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Announcing a Competition for Ethics in Computer Science, with up to $3.5 Million in Prizes

wo, 10/10/2018 - 14:00
The Responsible Computer Science Challenge — by Omidyar Network, Mozilla, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies — calls on professors to integrate ethics into undergraduate computer science courses


With great code comes great responsibility.

Today, computer scientists wield tremendous power. The code they write can be used by billions of people, and influence everything from what news stories we read, to what personal data companies collect, to who gets parole, insurance or housing loans

Software can empower democracy, heighten opportunity, and connect people continents away. But when it isn’t coupled with responsibility, the results can be drastic. In recent years, we’ve watched biased algorithms and broken recommendation engines radicalize users, promote racism, and spread misinformation.

That’s why Omidyar Network, Mozilla, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies are launching the Responsible Computer Science Challenge: an ambitious initiative to integrate ethics and accountability into undergraduate computer science curricula and pedagogy at U.S. colleges and universities, with up to $3.5 million in prizes.

Says Kathy Pham, computer scientist and Mozilla Fellow co-leading the challenge:

“In a world where software is entwined with much of our lives, it is not enough to simply know what software can do. We must also know what software should and shouldn’t do, and train ourselves to think critically about how our code can be used. Students of computer science go on to be the next leaders and creators in the world, and must understand how code intersects with human behavior, privacy, safety, vulnerability, equality, and many other factors.”

Pham adds: “Just like how algorithms, data structures, and networking are core computer science classes, we are excited to help empower faculty to also teach ethics and responsibility as an integrated core tenet of the curriculum.”

Pham is currently a Senior Fellow and Adjunct Lecturer at Harvard University, and an alum of Google, IBM, and the United States Digital Service at the White House. She will work closely with Responsible Computer Science applicants and winners.

Says Paula Goldman, Global Lead of the Tech and Society Solutions Lab at Omidyar Network: “To ensure technology fulfills its potential as a positive force in the world, we are supporting the growth of a tech movement that is guided by the emerging mantra to move purposefully and fix things. Treating ethical reflection and discernment as an opt-in sends the wrong message to computer science students: that ethical thinking can be an ancillary exploration or an afterthought, that it’s not part and parcel of making code in the first place. Our hope is that this effort helps ensure that the next generation of tech leaders is deeply connected to the societal implications of the products they build.”

Says Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies: “As an engineer, when you build something, you can’t predict all of the consequences of what you’ve made; there’s always something. Nowadays, we engineers have to understand the importance and impact of new technologies. We should aspire to create products that are fair to and respectful of people of all backgrounds, products that make life better and do no harm.”

Says Thomas Kalil, Chief Innovation Officer at Schmidt Futures: “Information and communication technologies are transforming our economy, society, politics, and culture. It is critical that we equip the next generation of computer scientists with the tools to advance the responsible development of these powerful technologies – both to maximize the upside and understand and manage the risks.”

Says Mary L. Gray, a Responsible Computer Science Challenge judge: “Computer science and engineering have deep domain expertise in securing and protecting data. But when it comes to drawing on theories and methods that attend to people’s ethical rights and social needs, CS and engineering programs are just getting started. This challenge will help the disciplines of CS and engineering identify the best ways to teach the next generation of technologists what they need to know to build more socially responsible and equitable technologies for the future.”

(Gray is senior researcher at Microsoft Research; fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; and associate professor in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering with affiliations in Anthropology and Gender Studies at Indiana University.)

The Responsible Computer Science Challenge is launching alongside an open letter signed by 35 industry leaders, calling for more responsibility in computer science curricula.

Responsible Computer Science Challenge details

Through the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, Omidyar Network, Mozilla, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies are supporting the conceptualization, development, and piloting of curricula that integrate ethics with computer science. Our hope is that this coursework will not only be implemented, but also scaled to colleges and universities across the country — and beyond.

Between December 2018 and July 2020, we will award up to $3.5 million in prizes to promising proposals. The challenge is open to both individual professors or collaborative teams consisting of professors, graduate students, and teaching assistants. We’re seeking educators who are passionate about teaching not only computer science, but how it can be deployed in a responsible, positive way.

