There’s lots of concern these days about cyber security and privacy issues – including the burning question of who can be trusted to monitor that picture? For obvious reasons, it shouldn’t be any dominant player, like Google. And it seems fair to generalize that governments’ hands are not entirely clean either.
It’s a muddled state of affairs for an issue of great and growing importance. Which may be why something called Citizen Lab is a recent recipient of a $1 million award from the MacArthur Foundation. The award came in the Creative & Effective Institution category, which neither solicits nor accepts nominations.
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.”
And good on them, because investigative journalism needs all the help it can get these days.
But back to Citizen Lab. From their website, it’s
“… an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, Canada focusing on advanced research and development at the intersection of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), human rights, and global security.
We are a “hothouse” that combines the disciplines of political science, sociology, computer science, engineering, and graphic design. We undertake research that monitors, analyzes, and impacts the exercise of political power in cyberspace.
[Deibert] compared the MacArthur Award to a Nobel Prize and said the lab would bank $850,000 of the award to create an endowment of about $45,000 a year. The remaining $150,000 would be used over the next two years to raise the lab’s profile, something that might help it attract more funding.
“It’s so important for us to exist,” Deibert said in an interview. “We are picking up the slack of the loss of investigative journalism in newspapers and TV and we are not influenced by government or corporate interests. We essentially are a civil-society watchdog.”
More details about what Citizen Lab has accomplished to date can be explored in this post’s links.
The technology may change, but the central problem is nothing new. As illustrated by the classic question: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Wikipedia explains the line was originally coined in regards to ensuring fidelity. But “Who watches the watchmen?” in modern times means something far larger than bedroom hanky-panky.