Potential Misuses of the Internet in a Dystopic World

Seminar

Speaker(s)

Kim Scott, Google

Date and Time

December 3, 2009 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM

Availability

Open to the public.

No RSVP required

Location

Wallenberg Theater

FSI Contact

Kathleen Barcos

Abstract
Technology can be a positive force for decentralization, but in extreme cases this can lead to chaos.  Technology can also be a positive force for centralization, creating huge value.  However, in extreme cases the potential for centralization could play into the hands of governments with totalitarian aspirations.  I will explore examples of each, and also of how technology companies can create systems and processes that prevent this kind of abuse.  I will bring up some of the most difficult decisions I have faced in my career and give the class a chance to tell me what they would have done in my shoes.

Kim Scott is the Director of Online Sales and Operations for AdSense and YouTube at Google. In that role, she is responsible for managing Google's worldwide network of partner publishers and building the YouTube community and YPP program.

 Prior to joining Google, Kim was the CEO and co-founder of Juice Software, a business intelligence start-up based in New York City. Kim was VP of Business Development at two other technology start-ups: CapitalThinking, a commercial mortgage ASP and Delta Three, an Internet telephony service provider.  Earlier in her career, Kim managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo, served as senior policy adviser to Reed Hundt at the FCC, and worked in Moscow from 1990-1994.

Kim is the author of three unpublished novels, The Measurement Problem, The
Househusband
, and Virtual Love.  Kim currently sits on the advisory board for Sunlight Foundation and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  

Summary of the Seminar
Kim Scott, Director AdSense Online Sales & Operations at Google, explored the potential of new technology for both increasing decentralization and centralization. Decentralization refers to the capacity of the internet to disperse power and influence to many more people. In the political context, this has (arguably) enabled greater citizen activism. In business, online advertising enables start-ups to get going without relying on venture capitalist funding. Individuals have greater capacity for personal expression now that they can bypass publishing power houses and distribute their own work at virtually no cost. Corresponding to these benefits are a number of negative impacts. The same technology that allows pro-democracy groups to come together also enables terrorists and pedophile groups to organize and perpetrate harm on a greater scale.

Technology also allows for increasing centralization. The Internet provides a place for the world's information to be easily organized and accessed. But with this comes the risk that certain groups (particularly authoritarian governments) could deliberately misinform citizens.  

Kim raised a number of dilemmas for discussion, including:

  • How should technology companies respond to requests from governments to hand over data?
  • How should Internet companies respond to different countries' understanding of what content is acceptable? Google's policy to date has been to allow different access in different countries but it has stopped short of allowing any one country to dictate what others countries see.

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