The challenge consists of two stages:

In Stage 1, we will seek concepts for deeply integrating ethics into existing undergraduate computer science courses, either through syllabi changes (e.g. including a reading or exercise on ethics in each class meeting) or teaching methodology adjustments (e.g. pulling teaching assistants from ethics departments). Stage 1 winners will receive up to $150,000 each to develop and pilot their ideas. Winners will be announced in April 2019.

In Stage 2, we will support the spread and scale of the most promising approaches developed in Stage 1. Stage 2 winners will receive up to $200,000 each and will be announced in summer 2020.

Projects will be judged by an external review committee of academics, tech industry leaders, and others, who will use evaluation criteria developed jointly by Omidyar Network and Mozilla.

Judges include Bobby Schnabel, professor of computer science at the University of Colorado Boulder and former president of ACM; Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College; Joshua Cohen, Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society at Stanford University; Brenda Darden Wilkerson, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute; and others.

We are accepting Initial Funding Concepts for Stage 1 now through December 13, 2018. Apply.


Pham concludes: “In the short term, we can create a new wave of engineers. In the long term, we can create a culture change in Silicon Valley and beyond — and as a result, a healthier internet.”

The Responsible Computer Science Challenge is part of Mozilla’s mission to empower the people and projects on the front lines of internet health work. Other recent awards include our WINS Challenges — which connect unconnected Americans — and the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund.

Omidyar Network’s Tech and Society Solutions Lab draws on Omidyar Network’s long-standing belief in the promise of technology to create opportunity and social good, as well as the concern about unintended consequences that can result from technological innovation. The team aims to help technologists prevent, mitigate, and correct societal downsides of technology — and maximize positive impact.


Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. Omidyar Network has committed more than $1 billion to for- profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Digital Identity, Education, Emerging Tech, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights. You can learn more here:



Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative, founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, that seeks to improve societal outcomes through the thoughtful development of emerging science and technologies that can benefit humanity. As a venture facility for public benefit, they invest risk capital in the most promising ideas and exceptional people across disciplines. Learn more at



Craig Newmark Philanthropies was created by craigslist founder Craig Newmark to support and connect people and drive broad civic engagement. The organization works to advance people and grassroots organizations that are getting stuff done in areas that include trustworthy journalism, voter protection, gender diversity in technology, and veterans and military families. For more information, please visit:

The post Announcing a Competition for Ethics in Computer Science, with up to $3.5 Million in Prizes appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.

Categorieën: Mozilla-nl planet

New Firefox Focus comes with search suggestions, revamped visual design and an under-the-hood surprise for Android users

di, 02/10/2018 - 15:00

When we first launched Firefox Focus, we wanted to quickly deliver a streamlined private browsing experience for your mobile device. Since then, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people use Focus for more than just private browsing and we’ve made Focus better with a thoughtful set of features based on what our users are telling us. Custom tabs, tracker counter, full screen mode and so much more have been the result. Today, we’re pleased to announce another big update with another much-requested feature, a design refresh, and an exciting change to the underlying technology behind Focus for Android.

Learn more: search suggestions and home screen tips

Missed one of the feature releases? No problem! Now, we’re going to present the core functionalities of Firefox Focus on the start screen to give an overview of the whole range of possibilities your privacy browser has to offer  in a clear and unobtrusive way, not interrupting the usage at all and automatically refreshing after each click on the Erase button.

Just open the browser and you’ll see helpful feature recommendations in your preferred language on the Firefox Focus start screen (Android). For iOS users, the feature is currently available in English language.

Search suggestions are a key part of web search that can make searching more convenient.  Easily activate the feature by opening the app settings > “Search” > select the checkbox “Get search suggestions”.

We’re aware that privacy is a top priority for many Firefox Focus users and you might not want to share what you’re typing in the address bar with your search provider. So, the feature is turned “off” by default and we let you choose whether or not you want to turn it on. Why? Because that’s our style!

