Jonathan Zittrain

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Jonathan Zittrain

Technology Guru & Digital Futurist; Renowned Cybersecurity Expert; Harvard Professor of International Law, Policy & Computer Science; Master Moderator

Biography

One of the world’s leading scholars and voices on the impact of digital technology – from the Internet of Things to Big Data, to artificial intelligence, cyber threats and security – Jonathan Zittrain employs decades of experience interrogating and influencing the legal, technological and world-shaping aspects of virtual terrains.

A highly regarded teacher, speaker and master moderator, Zittrain provides diverse audiences with an inside look at the future of work, and what to expect from recent advances in AI and digital platforms. He is a founding director of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where he anchors various disciplines throughout Harvard as professor of international law and director of the Harvard Law School Library, the largest private law library in the world; professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Prior to joining Harvard, he was Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University.

Zittrain has advised the U.S. government and also is a member of the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), with a unique perspective on how policymakers grapple with cutting-edge issues such as privacy and cybersecurity. His wide-ranging research projects at Harvard give him insight into a range of digital infrastructure issues, including censorship and filtering for content control, privacy and free speech. His book, “The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It” (Yale University Press and Penguin UK, 2009), was, in the words of critics, an “essential” work, a “resounding wake-up call” to arms to protect the Internet’s openness by rescuing it from forces that wish to constrain or privatize it – forces gaining in momentum today.

Furthering this cause, Zittrain co-edited three ground-breaking studies that were the first to quantify Internet filtering by national governments, all published by MIT Press: “Access Denied” (2008), “Access Controlled” (2010), and “Access Contested” (2011). Among his other future-thinking digital initiatives are projects to produce simple, unobtrusive, and novel collaborative tools for university classrooms (H2O); to support open content by tracking legal threats to individual users (lumendatabase.org); to monitor Internet censorship in real time (thenetmonitor.org), and to combat extensive link rot throughout the Web (Perma.cc).

As a sought-after advisor to governments and organizations, Zittrain chaired the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s Open Internet Advisory Committee. He has also served on the Board of Advisors for Scientific American and is a former Trustee of the Internet Society (ISOC). For more than 10 years, he has been a faculty fellow of the World Economic Forum, where he was named a Young Global Leader, chairing the Global Agenda Council on the future of the Internet.

Videos

Articles

Just Security logo

Mass Hacks of Private Email Aren’t Whistleblowing, They are at Odds With It.

October 19, 2016

The Atlantic logo

A Grand Bargain to Make Tech Companies Trustworthy

October 3, 2016

Harvard Law Today logo

Why the internet matters: a talk by Jonathan Zittrain

September 14, 2016

Apple's Conflict With The FBI Over Unlocking An iPhone Is A 'Bellwether', Not The 'Case Of The Century'

March 8, 2016

harvard law school

Apple Bites Back: Zittrain, Sulmeyer on the Privacy-Security Showdown Between the Tech Giant and FBI

February 19, 2016

WBUR radio logo

Balancing Privacy And Security In Apple, FBI Fight Over Encryption

February 18, 2016

lawfare logo

The Good News and the Troubling News: We’re Not Going Dark

February 1, 2016

bbc capital logo

This Is Why You Should 'Advertise Your Ignorance'

January 22, 2016

Just Security logo

A Few Keystrokes Could Solve the Crime. Would You Press Enter?

January 12, 2016

Podcast: Harvard Law's Jonathan Zittrain Defends Libraries — Yes, Even The BPL

June 16, 2015

New Republic logo

Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out

June 1, 2015

The Future of Net Neutrality, with Jonathan Zittrain

March 24, 2015

The Case for Kill Switches in Military Weaponry

September 3, 2014

Confidential Info Threatened, but Technology Can Help

June 8, 2014

New York Times logo

Don’t Force Google to ‘Forget’

May 14, 2014

wamc northeast public radio logo

Stopping Link Rot: Aiming To End A Virtual Epidemic

April 26, 2014

Intensifying Cyber Threats

January 22, 2014

Looking at the Future of the TV

January 6, 2014

Digital Books Are Under The Control Of Distributors Rather Than Readers

July 8, 2013

Don't Let Software Patents Stop Us Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

April 18, 2012

harvard law school

The Personal Computer Is Dead

November 30, 2011

Technology Lessons from the Wikileaks Saga

August 5, 2010

Biography

One of the world’s leading scholars and voices on the impact of digital technology – from the Internet of Things to Big Data, to artificial intelligence, cyber threats and security – Jonathan Zittrain employs decades of experience interrogating and influencing the legal, technological and world-shaping aspects of virtual terrains.

