Citizen Lab, Pro Publica receive MacArthur awards

Ronald Deibert, director of Citizen Lab, is the author of the book on cyber-security, Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace

Ronald Deibert, director of Citizen Lab, is the author of the book on cyber-security, Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace

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.

You can see all seven winners in that group for 2014 here, including New York-based Pro Publica:

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.

Our Mission

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.

Quoted in this CBC coverage, Citizen Lab founder Ron Deibert called the award “a game-changer” for the organization and its work. According to the Toronto Star:

[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.

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8 Comments on “Citizen Lab, Pro Publica receive MacArthur awards”

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  1. Since the Olympics started, I noticed a refreshing lack of boring, dime-a-dozen Washington insider parlor talk horse race b.s. in The In Box. Let’s hope this welcome change continues post-Olympics and that NORTH COUNTRY Public Radio’s news blog will focus on NORTH COUNTRY issues.

  2. Pro Publica is an excellent example of what journalism should be. Real reporting on serious topics. Little ‘inside baseball’ horse race nonsense instead focusing on the effects of the issue on real people.

  3. The Original Larry says:

    Yeah, really refreshing. There hasn’t been a substantive post since last week.

  4. Relax OL, there are plenty of other places you can go for the empty, dime-a-dozen national horse race “analysis” non-stories. The punditocracy expands far beyond

  5. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’m still waiting for the post-Olympic mea culpa from media sources explaining their previous ignorant, bigoted and sensational coverage so the Sochi games. Sure we have gotten a sentence here and there explaining that things worked out just fine but where is the explanation about why reporters scared people away from the Olympics with stories of terrorism that never occurred. Why would there be terrorism? Apparently because there were Muslims nearby. Muslims territories in Europe? Who knew?

    Then there was the whole pre-Olympic gay issue. Putin is so terrible because unlike the people of the open-minded USA he hates gays. So what if about half of the people of this country are working to limit the rights gay people are just starting to enjoy. How long ago was Mathew Shepard beaten and hung on the fence post to die? Not very.

    We were exposed to a blatant display of Cold War coverage.

  6. oa says:

    Could somebody correct the spelling of receive, please?

  7. Lucy Martin says:

    Thank you oa. The error was mine and has been corrected.

  8. oa says:

    No, Lucy, thank you!

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