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Highlights from ACLU Digital Privacy Panel Discussion

Back on March 20, 2012, I was invited to participate in an ACLU panel discussion on Digital Privacy at the UCLA School of Law. Below are some highlights from my part of the presentation.

My fellow panelists were Heidi Kujawa (Founding Member of Kode Corporation - a company dedicated solely to intellectual property protection) and Nicole A. Ozer (Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California).

Aclu panel

  • Despite all the news about privacy breaches, selling of personal data, and GPS tracking, no one is ready to throw away their digital devices
  • This is the present. This is where we live. We are never going back. We need to think about the benefits that all this technology gives us
  • Was it better before the Internet? Hell, no! I lived there, it was not.
  • Mainstream media is reporting on technology stories that, for the most part, they do not understand.
  • We like to think that mainstream media is smarter than we are. We like to think they understand all this technology stuff. But they don't.
  • In a lot of cases, they understand it a lot less than you do
  • Fear is control. If someone can make you fearful, they control you.
  • The more you know, they better off you are going to be.
  • Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should i.e. digital voting
  • The techies are telling everyone, "Are you out of your mind? It's too easy to game it!"
  • When the techies are screaming, "Don't use a technology!" it is probably a good ideas to listen to them. They see the flaws the that average person might not understand.
  • Start listening to those technological people out there. They can be a little geeky, but they actually know some of this stuff pretty well.
  • I have made a pact with the devil. I give a little bit of my soul to get some sweet, sweet Gmail. Overall, I am Ok with that. I have made the personal decision that the type of data I throw around in Gmail is probably Ok.
  • If that means that systems can deliver ads that actually mean something to me, I am all for it.
  • One of our biggest problems today is government.
  • If you see nearly any Congressional representative on the news try to talk about technology, there is not there, there.
  • We have people legislating our lives -- and their lives as well -- and global rules, that they don't understand.
  • Worse, they don't even know what they don't know. If they did they would hire staffers to help them fill in this piece of knowledge. They would have a technology task force -- a whole crew -- that could help them understand the legislation that is coming across their desk.
  • In the worst cases, you have some representatives who are willfully ignorant about technology. Who make jokes about it. Who laugh it off. "Well, I don't understand it, but I'm going to vote for it anyway!" That drives me mad. You will catch me screaming at my television set when I see people like that and you should, too.
  • If this technology "present" is going to work, government has to iterate as fast as technology.
  • Government cannot keep up. You can practically hear the wheels of government creaking and groaning as it struggles to keep up with the speed of new technology.
  • We seem to live in a world where technology is seen as something new and magical that has never been dreamed up before. So therefore, laws don't cover. "Oh, the law doesn't apply to VHS. The law doesn't apply to email." Why is that? Why don't we flip that over. Why don't we make laws apply to all new inventions. Then we can legislate the exceptions. "Email is protected, by default. Boom! You have to have a warrant to get to your email source." Why wasn't that the case?
  • Why does adding the words "…on the Internet" change our laws. It doesn't make any sense. Fraud is fraud, not matter where it is perpetrated. Theft is theft. Why don't these laws apply?
  • We ned to live in a world where applying these laws is the default, not the exception.
  • We are going to have just as many technological advancements in the next 20-30 years as we have had in the past 20-30 years. How is government going to deal with that?
  • We now have a 5th branch of government -- the corporation. Corporations now have so much money they can do, pretty much, whatever they want -- and we let them. Our same creaking government I mentioned above has passed laws that make it even easier for these corporations to do whatever they want. That, for me, is another target for our efforts on digital privacy, data retention, intellectual property, on everything. There is another "branch of government" that we need to address.
  • A psychologist once pronounced that "All corporations are sociopathic." If you think about it, they really are. They have one goal above all others -- increase shareholder value. Imagine that you knew someone who used that same guideline for every decision -- how much money it put in their pocket. Every transaction from whether taking you out for coffee, going to the grocery store, picking up the kids from school -- everything had a monetary value. You would probably call them a sociopath. They would be unable to interact with the rest of the world.
  • We have corporations out there that focus on "raise shareholder value" at whatever cost
  • We need to address these corporations and we need to start working with corporations. There is one thing they understand. Money. There is an argument that can be made to corporations that it is in their best interest to protect our privacy.
  • There will be points in the future where data breaches, over-gathering and over-use of our private data and other missteps that will lead them to the brink of disaster and failure. That is where we hit them -- in the pocketbook. It is worth YOUR money, YOUR existence to have a decent privacy policy. It is worth your money to have a data retention and protection policy. I think that is where we are going to have the most effect.
  • Corporations have much more power today than they have ever had in the past. Rivaling even that of the government. We need to turn our attentions there.
  • Now, of course, if you are going to have a privacy policy, can we at least have something that is understandable? Very few people understand the language in a privacy policy or a license agreement. Lawyers understand them, but the rest of us don't talk that way. all we do is click agree without any understanding of what it says. It could say anything.  That is a huge disconnect. Corporations need to make these agreements clearer to those clicking those Agree buttons.
  • The only thing that can kill off this "Goose that lays the Golden Egg" we call the Internet, is bad legislation. As was seen with SOPA and PIPA, given enough money and enough connections, the unelected bodies of the MPAA and RIAA wrote a law, handed it to our representatives and said, "Pass this!" If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what else will. When I think about the Internet being turned down, if not completely off, on the whim of two corporations, that worries me more than anything.


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