 Find what you’re looking for quickly – with search recommendations.

Siri Shortcuts for iOS users

In addition to home screen tips, iOS users will receive another much asked feature with today’s release: Siri Shortcuts. Siri is one of the more popular features on iOS devices and we’re all about ease for our users. So, in order to improve the Firefox Focus for iOS user experience further, you’ll now be able to set and open a favorite website, erase and open Firefox Focus, as well as erase in the background via shortcuts.

In line with updated designs

Style is key to today’s Firefox Focus release: the browser’s visual design is now completely optimized for the recently released Android Pie. New icons, a customized URL bar and a simplified settings menu make it easier to use and provide for a consistent user experience.

But no need for iOS users to feel left out: the new Firefox Focus has a fresh look for iOS 12.

Presentation matters: the new Firefox Focus comes with an updated design system, optimized for Android Pie (left) and iOS 12 (right).

A new engine for the Firefox Android browsers

While the new app design is obviously an eye-catcher, we’ve also made a groundbreaking change to the underlying Firefox Focus framework that’s not visible at first glance  but will make a huge difference in future releases. Focus is now based on GeckoView, Mozilla’s own mobile engine, making it a pioneer among our Android apps.

Switching to GeckoView will give Focus the benefits of Gecko’s Quantum improvements and enables Mozilla to implement unique privacy-enhancing features in the future, such as reducing the potential of third party collection. For now, you won’t notice much, but you’ll be helping us create the next generation of Firefox browsers just by using Focus, and we’ll return the favor by giving our Focus users unique features that other browsers on Android simply won’t be able to offer.

We’ll make sure to keep you updated on the progress as well as all new developments around Firefox Focus on this blog and are looking forward to your feedback! For now, if you’d like to learn more about the future of our privacy browser, please have a look at this post on the Mozilla Hacks Blog.

Get Firefox Focus now

The latest version of Firefox Focus for Android and iOS is now available for download on Google Play, in the App Store and now also in the Samsung store.

The post New Firefox Focus comes with search suggestions, revamped visual design and an under-the-hood surprise for Android users appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.

Categorieën: Mozilla-nl planet

25,000 Americans Urge Venmo to Update Its Privacy Settings

do, 27/09/2018 - 15:00
Also: A new Mozilla-Ipsos poll reveals a majority of respondents want privacy, and not publicity, as their default setting online


Earlier this week, Mozilla visited Venmo’s headquarters in New York City and delivered a petition signed by more than 25,000 Americans. The petition urges the payment app to put users’ privacy first and make Venmo transactions private by default.

Also this week: A new poll from Mozilla and Ipsos reveals that 77% of respondents believe payment apps should not make transaction details public by default. (More on our poll results below.)

Millions of Venmo users’ spending habits are available for anyone to see. That’s because Venmo transactions are currently public by default — unless users manually update their settings, anyone, anywhere can see whom they’re sending money to, and why.

Mozilla’s petition urges Venmo to change these settings. By making privacy the default, Venmo can better protect its seven million users — and send a powerful message about the importance of privacy. But so far, Venmo hasn’t formally responded to our petition and to the 25,000 Americans who signed their names.

Earlier this year, Mozilla Fellow Hang Do Thi Duc exposed the serious implications of Venmo’s settings. Her project, Public By Default, revealed how Venmo users’ drug habits, junk food vices, personal finances, and fights with significant others are available for all to see. Here’s what TV reporters had to say about Hang’s findings:


Mozilla and Ipsos conducted an opinion poll this month, asking 1,009 Americans how they feel about the policy of “public by default.” Americans’ opinions were clear:

77% of respondents believe payment apps should not make transaction details public by default.

92% of respondents do not support Venmo’s justification for making transactions public by default. (In July, Venmo told CNET that transactions should be public because “it’s fun to share [information] with friends in the social world.”)

89% of respondents believe the most responsible default setting for payment apps is for transactions to be visible only to those involved.

Find the full poll results here.

The post 25,000 Americans Urge Venmo to Update Its Privacy Settings appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.

Categorieën: Mozilla-nl planet