Two Harvard Computer Science Department Members Named Association for Computing Machinery Fellows

Two current members of Harvard’s Computer Science Department, Professor Margo I. Seltzer and Visiting Scholar Susan Landau, were named fellows by the Association for Computing Machinery on Wednesday.

Seltzer and Landau were recognized for “contributions to data management and computing systems,” and “public policy leadership in security and privacy,” respectively.

ACM is “an educational and scientific society uniting the world’s computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field’s challenges,” according to its website. The leading one percent of ACM members are honored with fellow titles. This year, the group named 41 fellows, according to a press release.

Seltzer said her work focuses on promoting computer performance and reliability. One of her goals, she said, is to improve the storage process for digital objects such as documents or videos.

“Anything you want to keep on the computer has to be stored somewhere,” she said. “People in the field have been trying to figure out how to do it efficiently and reliably.”

In this case, “efficiency” refers to the performance level of a back-up system while “reliability” means the ability to retrieve data in the event of a crash, she explained.

Seltzer said she also works on developing the capability to trace the history of digital data.

“Software we use every day does very little with data provenance,” she says. “My group has been working on ways to make the history of data transparent and for systems to collect provenance.”

Landau’s work approaches digital security and privacy from two different angles. She described her area of research as “the intersection of policy issues and technical issues,” a field which she said is unique for a computer scientist.

Landau said she has an academic interest in computer wiretapping practices, adding that she is wary of the FBI’s desire to include wiretapping mechanisms in all digital switches. While such built-in mechanisms would enable the FBI to gain access to important digital information, they would also make it easier for outside hackers to access it, according to Landau.

“My long term interest is cyber security and having a secure, open network that is also privacy protecting,” she said. “Often security and privacy are seen as at odds but I believe that in many cases, especially in national security issues, security and privacy are the same thing.”

—Staff writer Alyza J. Sebenius can be reached at


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