Chosen Tasks

Reading : Nothing To Hide
Reading : Data And Goliath
edX Course : Philosophy and Critical Thinking

Task 1 - Three Articles

Little privacy in the age of big data

This article talks about the situation with data and privacy as it was in the mid-2014 period. I think this is still relevant as we can understand where is the current situation coming from.

The article emphasizes on adopting new laws which would regulate the collection, use and trading of personal data. However, the problem in doing this is that the legal scope here resides across continents and jurisdictions.

The article also talks about the political aspect of creating standards like making HTTPS browsing a default as compared to HTTP. Also, the social aspect of people actually understanding what these technologies are and why should they be adopted. It also questions the effectiveness of mass data surveillance to prevent acts of terrorism, whether it is effective or not.

DEF CON 23 - Bruce Schneier - Questions and Answers

Interesting and thought provoking YouTube video where Bruce Schneier answers various questions about things related to data and privacy. Some of them are,
Does cryptography really secure personal privacy?
Importance of preventing bulk access to data as compared to targeted access.
How ISIS is training people through social media.
Schneier says, 'Good security is something which doesn't show how it is working, but just works effectively in the background.'
He also talks on why society works and says it is because 'most of us are honest'.
He talks about hacking IoT, trusted encryption algorithms. Also, how law is subverting technology, governments are asking companies to break encryption and lie to customers that their data is secure.
He focuses on the need to have backdoor evident algorithms as compared to backdoor proof algorithms. This means that it should show up in some way if a backdoor has been installed in a secure system.
He also talks about the importance of privacy and the disadvantage of saying 'I don't have anything to hide' among many other things.

Report to Barack Obama on Big Data and Privacy by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)

PCAST is a group of people appointed as advisors by the President of the United States. PCAST is responsible for recommendations and policy formation process related science, technology and innovation.

This report written for the President of the United States discusses multiple aspects of big data and privacy including things happening today, scenarios of the near future in healthcare and education sectors, tradeoffs among privacy, security and convenience, sources of personal data, big data analytics, the infrastructure behind big data, technologies and strategies for privacy protection, cryptography, encryption etc.

It mentions five recommendations for the Government of the US, one of them being, “Policy attention should focus more on the actual uses of big data and less on its collection and analysis.”

Task 2 - Report on Degrees of Separation (Facebook)

Proof of Completion for the edX Course

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Four Exam Questions

Question 1: Explain the various methods of critical thinking (debate, individual decisions, group discussion, persuasion, propaganda, coercion and combination of methods) in your own words.

Importance: In order to carry out actual critical thinking and argumentation, it is essential to know the various methods of critical thinking. This questions aims at understanding the level of understanding of the answerer about the methods of critical thinking. The answer to this question can be found in the book 'Argumentation and Debates', chapter 1, by Freeley and Steinberg.

Question 2: Explain the various obstacles to clear thinking. (fallacies of evidence, reasoning, language and pseudoarguments)

Importance: It is of critical importance that we understand the obstacles which stop us from thinking clearly. As a result, we can think clearly and have productive arguments and debates. This question encourages exactly that. The answer to this question can be found in the book 'Argumentation and Debates', chapter 10, by Freeley and Steinberg.

Question 3: Consider the statement, 'I have nothing to hide from anyone.' Is this a valid and a sound conclusion? Justify your answer.

Importance: Everyone has an opinion on the statement mentioned in the question. There is a set of people who think it is valid and sound, some don't. It provides a good practicing opportunity for the answerer in order to carry out critical thinking and argumentation.

Question 4: Is 'whistleblowing' (corporate and governmental) ethical? Justify your opinion.

Importance: This is a controversial topic and there are various views on whether whistleblowing is ethical or not. For example, some people regard Edward Snowden as hero, whereas some people call him a traitor. This question provides a good opportunity to think critically.