A highly regarded teacher, speaker and master moderator, Zittrain provides diverse audiences with an inside look at the future of work, and what to expect from recent advances in AI and digital platforms. He is a founding director of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where he anchors various disciplines throughout Harvard as professor of international law and director of the Harvard Law School Library, the largest private law library in the world; professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Prior to joining Harvard, he was Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University.

Zittrain has advised the U.S. government and also is a member of the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), with a unique perspective on how policymakers grapple with cutting-edge issues such as privacy and cybersecurity. His wide-ranging research projects at Harvard give him insight into a range of digital infrastructure issues, including censorship and filtering for content control, privacy and free speech. His book, “The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It” (Yale University Press and Penguin UK, 2009), was, in the words of critics, an “essential” work, a “resounding wake-up call” to arms to protect the Internet’s openness by rescuing it from forces that wish to constrain or privatize it – forces gaining in momentum today.

Furthering this cause, Zittrain co-edited three ground-breaking studies that were the first to quantify Internet filtering by national governments, all published by MIT Press: “Access Denied” (2008), “Access Controlled” (2010), and “Access Contested” (2011). Among his other future-thinking digital initiatives are projects to produce simple, unobtrusive, and novel collaborative tools for university classrooms (H2O); to support open content by tracking legal threats to individual users (lumendatabase.org); to monitor Internet censorship in real time (thenetmonitor.org), and to combat extensive link rot throughout the Web (Perma.cc).

As a sought-after advisor to governments and organizations, Zittrain chaired the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s Open Internet Advisory Committee. He has also served on the Board of Advisors for Scientific American and is a former Trustee of the Internet Society (ISOC). For more than 10 years, he has been a faculty fellow of the World Economic Forum, where he was named a Young Global Leader, chairing the Global Agenda Council on the future of the Internet.

Speech Topics

Automation and Algorithms in the Digital Age

As the use of sophisticated algorithms, machine learning, bots, and intelligent systems rise, so too do the strategic responsibilities of the leaders who manage them. CIOs have special insights -­ and corresponding responsibilities ­- around the application and development of these new technologies for business use. Smart algorithms running on large data sets may spur powerful, and at times unsettling, insights. If great knowledge represents great power, how should we think about AI’s wise use?

The Future of the Internet—And How To Stop It

Drawing from his recent book, Jonathan Zittrain examines the Internet of today, which has catapulted from backwater to ubiquity—and reveals that it is threatened precisely because of its runaway success. With the unwitting help of its users, the generative Internet is on a path to lockdown, ending its cycle of innovation and facilitating unsettling new kinds of control.

Zittrain believes we don’t see clearly what we risk losing. iPods, iPhones, Xboxes and TiVos represent the first wave of Internet-centered products that can’t be easily modified by anyone except their vendors or selected partners. These “tethered appliances” have already been used in remarkable but little-known ways: car GPS systems have been reconfigured at the demand of law enforcement to eavesdrop on occupants and digital video recorders have been ordered to self-destruct thanks to a lawsuit against the manufacturer thousands of miles away. New Web 2.0 platforms like Google mash-ups and Facebook are rightly touted—but their applications can be similarly monitored and eliminated from a central source. As tethered appliances and applications eclipse the PC, the very nature of the Internet—its “generativity,” or innovative character—is at risk.

The Big Questions About Big Data

The power of big data has been alternately overestimated and underappreciated. But its use is becoming routine, and patterns are being established now that may last years or decades.  What are the most important long-term issues arising from the widespread accretion and use of big databases and powerful tools with which to analyze them, and how might they be addressed?

