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Urs Gasser

  • Helping your child make the best use of time online

    December 15, 2020

    Teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day online, and many parents worry about the impact of screen time on their children. There is no need to worry, said digital experts Urs Gasser and John Palfrey, authors of the newly released book “The Connected Parent: An Expert Guide to Parenting in a Digital World.” The Gazette spoke with Gasser, professor of practice at Harvard Law School and executive director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, and Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation and former faculty director of the center, on ways parents can embrace the philosophy of “connected parenting” and help children be safe online and make the most of new media and technology.

  • Connected Parent Zoom panel

    ‘The Connected Parent’ offers guidance, insight into digital parenting

    November 16, 2020

    “The Connected Parent,” a new book by John Palfrey ’01 and Urs Gasser LL.M. ’03  is a practical guide for addressing concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and navigating an increasingly digital world.

  • book cover of The Connected Parent

    Books in Brief: Fall 2020

    October 20, 2020

    New works on redeeming the administrative state, navigating parenting in a world in which children are immersed in technology, and understanding the importance of understanding how much information you need.

  • An unbalanced scale weighing COVID against a dollar sign, house, medical symbol, pyramid, and a man teaching

    The law is ‘tested and illuminated during this pandemic’

    September 16, 2020

    In the first colloquium of a sweeping new series, “COVID-19 and the Law,” five Harvard Law faculty members grappled with the challenges, limitations, and opportunities of governmental powers during a public health crisis.

  • Illustration of people being tracked by their cell phones.

    How much access to data should be permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic?

    April 14, 2020

    The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is currently taking the lead in the effort to explore the ways data can be mined to increase understanding of COVID-19 and to fight it more efficiently.

  • Aggregated mobility data could help fight COVID-19

    March 25, 2020

    An article by Urs Gasser: As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic worsens, understanding the effectiveness of public messaging and large-scale social distancing interventions is critical. The research and public health response communities can and should use population mobility data collected by private companies, with appropriate legal, organizational, and computational safeguards in place. When aggregated, these data can help refine interventions by providing near real-time information about changes in patterns of human movement. Research groups and nonprofit humanitarian agencies have refined data use agreements to stipulate clear guidelines that ensure responsible data practices (1). Tools for specifying different levels of privacy for different users, such as the OpenDP platform (2), can effectively manage data access, and aggregation steps have been carefully reviewed on a legal and methodological basis to ensure that the analyses follow ethical guidelines for human participants (3). To monitor social distancing interventions, for example, rather than showing individual travel or behavior patterns, information from multiple devices is aggregated in space and time, so that the data reflects an approximation of population-level mobility (4).

  • AI Innovators Should Be Listening to Kids

    November 26, 2019

    An article by Urs Gasser: From Greta Thunberg’s student-led climate strikes to the youth-driven protests in Hong Kong and Chile, the next generation is increasingly demanding a voice on pressing issues. Youth movements are reenergizing paralyzed debates among adults with fresh perspectives, inconvenient questions, and the rhetorical power of having to live with the long-term fallout of our short-term thinking. With another monumental societal transformation on the horizon—the rise of artificial intelligence—we have an opportunity to engage the power and imagination of youth to shape the world they will inherit...The center I lead at Harvard University, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, works to integrate youth voices into our research. Through our Youth and Media project, we have partnered with young people, educators, researchers, and practitioners to design more than 100 educational tools to teach and engage youth about the digital world.

