Ethics, Politics, and Science of Obfuscation
New York University
Thursday, October 27, 2011
11:00 a.m., Room 636 SEO
Computer?enabled data collection, aggregation, and mining dramatically change the nature of contemporary surveillance. Refusal is not a practical option, as data collection is an inherent condition of many essential societal transactions. One vernacular response to this regime of everyday surveillance is obfuscation. With a variety of possible motivations, actors engage in obfuscation by producing misleading, false, or ambiguous data with the intention of confusing an adversary or simply adding to the time or cost of separating bad data from good. Linking contemporary and historical cases, from radar chaff to BitTorrent, my talk addresses political and ethical challenges to obfuscation tactics. It also stakes out foundations for a possible science of obfuscation.
Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, and Computer Science, at New York University, where she is also Senior Faculty Fellow of the Information Law Institute. Her areas of expertise span social, ethical, and political implications of information technology and digital media. Nissenbaum’s research publications have appeared in journals of philosophy, politics, law, media studies, information studies, and computer science. She has written and edited four books, including Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life, which was published in 2010 by Stanford University Press. The National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Ford Foundation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator have supported her work on privacy, trust online, and security, as well as several studies of values embodied in computer system design, including search engines, digital games, facial recognition technology, and health information systems.
Nissenbaum holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University and a B.A. (Hons) from the University of the Witwatersrand. Before joining the faculty at NYU, she served as Associate Director of the Center for Human Values at Princeton University.