EPIC’s Rotenberg talks ‘privacy paradox,’ legislative challenges with Rainie

1 05 2010

Lee Rainie, director of Pew Internet, led a final session at FutureWeb in which he discussed privacy issues with Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC.)

WWW 2010 - "Special Session: Marc Rotenberg & Lee Rainie." From left to right: Marc Rotenberg, Lee Rainie. (Photo: Elon University Relations photographer Kim Walker. )

Rotenberg is arguably the best-known privacy advocate in the world, and he and his team work to bring to light the emerging civil liberties issues tied to the many uses of technology.

“Mark is my number one teacher on these issues,” Rainie said in his introduction. “He has schooled us (at Pew) both directly and indirectly, and his work has stood up remarkably and robustly as this environment has changed.”

Rotenberg addressed the privacy paradox, where on one level Americans tend to place value in the ability to control identity, but at the same time they don’t always stay true to this principle.

“The challenge is that people are constantly being coerced to give up data and to make information available because of some opportunity that is presented to them,” he said, in an indirect but obvious reference to online social networks like Facebook and online search companies such as Google.

He noted the historical similarities between the early years of the automobile and the early years of the Internet. Drivers in the early 1900s were in the similar situation of using a new product, despite the lack of safety features. Because it offers advantages, despite the threats to their well-being the consumer decides to use the product. As the product evolves, the challenge then becomes how to enhance it’s benefits to consumers while reducing the necessary risks.

“The key insight is that at the end of the day, it isn’t the driver going to auto safety school making the experience safer,” he said. “It is not possible to effectively place this burden on the driver. It has to be the responsibility of the manufacturer. I think that’s the big shift we’re going to see on the Internet privacy front.”

Rotenberg then spoke to the political atmosphere of the issue, saying it’s becoming more common to see people speaking up. He finds it encouraging that young people are participating in the conversation, citing the example of the Facebook group created to protest the largest social network’s new terms of service.

The launch of Google Buzz created similar activity involving privacy issues. After the introduction, Gmail users resisted the violation of privacy rights and there was an enormous pushback on Google.

“The next step in the maturing of the privacy debate is making the connections between recognition and… real action by Congress,” Rotenberg told Rainie. He is a strong advocate of specific privacy legislation and says new laws are necessary in this new environment.

Rotenberg added that it is not right for our representatives in Congress to trade off too much of people’s personal privacy in exchange for national security and government access.

“If you really lose privacy, it will be very hard to recapture,” he said.

Rotenberg said ideas about privacy in the Internet context tend to be universal around the world, and it is interesting how much agreement there is on basic principles. People tend to reflect similar values due to a common understanding of the issue.

A topic that many people are now concerned with is privacy in a mobile environment. Good privacy laws will focus on the collection and use of personal data from mobile devices, he said.

“People should be able to make decisions about what to post online,” Rotenberg said. “That’s what freedom’s about, and that’s a good thing. But when companies start to take that data (and analyze and distribute it)… I’m really uncomfortable with that.”

– By Ashley Dischinger

Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos:

Rainie, Searls interview: The future of open source, innovation, and value

30 04 2010

In the last session of the second day, Lee Rainie sat down with Doc Searls, the Linux Journal senior editor, and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman center. Searls is part of the Pew’s closest network, and has praised the Pew Research Center from early on.

Lee Rainie, left, interviews Doc Searls in a special session of FutureWeb. (Photo: Dan Anderson, Elon University)

Searls briefly discussed how he got into the Linux community, and said the appeal came from his observation that the Internet empowered individuals as much as it empowered larger organizations. He also talked of the connection between the Internet and construction, saying he had the inkling that “the language of writing code was the language of construction.”

Throughout the interview, Searls continued to relate the Net to construction and geology. He sees the Internet as the foundation for web ‘construction’ sites. “Buildings come and go, but the geology doesn’t, and the geology is the Net,” Searls said.

As a “correctly-labeled ‘Techno-uptopian,’” Searls maintained his optimism for the future of the Internet throughout the majority of the talk. When Rainie asked what he believes threatens innovation, Searls responded by saying that the originality of human beings could be endless. He elaborated by discussing some of his exciting initiatives, such as the Listen Log, which allows users to log what the listen to. In terms of public radio and other radio, Searls loves the idea of “giving people a way to see what it is they value.”

Rainie then moved to a question about the notion of property, and what the current world has wrong with its very definition.

“Intellectual property is an oxymoron,” Searls said. “We would not have the Internet now if people had asserted intellectual property control.”

