digitalculturesnews Tues. 11/10 2015-2016 Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Surveillance Democracies Presents Prof. Helen Nissenbaum (NYU) on Data Obfuscation


The Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Surveillance Democracies cordially invites you to join us for our last two events of the Fall Semester! It is our delight to present Professors Helen Nissenbaum and Finn Brunton from New York University.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Data Obfuscation for Resistance and Protest

Helen Nissenbaum, Professor of Media, Culture and Communication and Computer Science, New York University

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm | King Hall Rm 1301 | Open to the Public | Lunch Provided

Abstract: Ubiquitous collection and analysis of data has dramatically reshaped the nature of contemporary surveillance. Refusal is not an option as data exchange is an inherent condition of many essential, yet fundamentally asymmetric interactions with government as well as private, commercial actors. Obfuscation — the production of misleading, false, or ambiguous data — offers one vector of resistance, but when and whether it can be defended on practical and ethical grounds are crucial issues which must be addressed. Building on, Obfuscation: A User’s Guide to Privacy and Protest, (with F. Brunton, MIT Press 2015), Nissenbaum will highlight compelling scientific questions surrounding data obfuscation and argue for its safeguarding in law and policy.

Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, and Computer Science, at New York University, where she is also Director of the Information Law Institute. Her work spans social, ethical, and political dimensions of information technology and digital media, including privacy, trust online, and security, as well as several studies of values embodied in computer system design, search engines, digital games, facial recognition technology, and health information systems. She has written and edited nine books, including the recently released Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest with Finn Brunton (MIT, 2015), Privacy, Big Data and the Public Good: Frameworks for Engagement, with J. Lane, V. Stodden and S. Bender (Cambridge, 2014), Values at Play in Digital Games, with M. Flanagan (MIT Press, 2014), and Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life (Stanford, 2010) and her research publications have appeared in journals of philosophy, politics, law, media studies, information studies, and computer science.

Nissenbaum holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University and a B.A. (Hons) from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Felicitous Questions from the Interrogator: Privacy/Security and Other Category Errors

Finn Brunton, Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm | King Hall Rm 1301 | Open to the Public | Lunch Provided

Abstract: This talk starts with an analysis of an article from a 1975 issue of Computers and People and ends at Gliese 581 in the constellation Libra, stopping on the way to consider the history of artificial intelligence tests and human-computer communication, obfuscation strategies, deep learning research, theories of the control society, and the Ashley Madison hack. The goal is to thoroughly consider the question of the trade-off between privacy and security as a kind of category error, and explore parallels with the application of theories of mind, to propose some provocative new approaches to thinking about privacy as an idea and as an object.

Finn Brunton is Assistant Professor at New York University Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. He is a scholar of the relationships between society, culture and information technology — how we make technological decisions, and deal with their consequences. He focuses on the adoption, adaptation, modification and misuse of digital media and hardware; privacy, information security, and encryption; network subcultures; hardware literacy; and obsolete and experimental media platforms. He is the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet (MIT, 2013), along with numerous articles and talks. Brunton received an M.A. from the European Graduate School (Saas-Fee, Switzerland) and a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Modern Thought.

Uyen P. Le

Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow, Surveillance Democracies Seminar

Senior Research Fellow, California International Law Center

University of California, Davis School of Law