  • German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

    At Harvard Law, German President Steinmeier discusses digital technology ethics

    November 5, 2019

    On Nov. 1, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier discussed the "Ethics of Digital Transformation" at an event hosted by Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

  • The long, deep ties between Harvard and Germany

    May 22, 2019

    In 1971, Guido Goldman, founding director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (CES), walked into a meeting with West Germany’s then-finance minister, Alex Möller, hoping for a gift to help support the center. He left with a sweeping offer that he couldn’t have imagined. “I was kind of blown away,” said Goldman, recalling that meeting. He had envisioned a $2 million gift to the center, then known as the Western European Studies program, as a way for Germany to say thanks for the aid that the U.S. had given it in the years following the world wars. ... Through high-profile programs such as these, Harvard and its experts remained steady players in German and U.S. relations. They are often called when new initiatives arise across the Atlantic. Take, for example Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and a professor of the practice at the Law School. Last year he was tapped to become a member of Merkel’s German Digital Council, which advises her government on topics like the role of data and digitizing systems and works on projects such as streamlining applications. “If Angela Merkel calls you and says, ‘Look, I need your advice,’ you’re likely to say yes,” Gasser said.

  • notes and comment 3

    Collaboration zone

    April 26, 2019

    Library event provides unique opportunity for faculty-student interaction.

  • health app illustration

    Faculty Books in Brief: Winter 2019

    January 29, 2019

    With the increased use of a massive volume and variety of data in our lives, our health care will inevitably be affected, note the editors of a new collection, one of the recent faculty books captured in this section.

  • Urs Gasser

    Why your online data isn’t safe

    October 3, 2018

    In a Q&A with the Harvard Gazette, Urs Gasser LL.M. ’03, executive director of the Berkman Klein Center, discusses what might be done to protect users from companies that profit from people’s data.

  • Why your online data isn’t safe

    October 3, 2018

    ...Urs Gasser, LL.M. ’03, is executive director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and a professor of practice at Harvard Law School. His research and teaching focus on information law and policy, and he writes frequently about privacy, data protection, and the regulation of digital technology. Gasser discussed the state of data privacy with the Gazette via email and suggested what might be done to protect users from companies that profit from people’s data.

  • Big questions raised by big data 1

    Big questions raised by big data

    September 20, 2018

    During the introduction to the book launch event for “Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics,” one of the editors, Harvard Law School Professor I. Glenn Cohen ’03, faculty director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, told a story about how powerful – and perhaps foreboding – big data can be.

  • Berkman Klein Center announces 2018-2019 community

    Berkman Klein Center announces 2018-2019 community

    August 2, 2018

    Last month, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University announced the incoming and returning fellows, faculty associates, and affiliates who together will form the core of the Center’s networked community in the 2018-2019 academic year.

  • Morality in the Machines 6

    Morality in the Machines

    June 26, 2018

    Researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society are collaborating with MIT scholars to study driverless cars, social media feeds, and criminal justice algorithms, to make sure openness and ethics inform artificial intelligence.

  • Emerging Technologies: Privacy by Design

    Emerging Technologies: Privacy by Design

    April 18, 2018

    Students of Professor Urs Gasser’s Spring 2018 Comparative Digital Privacy seminar hosted a symposium on 'Privacy by Design,' convening experts from government, private practice, industry, and academia to weigh in on all things privacy-related, from the difficulty of defining privacy to a comparison of the regulatory regimes in the United States and the European Union.

  • Congress Never Wanted to Regulate Facebook. Until Now

    April 12, 2018

    ...In Silicon Valley, heedlessness and recklessness have traditionally been seen as virtues–Facebook’s early internal rallying cry was “move fast and break things”–and necessary precursors for innovation. But a long-simmering reality check is coming to a head across the high-tech industry. While privacy concerns and even large-scale data breaches are nothing new, experts say the fracas at Facebook has brought the dilemma of increasingly powerful technology into better focus. “Being these networked citizens of the world, it’s kind of a struggle, at times, to say why we care about privacy,” says Urs Gasser, executive director at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. “But in this case, there is this element that the data about us is suddenly used to manipulate us in our decisionmaking and somehow mess with our democracy.”

  • From Berkman Klein, new resources on inclusion and artificial intelligence

    From Berkman Klein, new resources promoting inclusion in design of AI

    February 27, 2018

    Last week, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University launched, a new website related to preventing bias in algorithms and ensuring that voices and perspectives from diverse populations help shape the future of artificial intelligence.

