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New Stanford Computing Lab Explores Technology, Ethics and More in the Mobile-Social Future
[May 19, 2011]

New Stanford Computing Lab Explores Technology, Ethics and More in the Mobile-Social Future

STANFORD, Calif. --(Business Wire)--

The Stanford University School of Engineering today announced the launch of MobiSocial Computing Laboratory, a collaboration between the researchers in the Stanford Computer Science Department along with scientists from leading industry corporations such as Google, Nokia, AVG Technologies and Sony Ericsson (News - Alert) Mobile Communications. MobiSocial will explore fundamental questions at the intersection of mobile communications and social networking.

At a recent kickoff event, MobiSocial's group of eminent computer scientists, graduate students, technology experts and industry representatives gathered to ask the most fundamental questions about social media and mobility: Can social be done better? Can it be even more social and more fun? Can it be more open? Can it be more secure? And, if so, how?

"Facebook (News - Alert), Flickr and Twitter are all fantastic ideas and transformative uses of technology," said Monica Lam, professor of computer science at Stanford's School of Engineering and faculty director of MobiSocial. "But people have rushed into proprietary playgrounds seemingly unconcerned about the consequences ranging from limited innovation to privacy."

Staggering figures

As of January 2011, the Facebook user base reached more than 600 million active users worldwide. One in ten people on the planet is registered and actively using the service. Like the Web before and, later, mobile phones, the shift to social media happened rapidly, before anyone could fully understand what such mass adoption might portend.

I fact, mobile social networking evolved at such a breakneck pace that critical questions surrounding the ethics of sharing information with a mobile/temporal component--location-informed, photos, status updates, and beyond--could only emerge retroactively. Technological advances and public adoption severely outstripped considerations of privacy and etiquette. MobiSocial aims to take an aggressive step ahead of the curve so that consumers are better protected as they venture onto the mobile social networking frontier.

Innovative new apps

Among other initiatives, MobiSocial is working to create a new class of mobile and social computing technology that works in consumers' interests while enabling all the positive aspects of social media - from ecommerce to more closely-knit social circles. In short, MobiSocial is about imagining and creating an open-source mobile-social media future.

That said, the team has already produced a suite of applications that define a new direction for anywhere-anytime communications while promoting innovation, fair competition, personal data security and, of course, privacy. They include:

  • Mr. Privacy, an open-source rethinking of social networking that enables the intuitive sharing of links, photos, music, videos and comments via e-mail, rather than on social networks themselves, so that users can avoid unwanted ads and involuntary placement into pre-selected networks.
  • SocialFlow, a Facebook app that helps users organize and manage their many social groups by looking at the images a person was tagged in recently and by analyzing their email traffic. The app then suggests sub-groups, which the user can further refine to better manage social interactions.

"MobiSocial is working to ensure that the exponential growth of mobile social networking plays out in an environment that is as intelligent and engaging as it is secure," said Karel Obluk, chief scientist at AVG Technologies. "AVG believes it has a responsibility to help promote the kind of technological leadership that keeps users and their information safe while allowing them a greater degree of joy and excitement over the sharing of information."

About MobiSocial

The work of MobiSocial Computing Laboratory is part of the National Science Foundation's Programmable Open Mobile (News - Alert) Internet (POMI) 2020 Expedition, which works to remove barriers to innovation through creation of open standards and systems. The MobiSocial Computing Laboratory is a collaboration between the Stanford Computer Science Department along with scientists from leading industry corporations such as AVG Technologies, Google, Nokia (News - Alert) and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications. For more information, please visit

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