In that role, he advises the company about a variety of questions at the intersection of software, strategy, economics, and public policy.

Ben was previously an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, where he studied and taught about the economics of online markets.  His work combined software engineering with legal and economic analysis, aiming to understand both how online markets function and also how they might improve.

Ben was among the first to see the concerns associated from powerful tech platforms.  A decade ahead of the pack, he flagged the problem of growing market concentration in Internet search including risks for advertisers.  He was the first to uncover Google’s “MADA” contract which forced phone manufacturers and telcos to preinstall all its apps if they wanted Google Play and YouTube — requirements that then-CEO Eric Schmidt had denied in sworn testimony.

Ben’s online privacy investigations uncovered a series of privacy violations including Google Toolbar continuing to track user browsing even after users “disable” the toolbar, as well as Facebook revealing users’ names and details to advertisers (even after specifically promising the contrary).

Ben worked to make Internet infrastructure more accountable and more efficient.  He flagged systemic flaws in Internet filtering systems used in US libraries and schools, and he automated large-scale testing of international Internet filtering (in China and Saudi Arabia).  Ben’s empirical analyses uncovered the extent of expired domain names subsequently used for pornography and registered with intentionally inaccurate WHOIS data. He helped devise institutions and incentives to mitigate the worst effects of scarcity of IPv4 addresses, the numeric identifiers most computers use to connect to the Internet.

Ben led the fight against deceptive advertising software, “spyware” and “adware.”  He provided the first irrefutable proof of unwanted software sneaking onto users’ computers without consent — not to mention “confirmation” screens that installed software even when a user specifically declined.  He uncovered adware and web sites that showed explicit images to kids and families, entirely unrequested.  He identified the ad networks and advertisers whose money set the schemes in motion, along with the affiliate commission fraud and click fraud that let perpetrators drain advertisers’ budgets.

Ben’s research included a deep and longstanding focus on protecting and helping  consumers.  He critiqued online “safety” certifications that failed to adequately protect users, and exposed myriad deceptive advertising practices.  As an attorney, Ben brought class action litigation vindicating the rights of minors to get refunds when they buy digital trinkets from Apple and Facebook, and protecting advertisers from worthless and unwanted ad placements in popups and worse.  Later, Ben brought class litigation that yielded refunds to passengers overcharged for certain American Airlines bag fees.  Relatedly, he proved carriers breaching both their own tariffs and federal law by improperly collecting “taxes” that are actually fees.

Ben was an early skeptic of Bitcoin, blockchain, and supposedly-decentralized finance.  Years before others realized the defects in these systems, Ben published a 2014 critique that Bitcoin actually increases costs for consumers, and a 2015 article flagging illicit and unlawful activities, the risks of lurking centralization, and the need for greater consumer protection.

As a student fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Ben ran Berkman Center webcasts and developed software tools for real-time use in classes and special events.  He oversaw ICANN Public Meeting webcasts and operated the technology used at ICANN’s first twelve quarterly meetings.

Ben’s consulting practice focused on preventing and detecting online fraud (especially advertising fraud).  Representative clients included the ACLU, AOL, the City of Los Angeles, the Future of TV Coalition, the National Association of Broadcasters, Microsoft, the National Football League, the New York Times, Universal Music Group, the Washington Post, and Wells Fargo.

As a teacher, Ben brought both academic rigor and modern technology to the HBS classroom.  His digital chalkboard software replaced outdated chalkboards — making HBS “board work” easier to read and more accessible to students with impaired vision.  He was the first HBS faculty member to include software development within a MBA course, devising creative exercises to simultaneously engage students new to coding just as much as those with significant prior experience.

Ben holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at Harvard University, a J.D. from the Harvard Law School, an A.M. in Statistics from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College (summa cum laude).  He is a member of the Bar of Massachusetts and Washington.

Benjamin Edelman – CVLinkedIn Profile.