Berkman in the News
Among the groups signing the letter to Obama were the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. Security experts signing the letter included Ronald Rivest, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Bruce Schneier, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University; and Dan Wallach, a computer science professor at Rice University.
The reasonableness of that expectation would depend on the particular factual circumstances, according to the Digital Media Law Project, a project of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “Therefore, you cannot necessarily assume that you are in the clear simply because you are in a public place,” according to the center.
Matthew Battles’s “Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word” is an exploration of the “magisterium of writing,” which is his way of describing writing’s robust and inescapable “influence on human experience.” Rather than a dense, comprehensive history of writing and literacy, Battles, a program fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the author of “Library: An Unquiet History,” offers a meditation on the uses, abuses, and misunderstandings of writing across cultures and centuries, from early pictographic representations to contemporary computing.
What if we end up living in a world without strict rules on cameras? What if, wherever we go, we know we might be caught on film and the images shared with strangers? It could have the unexpected effect of making our society more tolerant, says Judith Donath at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. If more of us have embarrassing footage floating around on the internet, then perhaps we’ll be forgiving of others who have it too.
“Of all the things to worry about now in Turkey, to have the country ban a source of information seems both an overreaction and totally misplaced,” says Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and also a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and a specialist on Turkish Internet activism. “Unfortunately, it seems like instead of controlling the situation, there is this emphasis on controlling the flow of information. It doesn’t work, and it doesn’t address the tumultuous situation to begin with.”
Dalia Topelson Ritvo, assistant director of the cyberlaw clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, concurred, saying that it’s important to make sure both parties in the relationship are on the same page. “My best advice for a company is to have clear policies regarding when it is appropriate for an employee to use their own devices, and create technological protocols to ensure the company retains control over the information,” she said.
“There’s a huge schism that has appeared between the business and users — the culture,” said David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “This is important because the product is the community, unlike Amazon or something. If you alienate your users, there’s no product left; the thing of value is the community they’ve built.”
The online experience is changing rapidly, explains Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain, and not necessarily for the better. We should act to make sure current norms such as web surfing remain unfettered as the Internet evolves. If not, we’ll be allowing Internet powerbrokers to control how and through which means we access online information. Zittrain is author of the book The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It and writes for the blog of the same name.
A community-driven business doesn’t have to run itself the way its community does, any more than an airline’s backoffice should be run by two people in a cockpit. But the business does need to be fluent in the values and dynamics of its community, just as the airline’s CEO needs to understand that passengers should be treated differently than freight. That helps explain why last week the users of Reddit.com, a popular message board, were up in arms.