Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Balancing technology risks and benefits in elections

March 2, 2015, 10:01 p.m., Posted by Jeremy Epstein

Photo by Theresa Thompson on Flickr

Jeremy Epstein is a senior computer scientist with SRI International in Arlington, Va., where his research topics includes voting system security. Below he writes on this topic for Knight News Challenge: Elections, which asks the question, How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections? Winners will share in more than $3 million. Apply at

Elections are one of the last institutions where computing and the Internet have not made significant inroads for most people. While we bank online, shop online, and even pay our taxes online, some aspects of voting are decidedly offline.

This isn’t an accident; the requirements for privacy and anonymity in elections are fundamentally different than for any other aspect of our lives. And the stakes – our democracy – are among the highest, with a centuries-long history of people interfering with elections proving that the motivation is present to interfere with fair elections. The odds of rapid detection of a successful attack on an election are slim; the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other sources report that most attacks on corporations and government offices aren’t detected until months after they happen, even with the most sophisticated monitoring software and well-qualified staff. State and local elections offices have limited technology budgets, far smaller than banks and insurance companies that are regularly targeted by (and fall victim to) hackers and online thieves. 

Urban League program encourages Akron, Ohio, startups

March 2, 2015, 4 p.m., Posted by Susan Ruiz Patton

Photo: Tobin Buckner and Aa'Ron Epps, at the Akron Urban League’s Emerging Entrepreneur Networking Group. Credit: Susan Ruiz Patton.

An accountant by trade, Melinda Boykin of Richmond Heights, Ohio, used her energy and creativity to help make her employer successful.

But something was stopping her from using those skills to build her own successful business.

Related LinkS

"Ice House Entrepreneurship Program" - grant profile 

"Lessons from the Ice House Inspire Entrepreneurs" published in Knight Blog on 7/20/2013

With the help of the Ice House entrepreneurship program, she learned that even though she was functioning like an entrepreneur, fear was holding her back.  “I had to release that fear to truly start my business,” she said.

“This is a program that allows individuals to start seeing what’s possible,” said Tobin Buckner, the former program manager for the Partnership for the Minority Business Accelerator at the Akron Urban League, which offers the Ice House program. Buckner recently joined the startup accelerator Jumpstart as its entrepreneurial community manager in Akron.

Kairos co-founder Brian Brackeen reveals ‘Raw Truth’ beyond the idealized view of startups

Feb. 27, 2015, 3:22 p.m., Posted by Jenna Buehler

Brian Breslin, founder of the networking and workshop series Refresh Miami, and Brian Brackeen, founder of Kairos, a facial recognition software company that was nominated as one of the Wall Street Journal’s 2013 startups of the year, discuss the ups and downs of launching a startup. Photo by Preston Tesvich.

Two years ago, Brian Breslin, founder of the networking and workshop series Refresh Miami, met Brian Brackeen, a Miami-based entrepreneur who frequented the city’s many networking events in search of investment opportunities for his facial recognition software, Kairos

Today, Brackeen’s startup success has distinguished him as a regular on Miami’s entrepreneur’s speakers circuit. Kairos has received $2 million from investors in Florida and California.

At Thursday night’s Refresh Miami event at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, Brackeen offered the not-so-glamorous truths behind the sometimes romanticized view of startups.