Harry Halpin

Brief Bio

I'm the CEO and co-founder of Nym Technologies, a startup building a decentralized mixnet to end mass surveillance. Prior to founding Nym, I was a Senior Research Scientist at MIT, where I led the standardization of the Web Cryptography API across all browsers, and at Inria de Paris where I led interdisciplinary research on socio-technical systems and privacy. I have a Ph.D. in Informatics from the University of Edinburgh and also teaches cryptocurrency at the American University of Beirut.

[Version for speaking]


My research is focused on discovering, formalizing, and empirically testing the social and philosophical assumptions inherent in technology using the methods of data science: From the Web to blockchain technology, at the heart of every technical problem is a social problem waiting to get out.

Motivating my work is the clear and present need to create an ethical foundation for the future technologies that enable fully realized and autonomous humans whose capabilities are extended by technology, rather than subservient to it. Also, I maintain a commitment to serve the most vulnerable in society, including human rights defenders, community activists, and journalists in at-risk situations.

Currently, my work is centered on how protocol design can enable collective intelligence in adversarial environments. Despite secure messaging being the central problem of cryptography – how can one person send a secure message privately to another person – the vast majority of messages, particularly e-mail, sent today are sent through centralized servers where they may be intercepted by malicious actors and mined for data without the knowledge of either the sender or receiver. Even if encrypted, these messages may leak important metadata about the social network.

Redesigning these systems will require a combination of advanced cryptography, distributed systems design, and understanding social incentives. Technology should be designed with the user first, so we are engaged with studying the use of secure messaging applications by human rights defenders in countries such as Egypt and Ukraine, and building from their insights to co-design new and secure decentralized solutions. Part of this involves creating new anonymity-preserving mix networks capable of withstanding powerful global adversaries, even adversaries with government-level surveillance capabilities.

Previously, I worked at the World Wide Web Consortium, primarily on security, in the Technology and Society Domain, but resigned over their stanardization of DRM. Up until 2010 I was a postgraduate student of computer scientist Henry S. Thompson and the philosopher Andy Clark at the University of Edinburgh. My dissertation studied the impact of the Web over traditionally difficult questions of meaning and reference in philosophy of language, with applications to creating search engines over heterogeneous data and colloborative tagging, now available as the book "Social Semantics".


Current Advisory Positions


Current Affliations

Research Scientist (on leave) at MIT Sociotechnical Systems Research Center, where I work with Alex "Sandy" Pentland (Ethics, Human Dynamics) on blockchain technologies.

Researcher at Inria, where I am project co-ordinator of NEXTLEAP Project on end-to-end encrypted messaging (from usability to protocol design) with the Prosecco Team and five other partner institutions.

Former Affiliations

Team member of Technology and Society Domain at the World Wide Web Consortium, where I was W3C Team Contact of W3C Web Cryptography Working Group, W3C Web Authentication Working Group, and W3C Social Web Working Group.

Research Associate at Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, MIT

Postdoctoral "Marie Curie" scholar at L'Institut de recherche et d'innovation du Centre Pompidou (IRI) with Bernard Stiegler.

Yahoo! Research, working on Semantic Search, supervised by Peter Mika.

Project Manager at Duke University for Information Science and Studies and HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory), supervised by Cathy Davidson.


For the complete version see DBLP and Google Scholar

Recent Publications

Selected Representative Publications



Edited Journals

Upcoming Events

Previous Events this Year

Chaired Conferences and Workshops

From 2013 onwards.

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