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Technical Foundations of Freedom and Privacy on the Internet

11/15/2017, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM | German House New York

Technical Foundations of Freedom and Privacy on the Internet

• University of Hamburg

On November 15Th, 2017, the German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) New York and the University of Hamburg hosted an expert panel titled “Technical Foundations of Freedom and Privacy on the Internet.”

The evening began with a warm welcome from Gerrit Roessler, the Program Manager of the GCRI. The panel’s moderator Will Lymer, the Chief Growth Officer at Loki Labs in Brooklyn, NY, briefly introduced the panel’s speakers: Prof. Dr. Hannes Federrath, a professor within the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hamburg; Dr. Sadia Afroz, senior researcher within the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) at University of California, Berkley; Prof. Damon McCoy, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering; and Prof. Keith W. Ross, Dean of Engineering and Computer Science and Leonard J. Shustek Professor of Computer Science at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

Will Lymer set the stage by offering an overview of the evening’s relevant topic. The amount of data we as a society produce doubles every year, according to an article that was printed by Science America’s sister publication in Germany. In 2016 alone, we produced as much data as all that has ever existed in the history of mankind. It is estimated that in ten years’ time, there will be 150 billion network-measuring-sensors, and by that time, the amount of data we produce can double every 12 hours.

Prof. Dr. Hannes Federrath spoke on the importance of privacy on the internet for democracy and freedom, a topic he has worked on for 20 years. He touched on the confidentiality and observability of online content, providing insight on information tracking and the Tor system – an anonymity network –throughout his presentation.

Dr. Sadia Afroz provided a technical definition of the internet, explained the discrimination of Tor users, and communicated the practical problems that come from Tor utilization. Scanning over 3 billion IP addresses from four Tor exit nodes and three control nodes from the University of California, Dr. Afroz’s research found that over 1 million IP addresses (that is 1.2% of the web) are blocking Tor network IP requests. She defined these rejections as a modern form of censorship by servers which will not allow anonymous network users to access their websites.

“The UN has declared that privacy is a basic human right,” explained Prof. Damon McCoy. He presented the benefits of privacy-enhancing technology and detailed the background history of Tor and its original creators. Prof. McCoy emphasized how Tor gives purpose to all types of individuals, businesses, and online activity and expounded on the maturation of “onion” networks through the increasing awareness of surveillance on the web. Prof. Keith W. Ross described privacy law, its implementation, and the impact big data has on such online rules. He specifically introduced two intriguing, but not widely known, laws on the internet: the Right to Be Forgotten and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. During his presentation, he led the audience through the process of finding information on minors who lie about their age online.

During the panel discussion, the speakers covered various topics, such as the Streisand Effect, the difference between the Chinese and American perspective of online privacy, the potential future of the UN’s declaration of privacy as a human right, the trend for users who wish to remain private online, and the upcoming security mechanisms and design for anonymous networks.

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  • Featured Speakers

    • Prof. Dr. Hannes Federrath

      Security in Distributed Systems, Department of Computer Science, University of Hamburg

    • Prof. Keith W. Ross

      Dean of Engineering and Computer Science, Affiliated Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, NYU Shanghai; Leonard J. Shustek Professor of Computer Science, Tandon School of Engineering, NYU

    • Prof. Damon McCoy

      Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering

    • Sadia Afroz

      Senior Researcher at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) at UC Berkeley

    • William Lymer (Moderator)

      Chief Growth Officer, Loki Labs