  • An Open Letter to the Members of the Massachusetts Legislature Regarding the Adoption of Actuarial Risk Assessment Tools in the Criminal Justice System

    November 17, 2017

    An open letter to the Massachusetts Legislature from Chelsea Barabas, Christopher Bavitz, Ryan Budish, Karthik Dinakar, Cynthia Dwork, Urs Gasser, Kira Hessekiel, Joichi Ito, Ronald L. Rivest, Madars Virza, and Jonathan Zittrain. Dear Members of the Massachusetts Legislature: We write to you in our individual capacities¹ regarding the proposed introduction of actuarial risk assessment (“RA”) tools in the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system. As you are no doubt aware, Senate Bill 2185² — passed by the Massachusetts Senate on October 27, 2017 — mandates implementation of RA tools in the pretrial stage of criminal proceedings...As researchers with a strong interest in algorithms and fairness, we recognize that RA tools may have a place in the criminal justice system. In some cases, and by some measures, use of RA tools may promote outcomes better than the status quo. That said, we are concerned that the Senate Bill’s implementation of RA tools is cursory and does not fully address the complex and nuanced issues implicated by actuarial risk assessments.

  • Berkman Klein Center announces 2017–2018 community

    July 13, 2017

    The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today announced the incoming and returning fellows, faculty associates, affiliates, and directors who together will form the core of the Center’s networked community in the 2017-2018 academic year.

  • Connecting beyond the classroom

    April 21, 2017

    More than 60 Harvard Law students and 27 HLS faculty members took over the typically quiet tables of the library reading room for the first “Notes and Comment” event.

  • Ruth Okediji to Join Law School Faculty, Berkman Klein Center

    April 3, 2017

    Ruth L. Okediji, an intellectual property lawyer and professor, will join the Harvard Law School faculty as a tenured professor and co-director of the Berkman Klein Center in July, the Law School announced Friday. Okediji, whose scholarship also focuses on global economic regulation, received both her Master of Laws and Doctorate of Juridical Science from the Law School and is currently a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School...Urs Gasser, the executive director of the Berkman Klein Center, wrote in an email that Okediji’s global expertise will benefit the center. “Professor Okediji's thought-leadership in innovation policy, [intellectual property], and international law with a focus on the Global South will bolster our ongoing global research and network-building efforts,” Gasser wrote.

  • Get Smart: The Berkman Klein Center Takes On Artificial Intelligence

    February 23, 2017

    Urs Gasser, director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, is not worried about artificially intelligent deathbots. “We at Berkman Klein are less focused on the longer-term risks of ‘Big AI,’” he says, referring to the human-like intelligent systems seen in sci-fi movies. “[We are] more concerned about autonomous systems, algorithms, and other technologies that have an important effect on people’s lives right now.”

  • Internet firms’ legal immunity is under threat

    February 10, 2017

    Google, Facebook and other online giants like to see their rapid rise as the product of their founders’ brilliance. Others argue that their success is more a result of lucky timing and network effects—the economic forces that tend to make bigger firms even bigger. Often forgotten is a third reason for their triumph: in America and, to some extent, in Europe, online platforms have been inhabiting a parallel legal universe. Broadly speaking, they are not legally responsible, either for what their users do or for the harm that their services can cause in the real world...“The internet is no longer a discrete side activity,” says Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School...The industry would naturally prefer self-regulation. Platforms not only have strong incentives to spot bad actors, but good information to identify them and the means to sanction in response, notes Urs Gasser of the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

  • The Ethics and Governance of AI: On the Role of Universities

    January 23, 2017

    An op-ed by Urs Gasser. Artificial intelligence is everywhere, at times obscured and sometimes fully hidden...In this particular moment, the research, development, and deployment of AI is primarily taking place in the private sector, while governments around the world are increasingly contracting out their own use of these powerful technologies. In this context, the future role of universities emerges as one that is particularly meaningful when it comes to addressing these questions of social impact, ethics, and governance of AI.

