Hot Topic Session 3rd HLF

Brave New Data World

Scientists face the ethical challenges of computational science


The Hot Topic was coordinated by Michele Catanzaro, author of “Networks: A Very Short Introduction” and a highly accomplished freelance science journalist. Catanzaro, who moderated the debate, sees the HLF as an ideal environment and “fertile ground for making scientists provocative and constructive allies to the public”.


The Hot Topic at the 3rd HLF dove into enigmatic questions that are woven throughout computational science. How secure is our data? How is intellectual property evolving? Should we blindly accept massive data mining? How is computational science most effectively used for good? How should we regulate this ‘brave new data world’?
Divergent backgrounds are fundamental to achieving a well-balanced and progressive dissection of any issue. This is precisely why the panel selections emanated from varied professions, from academia to companies to research centers. Three substantial key-note speakers were scheduled to prelude the four workshops that tackled consequential current issues. Following the workshops, led by experts and assisted by selected young researchers, the session culminated with a debate.


  • Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie Mellon University lectured on Privacy in the Age of Augmented Reality. As a Professor of Information Technology and Public Policy at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Alessandro Acquisti is versed in privacy. He is the director of the Peex (Privacy Economics Experiments) lab and the co-director of the CBDR (Center for Behavioral and Decision Research), both at CMU, producing fascinating studies in privacy protection. Acquisti presented his research and experiments on the inadequacy of the online "notice and consent" mechanisms for privacy protection.
  • Kristin Tolle of Microsoft Research discussed Using Big Data, Cloud Computing and Interoperability to Save Lives. In addition to her illustrious career at Microsoft Research Outreach as the Director of the Data Science Initiative, Kristin Tolle is one of the editors and authors of one of the earliest books on data science, The Fourth Paradigm: Data Intensive Scientific Discovery. She is currently concentrating on developing a program using data to improve user experiences across the board. Tolle discussed the challenges to privacy of combining multiple datasets, as well as the crucial utility of this procedure in reacting to natural disasters.
  • Jeremy Gillula of the Electronic Fronteer Foundation explained Big Data and the Surveillance-Industrial Complex. Jeremy Gillula’s work as a Staff Scientist for the civil society organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has enabled him to cover a broad range of issues. Though he acknowledges the benefits of autonomous technologies, he is simultaneously aware of the threats they pose to our civil liberties. Gillula addressed the misuse of online tracking for advertisement and spying and what computer scientists can do to get better results without sacrificing privacy.
  • Ciro Cattuto of the ISI Foundation gave a talk entitled From the Black Box in Your Car, to the Black Box Society. He is the Scientific Director and leader of the Data Science Laboratory at the ISI Foundation. Ciro Cattuto’s focuses include behavioral social networks, digital epidemiology, online social networks and web science. His interests have led to him founding SocioPatterns, which measures and maps human spatial behavior. Cattuto used the example of black boxes insurances put in cars to tackle the broader issue of scoring and the potential of a black box society.
  • Megan Price of the Human Rights Data Analysis Center lectured on Big Data Promises and Pitfalls: Examples from Syria. Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) uses statistical and scientific methods to find the most accurate truth which paves the way to accountability. Megan Price is the director of research atHRDAG and was the lead statistician in both Guatemala and Syria. She explained her work in using data to estimate the number of war victims in Syria.
  • Peter Ryan of the University of Luxembourg discussed Back Doors, Trap Doors, and Crypto Wars. Peter Ryan has been a Professor of Applied Security at the University of Luxembourg for over six years. As a pioneer in applying algebras to modeling and analysis of secure systems, he has over two decades experience in cryptography and information assurance. Ryan discussed the attempts to introduce government-controlled backdoors in encryption algorithms and the pitfalls of this strategy.

Hot Topic: Brave New Data World


Presentation Kristin Tolle

Hot Topic: Brave New Data World


Presentation Jeremy Gillula

Hot Topic: Brave New Data World


Presentation Alessandro Acquisti

Hot Topic: Brave New Data World


Panel Discussion