Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Privacy vs. Profits"

In this blog entry (New York Times, October 19, 2010), journalist Robert Wright describes the benefits he hopes to reap from HTML 5, about which I posted an entry on October 15. Specifically, Wright opines that the personal information of users that HTML 5 will soon be broadcasting for all who care to find it will allow journalists to earn an honest living on the Internet. With HTML 5, they'll be able to create a detailed profile of their readers, sell targeted advertising, and rake in the dough.

His discussion is more nuanced than my synopsis, of course, but the whole point can be found in his title. In the battle of privacy vs. profits, I suspect that profits is likely to win, at least in the United States.

Thanks to Francis Harvey for alerting me to this.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

Friday, October 15, 2010

"New Web Code Draws Concern Over Privacy Risks"

The "Web code" described in this article (New York Times, October 10, 2010) is HTML 5. Why is it that "improvements" are so often hamstrung by major flaws? Hasn't anyone learned anything from Microsoft?

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

"Aiming to Learn as We Do, A Machine Teaches Itself"

The machine mentioned in this article (New York Times, Oct 4, 2010) is, of course, a computer, and it is designed to teach itself semantics by trolling the Internet, primed with a few basic linguistic categories. To this non-expert, it looks inventive and promising. I'd like to see someone pursue a similar project to enable a computer to teach itself how to make moral judgments.

One problem with using the Internet is the heavy emphasis on pornography and celebrities. Perhaps there's a way to adjust for that.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

"Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic"

Similar stories to this one from the New York Times appeared elsewhere. The last I had heard, self-driving cars would require a retrofit of roads. (I don't remember when or where I read that; it might have been 30 years ago in one of my father's issues of Popular Mechanics.) Google's approach seems more feasible, though how feasible that makes it in absolute terms I couldn't say.

The obvious concerns about this technology include safety and reliability, as well as hacking (imagine kidnapping, or killing, someone by taking over her or his car; in fact, it might be an effective way to frame someone).

Perhaps less obvious: Will self-driven cars get better gas mileage? Will Americans put up with them, even if they prove safer than human-driving cars? Will they be the end of the designated driver?

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

Friday, October 8, 2010

Securing Emerging Technologies: Medical Devices, Robots, Cars, and More

Securing Emerging Technologies: 
Medical Devices, Robots, Cars, and More

Tadayoshi (Yoshi) Kohno
Assistant Professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE)
University of Washington

Today’s and tomorrow’s emerging technologies have the potential to greatly improve the quality of our lives. Without the appropriate checks and balances, however, these emerging technologies also have the potential to compromise our digital (and physical) security and privacy. A key goal of the University of Washington CSE Computer Security Lab is to help us achieve the best of both worlds: The wonderful promises offered by the new technologies without the associated security and privacy risks. This talk will examine several strands of our research, including our discoveries of security vulnerabilities in emerging technologies ranging from wireless implantable defibrillators to cars, and our development of defenses to mitigate these vulnerabilities.

This lecture is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
4:00-5:30 pm
State Room East (IMU, 2nd floor)
Indiana University Bloomington

Tadayoshi Kohno is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. His research focuses on computer security and privacy, broadly defined. In fact, he believes that almost every topic in computer science can have an exciting security-related twist. Originally trained in applied and theoretical cryptography, his current research thrusts span from secure cyber-physical systems (including wireless medical devices and automobiles) to private cloud computing. Kohno is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, an MIT Technology Review TR-35 Young Innovator Award, and multiple best paper awards. He received his PhD in computer science from the University of California at San Diego.

Financial support for this lecture comes from the New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities program (Office of the Vice Provost for Research) and the Poynter Center’s project on Ethical Guidance for Research and Application of Pervasive and Autonomous Information Technology (PAIT), made possible by the National Science Foundation (grant number SES-0848097).

A .PDF of this announcement is available at

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Faustian Exchange: What is to be human in the era of Ubiquitous Technology?

A Faustian Exchange: What is to be human in the era of Ubiquitous Technology?
25th Birthday Issue of AI & Society

We would like to invite you to submit a provisional title and abstract of your paper for the special 25th birthday issue of AI & Society. Please confirm by 15 November 2010 whether you will be submitting a paper.

We have had a very enthusiastic response to our discussions and contacts regarding the proposal to publish the special Birthday issue of AI & Society. The theme of the birthday issue, "A Faustian Exchange: What is to be human in the era of Ubiquitous Technology?," has been warmly welcomed. We very much appreciate the many useful suggestions that have been made.

What we are seeking articles that would review and reflect on developments over the recent past and do so in a more general manner than the usual theoretical and highly structured papers appearing in the journal. We are hoping the resultant articles can be wide ranging, visionary, reflective and opinionated in the best sense of the word, challenging and even provocative, and critically journalistic in form. This is not to suggest a dilution of academic rigour, but rather a way of presenting the important ideas in a form that is accessible not only to our current academic readership but also to those whose area of work is less highly specialised.

  • 15 November 2010: Confirmation of the submission of papers
  • 15 December 2010: Title and Abstract (approx 500 words)
  • 15 July 2011: Full articles (up to 6000 words)
  • January-March 2012: Review process and submission to the publishers
  • Publication: July/August 2012
  • AI & Society 25th Birthday Conference/Workshop: Cambridge, UK Autumn 2012
Please pass this information to your colleagues and networks who may be interested in this call for papers.

[Thanks to Jason Borenstein for sending this to me - Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director]

Monday, October 4, 2010

Call for papers: Geographic Information Ethics

This Call for Papers comes from Francis Harvey, University of Minnesota:
After two years of engaging sessions, Dawn Wright and I have moved ahead with a call for papers in a 2011 Geographic Information Ethics session at the AAG conference in Seattle, WA. The general theme is still the breadth of interactions with ethical issues and geographic information. The list of sample topics points to this breadth.
  • case studies, curriculum development, or the pedagogy of teaching GIS ethical issues;
  • issues of privacy, surveillance, inequity, erroneous or inappropriate data concerning geographic technologies;
  • codes of ethics and conduct of professional organizations;
  • GIS professional development;
  • reflections on the changing nature of ethical issues in GIS&T
  • ethics of data publication and peer review
This breadth has been advantageous in developing important discussions and creating a forum for work that engages ethical dimensions of geographic information technologies. Following last year's presentations and discussions, we have added the topic of data publication and peer review to the list.

At this point we write to bring this session to your attention and see if you may be interested in presenting. Also, if you could pass this notice about the call to colleagues working on ethics and geographic information, we'd appreciate your help in identifying other participants for the session.

The full call is online at:

I'm always happy to post relevant announcements.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director