  • Harvard, MIT researchers to keep AI in line

    January 11, 2017

    Researchers from Harvard and MIT and philanthropists including the founders of LinkedIn and eBay are teaming up in a multimillion-dollar effort to make sure artificial intelligence is designed and used to make the world a better place...The Knight Foundation, the MIT Media Lab, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar have combined to create a $27 million fund called the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund that will support research and development to make AI beneficial for humans. The Media Lab and Berkman Klein Center are the first “anchor institutions”...“There’s definitely urgency,” said Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Klein Center. The concerns, Gasser said, are less a robot uprising and more about whether AI understands the concept of fairness.

  • ‘Born Digital’ Redux

    December 20, 2016

    Earlier this year Urs Gasser, professor of practice and executive director of the Berkman Klein Center, and John Palfrey, Center director and former HLS professor published 'Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age,' an expansion of their critically acclaimed 2008 book 'Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives.'

  • Lost in the splinternet

    November 4, 2016

    Free-speech advocates were aghast—and data-privacy campaigners were delighted—when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) embraced the idea of a digital “right to be forgotten” in May 2014. It ruled that search engines such as Google must not display links to “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” information about people if they request that they be removed, even if the information is correct and was published legally. ...  In the analogue age, such transnational problems would have been dealt with in the appropriate intergovernmental organisation. On criminal matters, information was exchanged through bilateral mutual legal-assistance treaties (MLATs). But such mechanisms are designed for limited amounts of information in a slow-moving world. Now cross-border data flows are the rule (see chart 1) and technology is evolving fast. Urs Gasser, executive director at the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, says that the existing system of international co-operation is becoming overwhelmed.

  • Berkman Klein Center announces 2016-2017 community

    August 11, 2016

    A number of new fellows, faculty associates, and affiliates will join the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University for the 2016-2017 academic year.

  • Michael R. Klein LL.M. ’67 supports future of cyberspace exploration and study

    July 5, 2016

    Harvard Law School and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University have announced that Michael R. Klein LL.M. '67 has made a gift of $15 million to the Berkman Center, which in recognition, will now be known as the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

  • Big ‘thinks’ come in small packages: HLS Thinks Big

    July 1, 2016

    In late May, four Harvard Law faculty — Scott Brewer, Gerald Neuman '80, Esme Caramello '99, and Urs Gasser LL.M. '03 — shared snapshots of their latest research with the Harvard Law School community as part of the HLS Thinks Big speaker series.

  • At the Asian Leadership Conference, Gasser addresses the challenges of cybersecurity in a ‘hyperconnected’ world

    June 21, 2016

    Urs Gasser, Harvard Law School professor and executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, delivered a presentation last month on "The Future of Cybersecurity" at the Asian Leadership Conference, an annual event bringing together leaders across the globe to discuss and provide solutions to Asia's most pressing challenges.

  • Students host mini-symposium on data privacy

    Students host mini-symposium on data privacy

    May 2, 2016

    On April 12, students in Professor of Practice Urs Gasser’s Spring 2016 Comparative Online Privacy Seminar at Harvard Law School hosted a student-led mini-symposium on data privacy in the U.S. and the EU with experts from private companies, law firms, and academia.

  • Cravath fellows travel globally to experience international and comparative law

    April 15, 2016

    Thirteen Harvard Law School students were selected as the 2016 Cravath International Fellows. The fellows traveled to 12 countries for winter term clinical placements or independent research with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. Below, four of those students are highlighted.

  • Berkman Center launches new internet data dashboard

    September 30, 2015

    Internet Monitor dashboard, a freely available tool that helps identify trends in Internet activity through data visualization, has been launched by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

  • Luce Foundation Awards $400k to Harvard Law for the development of SHARIAsource

    June 30, 2015

    The Henry Luce Foundation recently awarded $400,000 over two years for the development of SHARIAsource, a project designed to be an online portal of resources and analysis on Islamic law and directed by Harvard Law School Professor Intisar A. Rabb.

