paying attention to the website have undoubtedly noticed the theme change. That change is part of the effort to thwart the incessant hackers who have targeted Hearsay Culture over the past three years. I’m pleased to report that the site appears to have stabilized.
How did this happen? As a wannabe geek, I did not have the chops to handle this on my own, so a few years ago I turned to Oliver Day. Oliver began working, but soon wrapped his work into his new non-profit Securing Change, on which I am a board member. [Note: with proper citation to the Hair Club for Men, I’m also a client!] Securing Change “offers security services, consulting, and information for organizations that foster social good, such as non-profits, NGOs and B-Corps.”
— Securing Change (@securingchange) November 30, 2014
If you’d like more information about Securing Change’s efforts, Oliver has been blogging about it. I can tell you that his descriptions are modest, as he’s spent many hours working on this issue gratis. Thus, as a small token of appreciation, I offer this blog post and unsolicited and unqualified endorsement of Securing Change. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
On that web redesign, please look for a revamped and redesigned website in the first few months of 2015. I’ll write more about that as the day approaches, and am very excited about what’s in the works!
And now, I return to grading and writing, grading and writing. Happy holidays and new year!
For the last show for 2014, I’m pleased to post Show # 226, November 20, my interview with Prof. Stephen Turner of the University of South Florida on technological and scientific expertise in policymaking and democracy. Stephen has spent a career focusing on the often overlooked question of how experts operate in the policymaking world, and has recently published a collection of his work entitled The Politics of Expertise. This issue has been of critical importance in the science and technology space due to perceived and real gaps in technological understanding amongst policymakers (think the battle around the Stop Online Piracy Act a few years ago and the need to “bring in the nerds”). We discussed the undefined role of experts in policymaking and how we might better utilize expertise in making complex decisions. I greatly enjoyed our discussion.
Look for a new schedule and shows starting in January 2015. Thanks for listening and have a great holiday season and new year!
I am delighted to post Show # 225, November 20, my interview with Prof. Ed Felten of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy (“CITP”). I’ve been visiting at CITP this year, and one of my main goals for my time there has been to meet and/or interview some of the amazing array of scholars resident at Princeton. There was no better way to begin that effort than by interviewing Ed.
Ed’s work is undoubtedly well-known to many Hearsay Culture listeners, so the challenge was to find a few topics to discuss. We were able to drill down on two current foci: data privacy, through Ed’s recent testimony before the President’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and the challenges associated with security around cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Both issues require delving into the nature of information access and sharing in a society where technology remains both largely undisclosed and not well-understood. Ed is among the leaders in efforts to clearly and accurately convey complex technology information to policymakers, and this interview reflected that skill. I hope that you enjoy our discussion!
I am pleased to post Show # 224, November 13, my interview with my colleague Prof. Megan Squire of Elon University on open source data-mining. Megan is doing unique and challenging work looking at 43,000+ (not a typo) datasets of communications between free and open-source software (“FLOSS”) coders and programmers. An advocate of and writer about “clean data,” Megan is analyzing this massive amount of information in order to answer questions like “how software can be more efficient” and “how developers talk to each other.”
This is a work-in-progress, so Megan is still deep within the data weeds, but nonetheless there are insights that can now be gleaned from the data. In our discussion, we talked about Megan’s methods, expectations and preliminary thoughts about answers to the above and other questions. I’m fortunate to count Megan among my great colleagues in the communications, political science and technology spaces at Elon. I hope that you enjoy our chat!
I am thrilled to post Show # 223, November 6, my interview with Prof. Frank Pasquale of the University of Maryland School of Law, author of The Black Box Society: Technologies of Search, Reputation, and Finance. I am an unabashed fan and admirer of Frank’s work, and find his ability to annotate blog posts to be the gold standard. So this was a difficult interview for me, simply because I was tempted to use the classic professorial one-word prompt “discuss,” and leave the microphone open for Frank to deliver a monologue for 50 minutes.
Alas, I did not do that. Frank’s book discusses the challenges inherent in commercial secrecy from a information access and democracy perspective. Focusing on algorithmic computing, he runs through the opacity of computing and its impact on the average consumer in areas ranging from finance to Internet searches. We discussed these challenging issues and potential solutions in our discussion. These critical issues deserve the attention that Frank pays to them, and I hope that you enjoy the discussion as much as I did.
With the semester having ended, and facing the looming presence of grading and writing deadlines, it is time to post several new shows. Get ready for a barrage. And thanks for your patience.
The first show is Show # 222, October 23, my interview with David Golumbia of Virginia Commonwealth University, author of The Cultural Logic of Computation. Over several years on Hearsay Culture, we’ve discussed the nature of policymaking in the technological space. In this discussion, David identifies libertarianism in the technology space as creating unusual policy alliances. We discussed how libertarian worldviews and ideals impact the behavior of a range of actors, from Google to academics. In the process, we explored transparency, innovation, the nature of utopianism and what it means to be an iconoclast in the technology sphere. David’s work is fascinating, and I greatly enjoyed our chat!