Searls explained value beyond the physical realm, and how morality can play a role in the creation of this value. He contrasted two morality principles: the exchange, where one item is traded for another; and the relationship, where there is no transaction taking place, and there is no price put on love.

According to Searls, the Internet falls in the second category, where it is something so inherently generous, yet no transaction is taking place.

Rainie challenged this generosity concept, and asked the normally optimistic Searls what worries him for the future. He discussed global warming prospects and the notion of running out of Earth’s vital elements.

He compared our long-term state to the condition of ants with a hill on the sidewalk, metaphorically implying that eventually someone will step on (us).

“I hope the Internet will help us see that,” he said.

– By Katie Roberts

Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/

danah boyd talks social networking, data interpretation with Lee Rainie

30 04 2010

Lee Rainie interviewed social networks researcher danah boyd on the future of the Web for a special session at this afternoon’s FutureWeb conference. They discussed the way in which institutions are handling data, bad actors in marketing, socioeconomic factors in

Social networks researcher danah boyd speaks with Lee Rainie in a special interview session at FutureWeb. (Photo: Dan Anderson, Elon University)

technology and how teens are navigating the social networking environment.

Rainie introduced boyd as “the number one reference for social networks- she’s been our teacher for a long time on this stuff.”

danah first addressed an issue she touched on in her keynote speech earlier this morning: the way in which institutions are handling data. She cited pleaserobme.com as a reminder of how much data is available on the Internet.

“Many people take this site seriously, but it’s really just trying to make a delightful point about privacy,” boyd said. “It’s kind of an experiment that really gets to the heart of that.”

When asked about instances of data misuse in the marketing community, boyd said most of the misuses are unintentional. Still, she said it is this level of naïveté that gets us into trouble the most. The challenge is that each company and each researcher means well, but they aren’t necessarily considering the consequences of how they are using data. Instead, the public has to start thinking like hackers in order to anticipate unintended costs.

A conference attendee posed the question of whether one can ever take full account of the data’s context and fully understand it. boyd’s responded with her number one principle in analyzing data: “Know the data you’re working with, and don’t make claims that go beyond that.”

boyd says this is a prime opportunity to work with social scientists.

“We should be doing multi-prong questioning instead of waiting for people to come out with reports,” boyd said.

She acknowledged that a downside to easily accessible data is the potential for misinterpretation. The defense, she said, is to consider how data you are about to distribute could get misinterpreted, and how you will be accountable for it.

Ethical questions arise when considering data misinterpretation. We need to find a way to actively engage ethical practices, which become ways to think through a process, she said.

boyd also addressed the question of ways in which teenagers are navigating the online environment, and how their behaviors differ from older generations.

“Teenagers are looking to understand the world around them, “boyd said. “They come to social media with the understanding that friendship is driven through publicly accessible information. It’s important to them that friends can see them, but those who hold power over them cannot.”

This is nothing new, she said. Previous generations of teenagers valued the same principles, but instead of trying to keep parents out of their rooms, teens are now trying to keep them out of their online environments.

Click here to watch boyd explain why some teens opt out of participating in social networks.

Relating this example back to her ethics discussion, boyd questioned whether parents have the right to look at their children’s information online, just because it is accessible. She said instead, parents should think about how to help their teenagers by simply asking them questions and guiding them accordingly.

boyd’s research on teenagers has also provided insight into socioeconomic factors that effect the way they engage in technology.

“I’ve learned the hard way that talking about socioeconomic factors is the best way to really put the bulls eye on you,” she said.

Her research has revealed divisions between the use of MySpace and Facebook and they way the sites are talked about in terms of class. She found discrepancies in the language that is used on the sites in accordance with the socioeconomic status of the users.

“My role as an ethnographer is to start with the people and then go up from there,” she said. “I have to actually observe what’s happening so you can see the diversity in what’s going on.”

When asked about her insights into how people navigate social networks, successfully and unsuccessfully, she referred to the philosophic discussion on “publics.” We live in multiple publics, each with a certain logic, and we engage in each differently, she said.

Networked publics challenge people in the ways that we deal with it every day, all day. The blurring between public and private, and the challenges of the “invisible public” are altering the way that people navigate online forums.

“(Publics navigation of social networks) will be unstable for a really long time,” boyd said. “It really becomes a big challenge.”

