John Palfrey

John Palfrey

John Palfrey was born in 1972 and is an American author and educator, with expertise in the field of emerging information technologies. He is the fifteenth Head of School at Phillips Academy Andover. He previously served as executive director and is a faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He also served as vice dean for library and information resources and the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law, with tenure, at Harvard Law School He led a reorganization of the Harvard Law School Library in 2009. He is a principal investigator on the Open Net Initiative, a collaboration between Harvard University, the University of Toronto and the University of Cambridge that studies the internet filtering of countries such as China, Iran and Singapore, among others. He is the co-founder and served on the board of directors of StopBadware. Palfrey was one of the founders of The Digital Public Library of America and has served as the chair of its Steering Committee since that organization’s inception in 2010.

He is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy (1990), Harvard College (A.B. 1994), Pembroke College, Cambridge (M.Phil. 1997) as a Rotary Scholar, and Harvard Law School (J.D. 2001). Palfrey is an authority in the way that people use technology, relate to information, and engage in politics. In 2008, he served as the chair of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, a national effort in the United States to protect the safety of children online, which produced a controversial final report He has testified before the United States Congress on issues relating to child safety in a digital era. His co-authored book on youth and their use of technology, Born Digital, has been called “a landmark sociological study of today’s early adults.” Born Digital was also reviewed in Science and the Washington Post. Library Journal named Born Digital one of its top Science and Technology books for 2008, the only computer science book named to the prestigious list. His book has also been criticized for the use of the controversial term digital native.

Palfrey served as a visiting professor of Law and Information at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, in 2007 and 2008. He was one of the lawyers, along with Prof. William W. Fisher and the law firm Jones Day, on the pro bono team that defended the artist Shepard Fairey in his lawsuit with the Associated Press relating to the iconic “Hope” poster depicting then-Senator Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. John Palfrey’s work on the effect of Internet usage on democratic practice was cited as influential to the dissidents in Iran responsible for the Green Revolution. These references resulted in his being named, along with his colleague Ethan Zuckerman, as “conspirator” in the trials that took place in Iran in 2009 and 2010.

Palfrey is author, co-author, or editor of seven books. They include Access Denied (MIT Press, 2008), Access Controlled (MIT Press, 2010), Born Digital (Basic Books, 2008), Intellectual Property Strategy (MIT Press, 2012), and Interop (Basic Books, 2012).


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