  • Digitally Connected: New ebook offers global perspectives on youth and digital media

    April 10, 2015

    The Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Youth and Media released a new ebook 'Digitally Connected: Global Perspectives on Youth and Digital Media,' a first-of-its kind collection of essays that offers reflections from diverse perspectives on youth experiences with digital media and with focus on the Global South.

  • Multistakeholder as Governance Groups: New Study by Global Network of Internet and Society Centers

    January 15, 2015

    The Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers (NoC) and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University have released a new report on Multistakeholder Governance Groups, which informs the debate about Internet governance models and mechanisms.

  • Reflections on the Digital World: Internet Monitor releases 2014 report

    December 17, 2014

    Internet Monitor, a research project based at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, recently published the project's second annual report, "Internet Monitor 2014: Reflections on the Digital World," a collection of roughly three dozen short contributions that highlight and discuss some of the most compelling events and trends in the digitally networked environment over the past year.

  • Berkman Center Kicks Off Digital Problem Solving Initiative

    September 12, 2014

    The Berkman Center for Internet and Society held a kickoff event for its Digital Problem Solving Initiative, a year-long program that brings together students and mentors from across the University to solve campus-wide issues through technology, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Gutman Library on Thursday. Following an introduction from Law School Dean Martha L. Minow and a lecture on best practices for entrepreneurship from Business School professor Thomas R. Eisenmann, students and advisors split up into eight teams focused on particular on-campus problems...Law School professor and Berkman Center Director Urs Gasser said the initiative not only aims to tackle problems across the University but also seeks to develop students “digital literacy skills.”

  • Elise Young ’14, David Gobaud ’15 and Lindsay Lin ’15: the law student members of Big Data

    Crossing Boundaries to Enforce Boundaries

    May 15, 2014

    When Elise Young ’14 describes the work she is doing with the Digital Problem Solving Initiative, or DPSI, it almost sounds as if she is telling a joke. Three Harvard Law School students, several computerscientists, a physicist and a design student walk into a room.

  • Urs Gasser

    Privacy (TBD): In the online space, what is private may depend on who you are and where you live

    May 15, 2014

    As Professor of Practice Urs Gasser sets up his PowerPoint and students deploy their notebooks and laptops, a riff of music drifts by. The tune soon reveals itself as a jazz version of the Beatles classic “Here, There and Everywhere”—a title that’s evocative of the global subject covered in this seminar, Comparative Online Privacy.

  • Berkman Center announces leadership transition

    April 18, 2014

    The Berkman Center for Internet & Society has announced a significant leadership transition as Professor William (Terry) Fisher steps down after 12 years as Chair of the Board of Directors and Professor Jonathan Zittrain, the co-founder of the Berkman Center and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School, assumes the role. The change will be effective as of July 1, 2014.

  • Harvard’s Berkman Center to launch global network focused on youth-oriented hate speech

    April 16, 2014

    The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has announced an effort to form a first-of-its-kind thematic network of experts, educators, practitioners, and ambassadors that will facilitate, promote, and strengthen collaboration to counter youth-oriented hate speech online.

  • Gasser appointed to Global Commission on Internet Governance’s new Research Advisory Network

    April 4, 2014

    Harvard Law School Professor of Practice Urs Gasser LL.M. ’03 is among the twenty-five distinguished scholars and internationally recognized experts appointed to the Global Commission on Internet Governance’s (GCIG) new Research Advisory Network (RAN).

  • Cravath Fellows explore robots in combat, international IP, and Aboriginal art

    March 25, 2014

    For Harvard Law School’s recipients of the Cravath International Fellowship, January’s three-week winter term is a chance to immerse themselves in an academic project with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. The experiences of three students illustrate the range and depth of the projects students pursue.