Cyber Threats and Terrorism: Are We Secure?

In the wake of WikiLeaks and China hacking American computer networks, cyber security continues to be a hot policy and legal issue. The challenges are real and plentiful: while the openness of PCs and the Internet has spawned an abundance of connectivity and creativity, it has also brought a growing scourge of spam, viruses, identity theft and cyber-terrorism. But in the face of such threats, the answer is not a move toward simpler, locked-down devices in exchange for security, Jonathan Zittrain argues. He discusses the false starts in understanding the simultaneously underappreciated and overhyped fields of cyber security and cyber warfare, and offers a view on where the deepest problems lie – and how to address them. Should we be afraid? Are we prepared?

  • Cyber Terrorism and Technology Infrastructure Protection: Why is the government so deeply concerned about it, while proposing only a “partnership” to deal with it?
  • Civil Liberties: Zittrain paints a picture of the surveillance society to come and highlights the ethical implications.
  • The Cantonized Internet: Get ready for filters left and right—ideological, mercenary, governmental, and ultimately our own, as the idea of a “generally accessible” web site available on “the” Internet recedes into the past.

Minds for Sale: The Rise of Distributed Labor

The cloud is not just for computing anymore; you can now find as much mindshare as you can afford there, too. A new range of projects is making the application of human brainpower as purchasable as additional server rackspace. What arises is ubiquitous human computing, enabling individuals and organizations to network and distribute mindpower as a global fungible resource. The result is brainpower applied to problems as varied as aerospace technology (X-Prize), chemistry (Innocentive), and micro labor (Amazon Mechanical Turk). What are some of the issues arising as armies of thinkers are recruited by the thousands and millions? How might this phenomenon do great good, but also potential harm? Jonathan Zittrain offers a provocative view of a future in which nearly any mental act can be bought and sold.

Articles

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

“Jonathan was superb. We have never had such a high quality series of executives sharing meaningful insights together in one room like that before in our 9+ year history of doing this. Definitely a format we intend to replicate in other events going forward.”

—Michael Alcock, Microsoft

“These days, it’s hard to be surprised/amazed about new technologies or disruptions that might come true in the near future, but Jonathan’s speech gave me a whole perspective about things I wasn’t even aware of. It’s not only what he says – which is amazing and truly interesting, it’s how he communicates.”

—Romulo Rejon, Telefonica

Selected “100 Top Global Thinker”

—Foreign Policy, November 2012

“Thanks so much for your wonderful presentation today! Our members loved it and many told me it was THE best presentation they have heard in the 10 years of the Corporate Directors Group! Not only did we all learn a lot, but your skilled delivery, laced with great humor, was fun to hear.”

—Clint Allen, Corporate Directors Group

“Jonathan Zittrain is the ultimate law-tech-policy triple-threat. He teaches internet law at Harvard Law School and at the Kennedy School, is professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and faculty co-director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He’s done interesting work on the possibilities and implications of crowdsourcing, and wrote a cautionary tale about risks of internet capture and lockdown called “The Future of the Internet–and How to Stop It.” Technology advances quickly, and so do the legal frameworks we use to understand it. But Jonathan seems to be living in the future and explaining it to us in the present. Which is cool.”

—Recognized by Fastcase 50, 2011

“The highlight was hearing a keynote from Jonathan Zittrain on “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it.” He was so entertaining and informative. If you ever have a chance to hear him, take it. We shouldn’t believe that the Net will always be what we have now, plus more. Between aggressive government regulators, technology “advances,” cautious administrators and political pressure groups, we could end up with less, not more, in the future.”

—Jim Calloway, about keynote at LTNY

Awarded Young Global Leader of Tomorrow

— World Economic Forum

“Excellent topic – Professor Zittrain was outstanding – and a relevant topic, we should keep on our agenda.”

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Zittrain, Jonathan

Intro Video

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Scholarship on Digital Issues and Digital Issues for Scholarship