April 2011

Jane Yakowitz on tragedy of the data commons

Jane Yakowitz, a visiting assistant professor at Brooklyn Law School, discusses her new paper about data anonymization and privacy regulation, Tragedy of the Data Commons. Citing privacy concerns, legal scholars and privacy advocates have recently called for tighter restrictions on the collection and dissemination of public research data. Yakowitz first explains why these concerns are overblown, arguing that scholars have misinterpreted the risks of anonymized data sets. She then discusses the social value of the data commons, noting the many useful studies that likely wouldn’t have been possible without a data commons. She finally suggests why the data commons is undervalued, citing disparate reactions to similar statistical releases by OkCupid and Facebook, and offers a few policy recommendations for the data commons.

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Gavin Andresen on Bitcoin

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Gavin Andresen, project lead of the open source, decentralized, and anonymous virtual currency project Bitcoin, talks about the project. Andresen explains how the peer-to-peer currency functions and talks about what allows Bitcoin to operate without a central bank, why it doesn’t have to rely on intermediaries, and how it overcomes the double-spending problem. He also discusses the project’s implications for government regulation, what attracted him to the project, and Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakomoto’s motivation for creating the currency.

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Rob Carlson on biological technology

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Rob Carlson, principal at Biodesic, an engineering, consulting, and design firm in Seattle, and author of the book, Biology is Technology: the promise, peril, and new business of engineering life, discusses his book. Carlson explains what he means by “biology is technology” and gives a few examples of how humans have been using biology as technology for thousands of years. He then discusses a few modern biotechnology applications, like antibiotics, biologics, genetically modified organisms, fuels, and plastics. Carlson also talks about why more biotech garage innovators are needed, what the industry might be able to learn from open source software and hardware, and how legal and regulatory barriers to innovation in biotechnology might be minimized.

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Kevin Poulsen on cyber crime

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Kevin Poulsen, a senior editor at Wired News, former hacker, and author of Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground, discusses his new book. Poulsen first talks about how he became interested in hacking and why he was eventually sent to prison for it. He then discusses his book, a true crime account of Max Butler, a white hat hacker turned black hat who went from security innovator to for-profit cyber criminal to hacker of other hackers, eventually taking over the cyber crime underground. Poulsen finally comments on cyber security policy, noting that while many security vulnerabilities exist today, he suspects that legislation is not the answer.

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