By Ashley Dischinger

Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/

Pew director Rainie says Internet becoming more progressive, invisible

29 04 2010

Lee Rainie gives the final keynote address of the night at FutureWeb2010. Photo by Dan Rickershauser.

In the final address of the night at FutureWeb 2010, Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, discussed the future of the Internet and the research conducted by Pew.

Rainie began working with professor Janna Anderson and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet project about a decade ago to gather predictions on the future of the Internet by technology experts and citizens.

“Our strategy was to be provocative,” Rainie said… “We started each of our questions with an obvious statement about the evolution of technology then added a “therefore” clause…we wanted them to react.”

According to Rainie, he wanted to collect “bad information from good people.”

What he got was good information and rich commentary on the impact of the Internet in the social realm.

“They had smart things and generally thoughtful things to say about the Internet,” Rainie said. “It’s in the exploration of those expository answers, those narrative answers, that gives us new knowledge.”

In the most recent research, there were 895 responses. Of the respondents, 371 were past participants and 524 were new to Rainie and Anderson’s work.

Some of the predictions included:

Are hot new gadgets and apps evident now?

-16 percent of experts said hot gadgets will not be surprising, 81 percent said they will come out of the blue

By 2020 will online anonymity be easier?

-42 percent said it will be harder, 54 percent said it would be easier

Will the internet be dominated by the end-to-end principle?

-63 percent said yes, 29 said no

Will institutions/businesses take advantage of the Internet?

-71 percent said yes, 26 percent said no

Will reading, writing and knowledge improve?

-69 percent said yes

Rainie said the Internet will no longer be so much of a mystery in the coming years since more and more people will have access and it will become more of a normal part of life.

“The technology becomes most important when it becomes invisible,” Rainie said.

-by Laura Smith

Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/

Rainie, Cerf interview: Google, Internet encounters and economic problems of journalism

28 04 2010

Special session four kicked off just after 4 p.m. with Lee Rainie interviewing Vint Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet Protocol and chief technology evangelist for Google. Cerf helped Rainie establish the Pew Internet Research Center and assisted with its earliest research initiatives.

Lee Rainie interviews Vint Cerf during a special session at FutureWeb2010. "The part I like most about my job is the repeated and regular exposure to people who are smarter than I am," Cerf told Rainie. (Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

Cerf addressed questions about his position at Google, which he describes as developing in real time; unexpected encounters with the Internet over the years; and the controversy surrounding services in China.

“A piece of me is always astonished (by the Internet),” Cerf said. “Every time a page comes back with all the pieces, I’m astonished. If you knew all the things that had to happen for that page to come back, it’s really amazing.”

He says younger generations have a different view of the Internet and its technologies because “it’s always been there, and isn’t always remarkable,” quoting the adage, “technology is what you didn’t grow up with.”

Cerf reminisced over the initial stages of the Internet, including the moment when he realized that it would be possible to commercialize the system. Prior to the late 1980s, there had been no attempts to utilize the tool to make money.

He said the turning point came in 1989 when commercial email systems were able to connect online to different email systems. Instances of spam mail that followed broke the policy in government that said no commercial traffic could flow through a government-sponsored system.

Rainie asked Cerf to elaborate on the “dark side” of the Internet, including the continuing problem of spam.

“Spam became a problem because email was free,” Cerf said. “If we found a way to charge a little for email, then span would have been less of a problem.”

Another problems that Cerf attributed to the dark side is cyberwarfare, which he said occurs on an international level with the general population gains access to technology and abuses it. He said its important to realize that when something because this essential to society’s infrastructure, problems are bound to arise. The important thing is to learn how to cope with the issues.

Rainie and Cerf discussed the possibility of government intervention and the implications of asserting authority in an effort to maintain order. He said he is sympathetic to the idea that there should be a plan for dealing with a serious disruption to the system. At the same time, he hopes that “if there is such a plan, the openness of the Obama administration will allow for greater scrutiny.”

When addressing  the question of Google’s management of its China services, Cerf said he is part of a group whose job is to discuss corporate policy. His group has long debated whether Google should offer services to China, because it didn’t want to be in a position where the government could demand information to expose someone.

Click to see Vint Cerf speak on the recent controversy between China and Google:

“The outcome is pretty interesting, and of course some of it is still in play,” Cerf said. “China isn’t the only regime exhibiting concern about the use and abuse of the Internet. There isn’t any pixie dust we can sprinkle and make everything better. In this decade, we have to live through the bad parts and the good parts.”

