Princeton will establish a technology and democracy program within the University’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP), a leading authority on issues related to artificial intelligence, internet privacy and security, big data, cryptocurrencies and the impact of digital technologies on society.
The new program, made possible by a gift from an anonymous donor, will include a first-of-its-kind technology policy clinic that will enable technical specialists to provide nonpartisan studies and expertise on emerging technologies to federal, state and local policymakers so that elected officials can make better informed decisions on behalf of the public. In addition, the gift will allow CITP to award fellowships that support in-depth policy training for graduate students in technology disciplines, and provide the foundation for more expansive projects.
“This new support will greatly increase CITP’s capacity to provide independent, rigorous insight into technology policy challenges and their relationship to current political, economic and social debates — especially potential technological threats to the democratic process,” said Ed Felten, the center’s director and the Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs.
Founded at Princeton University in 2007, CITP is an interdisciplinary center supported by the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In the past decade, the center has become a leader in research that examines how digital technologies interact with society, including studies that analyze security weaknesses in smart, networked devices and the vulnerability of electronic voting machines. The center is unique among institutions examining technology policy in being strongly grounded in technological expertise.
“This gift will amplify Princeton’s leadership in training the next generation of technology policy experts,” said Emily Carter, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment, and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and computational mathematics. “Our track record for interdisciplinary work places us in a unique position to investigate the complex issues that are at the nexus of technology, engineering, policy and the social sciences.”
The new technology policy clinic will be modeled after law school clinics, inviting scholars to share their research about real-world policy with organizations dedicated to serving the public good.
“As technology increasingly influences every aspect of society, there is an urgent need for objective professionals in government and the nonprofit sector who can navigate both technology and public policy,” said Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Lawrence and Shirley Katzman and Lewis and Anna Ernst Professor in the Economics of Education, and professor of economics and public affairs. “This generous contribution boosts CITP’s ability to educate computer scientists on the policy issues at the core of their research, and to provide government officials and policy leaders with the technical knowledge necessary to develop effective guidelines and programs.”
Each fellow supported by this gift will be a doctoral student from a computer science, engineering or mathematics background who can further explore the policy implications of advanced technologies.
“Their research will help inform policies that leverage the benefits of these new tools while protecting against threats to privacy and security,” Felten said. “It’s imperative now more than ever to examine and understand the consequences of digital technology and empower policymakers to make informed decisions. This gift will have a profound and long-lasting impact on our ability to investigate and educate.”