As online harms surge, “Our Better Web” initiative advances at UC Berkeley

With the U.S. midterm elections approaching and political disinformation posing a continued threat to democracy, UC Berkeley’s ambitious new Our Better Web initiative is advancing efforts to study and combat online harms. The initiative, launched on a small scale in April, is releasing its first set of projects, including a look at the prevalence of content that promotes deception, discrimination and child exploitation. Other new projects are assessing laws that pertain to online harmful content and the content- moderation strategies used by online platforms.

Computational Precision Health program welcomes new faculty, invites Ph.D. applicants aiming to transform health care

Applications have opened for the UCSF-UC Berkeley Joint Program in Computational Precision Health’s (CPH) first Ph.D. cohort. “It’s one of the best computational schools in the world and one of the best medical schools in the world coming together to create this interdisciplinary ecosystem,” said Adam Yala, one of three assistant professors in the inaugural group of core faculty for the CPH program. Yala and Ahmed Alaa joined the program this summer, and Irene Chen will join in July 2023. All three see diversity and equity as crucial to their emerging field. “What does it mean to deploy a healthcare algorithm and make sure that it is helping people instead of hurting them?” asked Chen.

EPIC Data Lab: Harnessing the power of computer science to help society

A new UC Berkeley lab is building data tools that allow people without programming backgrounds to benefit from the latest computer science advances. The EPIC Data Lab – short for Effective Programming, Interaction, and Computation with Data–– is collaborating with end-users like public defenders to understand what important messy data challenges exist in their fields. The researchers use cutting-edge machine learning, data management and computer-aided programming techniques to address those issues. Then they work with partners to build user experiences that fit their needs.

Sandrine Dudoit named Associate Dean for Faculty and Research at CDSS

UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) has named Sandrine Dudoit the associate dean for faculty and research. A professor in the Department of Statistics, the School of Public Health’s Division of Biostatistics and the Center for Computational Biology, Dudoit served as chair for the Statistics Department from July 2019 until June 2022. Dudoit will work closely with Jennifer Chayes, associate provost for CDSS, and department chairs across a range of initiatives, including faculty recruitment, appointment and advancement. She will also support Chayes with faculty issues connected to the formation of the new college.

Faster, more secure approach to machine learning helps safeguard private information

Keeping sensitive data safe has sometimes come at the expense of speed when training machines to perform automated tasks like biometric authentication and financial fraud detection. Now, Berkeley researchers have solved this issue by devising a practical way to keep data secure while training neural networks. In a study presented at the 2022 USENIX Security Symposium, Raluca Ada Popa, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, and her Ph.D. student, Jean-Luc Watson, described their innovative privacy-preserving approach to machine learning. They introduced a new platform, dubbed Piranha, that harnesses the speed of graphics processing units (GPUs) to train a realistic neural network on encrypted data for the first time.

Fellowship recipient aims to effect change in education for underrepresented students

Noor-Ul-Ain Ali, ’22, practically grew up in the shadow of the Campanile, in the neighboring east bay city of El Cerrito, and says that her first glimpse of what it might be like to go to college was as a participant in the University of California’s Early Academic Outreach Program, which assists underserved high school students with access to higher education. She didn’t even consider exploring STEM classes when she arrived at Berkeley as a first year student suffering from imposter syndrome, and she certainly had no plans to attend data science classes.

UC Berkeley researchers win $5M to launch center that advances decentralization technology

UC Berkeley and Imperial College London have won $5 million to create an international, interdisciplinary center aimed at advancing decentralization technology that offers users more control of their data, the Algorand Foundation announced today. The Berkeley Center for Responsible Decentralized Intelligence-Imperial London College Algorand Center of Excellence will – through research, education and events – help democratize access to data and ensure that data remains secure. These tools can be applied to digital ledgers like the blockchain Algorand created for cryptocurrency.

Just for you

Scrolling through content selected “just for you” on social media feeds seems like a harmless pastime. But new research shows that some algorithms go from recommending content that matches our preferences to recommending content that shapes our preferences in potentially harmful ways. In a study presented at the 2022 International Conference on Machine Learning, a UC Berkeley-led research team revealed that certain recommender systems try to manipulate user preferences, beliefs, mood and psychological state. In response, the researchers proposed a way for companies to choose algorithms that more closely follow a user’s natural preference evolution.

Craig Newmark gives Berkeley $2M for university cybersecurity clinics

Craig Newmark Philanthropies (CNP), the grantmaking organization launched by the founder of craigslist, has announced a three-year, $1.725M commitment to support the newly established Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, a network of organizations working to expand cybersecurity clinics at colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world. Similar to clinics in schools of law and medicine, cybersecurity clinics provide students with hands-on experience as they work to strengthen the digital defenses of nonprofits, hospitals, municipalities, small businesses, small critical infrastructure providers, and other under-resourced organizations.

I School scholar shares what you need to know about data privacy

The U.S. constitution grants citizens a right to privacy. But in this new era where our lives increasingly include computers and data capture, legislators, regulators and others are grappling to define how the public’s right to privacy translates to these mediums. We spoke to Sophia Baik, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley School of Information’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, about data privacy and why it matters to the public.