Cerf discussed the economic problems of modern journalism and the ways he thinks the news media can best survive.  He said the steady erosion of newspapers began well before the Internet had a strong presence. Journalists should consider the cheapest and most efficient method of distributing news.

“I think if the news industry is going to survive in online mode, they’re going to have to provide more than just news,” Cerf said. “They’re going to have to engage with readers in a way that they can take reactions. This more engaged form of news reporting might be an interesting way of gaining readership and increasing the likelihood that advertising can support it.”

He said the quality of news reporting is now essential to the success of a publication.

“People are going to have to be a little braver about going online and doing things they haven’t done before,” Cerf said.

-by Ashley Dischinger

Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/

The Future of Print Publishing

25 04 2010

FutureWeb 2010 Conference, Raleigh, N.C., April 30, 10:30 a.m.-noon

Bob Young of Lulu.com presents a keynote talk in this session, followed by a Future of the Web interview with Young led by Lee Rainie. The world of publishing has changed more in the last five years than in the previous 100, and the changes show no signs of stopping. Self-publishing and print on demand have reshaped the industry, and the Internet and mobile devices have altered readers’ relationships with books. The next step is for authors, publishers and readers to harness the new opportunities these changes bring. Authors and readers need real connections with each other – connections that inspire creativity, foster discovery and generate new ideas.

For more information about FutureWeb 2010 panel discussions, featured panelists and more, click here to navigate to the FutureWeb site. To register for the conference, visit theFutureWeb registration page.

Pew Research Center releases new study on participatory news consumerism

4 03 2010

The Pew Internet & American Life Project and Project for Excellence in Journalism released a joint report Monday exploring the “participatory news consumer.” This new breed of news consumers is the product of advancing technologies and interactive media that continue to enhance the news consumer’s experience.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project and a keynote speaker at FutureWeb, is a co-author of the Pew Research Center report on the participatory news consumer. (Photo courtesy of Flickr.)

Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and leading participant in the FutureWeb 2010 conference, is co-author of the report. Rainie is scheduled as a keynote speaker to address issues surrounding the future of the Web, a topic that directly relates to his recently released participatory news consumer report.

The full 50-page report details research gathered on topics such as the general American news environment, the specific ways in which people use the news and the Internet’s impact on the news industry. The report also covers more recent trends in consumer news such as the attitudes and behaviors of on-the-go news consumers and news that takes on the characteristics of a social activity.

Pew’s research reflects many of the topics that will be discussed at FutureWeb 2010, namely the growing trend of participatory news. The explosion of the digital era, along with interactive Web sites, social media and new technologies, allows an overwhelming 92% of Americans to access their news through multiple platforms on a daily basis.

Almost half of those surveyed say they get news from four to six media platforms, including national TV, local TV, the Internet, national newspapers, local newspapers and the radio. The report also revealed that the Internet is now the third most popular source of news.

The increasing popularity of the Internet is directly related to the survey’s findings that Americans are now embracing a variety of participatory news media. Approximately 37% of Internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented on stories or propagated news through postings on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

The majority of those surveyed say that their news experience is becoming increasingly social. Friends, family and co-workers commonly share links, post news stories to their social networking sites and link to other news on personal blogs. Topics and current events are discussed through the Internet platform.

Pew reports:

“The advent of social media like social networking sites and blogs has helped the news become a social experience in a fresh way for consumers. The ascent of mobile connectivity via smart phones has turned news gathering and news awareness into an anytime, anywhere affair for a segment of avid news watchers.”

Pew also reports:

“Online, the social experience is widespread: 75% of online news consumers say they get news forwarded through e-mail or posts on social networking sites and 52% say they share links to news with others via those means.”

The report is based on the findings of a daily tracking survey on Americans’ use of the Internet, with data collected through phone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between December 28, 2009 and January 19, 2010. The sampling reviewed the responses of 2,259 adults, age 18 and older. Pew Internet reports a 95% confidence rate that the range of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

The Internet & American Life Project continues to conduct surveys and analyze research on Internet-related issues that continue to impact the daily lives of Americas, as part of a nonpartisan, not-for-profit initiative. The team has been examining the social impact of the Internet since the late 1990s.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism aims to conduct research to better understand the information revolution. This project specifically evaluates press performance through content analysis in a manner that simultaneously helps journalists who produce the news and news consumers.

The Pew Internet & American Life Center is currently conducting research on what specific technologies are utilized the most, what people are doing online and how consumers are using Pew’s research. For more information, visit the Pew Internet homepage.

By Ashley Dischinger