MIT Press, in partnership with the MIT Libraries and MIT CSAIL, celebrates the publication of the Press’ 8,000th unique title: Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest by Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum. The event will take place in the Stata Center, Rm 32-123.
With Obfuscation Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum offer us ways to fight today’s pervasive digital surveillance—the collection of our data by governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privacy protecting techniques and projects, they propose adding obfuscation: the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects. Brunton and Nissenbaum provide tools and a rationale for evasion, noncompliance, refusal, even sabotage—especially for average users, those of us not in a position to opt out or exert control over data about ourselves. Obfuscation will teach users to push back, software developers to keep their user data safe, and policy makers to gather data without misusing it.
Brunton and Nissenbaum present a guide to the forms and formats that obfuscation has taken and explain how to craft its implementation to suit the goal and the adversary. They describe a series of historical and contemporary examples, including radar chaff deployed by World War II pilots, Twitter bots that hobbled the social media strategy of popular protest movements, and software that can camouflage users’ search queries and stymie online advertising.
Finn Brunton is Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet.
Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication and Computer Science at New York University, where she is Director of the Information Law Institute. She is the author of Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life. She is one of the developers of the TrackMeNot software.
Stuart Madnick: John Morris Maguire Professor of Information Technologies, MIT Sloan School of Management
Urs Gasser: Professor of Practice, Harvard Law School and Executive Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
Alex (Sandy) Pentland: Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Engineering Systems and Director, MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program; Director, Human Dynamics Laboratory
Reception to follow.