Why America’s lack of comprehensive data privacy legislation and technical infrastructure poses a threat to free trade & Big Tech disruptors

A not-so-scientific rendering of the Compliance Goldilocks Curve

Last week, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield, the prevailing mechanism via which firms engage in compliant cross-border data transfer between E.U. member states and the U.S., is insufficient to satisfy E.U. data privacy law. The “Schrems-II” ruling, resulting from a case brought by Austrian privacy activist and attorney Max Schrems against Facebook, indicates the lack of U.S. legislation regarding surveillance of E.U. citizens by U.S. public officials render any guarantees under Privacy Shield inadequate.

This is not the first time attempts to find common ground in standards for data transfer…


Start by valuing quality of privacy design over quantity of eyeballs in product development

The growing list of brands boycotting Facebook as a result of failure to act in removing misinformation and hate speech from the platform. LUMAscape courtesy of Terence Kawaja.

By now, news outlets and tech pundits alike have all weighed in on the expected impact of #StopHateForProfit. The campaign, launched in June by a coalition of nonprofits including Color of Change, the NAACP, ADL, Sleeping Giants, Free Press, and Common Sense Media, encourages advertisers to boycott spending on Facebook until the social media giant addresses key problems with its community and algorithms in relation to promoting hate speech and misinformation. …


For better or worse, the current crisis illustrates Big Tech may be the only ones who can eventually deliver data privacy at scale.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Well, it happened. Several weeks ago in the wake of the most consequential public health crisis most of us have seen in our lifetimes, Apple and Google teamed up to help fight the coronavirus using their most valuable platforms: the little devices in our pockets.

The tech giants have already deployed global coronavirus contact tracing APIs for use by public health officials, and a future update to Android and iOS operating systems will allow mobile phone users to voluntarily register their infection statuses. If an individual has received a positive diagnosis, other opted-in users whose devices have been in proximity…


How Self-Sovereign Identity (and yes, blockchain) might allow you to manage digital data with the ease of one click

Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay

If you’re anything like me under shelter-in-place due to coronavirus, you are feeling incredibly grateful to be safe, financially secure, and healthy. You also may be shopping online at an unprecedented rate. Now that consumers are at the mercy of our Wi-Fi connections, retailers are struggling logistically and structurally to keep up with skyrocketing demand for server bandwidth, not to mention goods and services.

I’m not much of a shopper, but during this crisis I’ve found myself making donations, sending care packages to loved ones, and, yes, trolling Target.com for toilet paper rolls (seriously, folks, the hoarding has gotten out…


Data access doesn’t need to mean data control

Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

Recent efforts to re-empower consumers when it comes to ownership over their data focus on how a consumer can access, delete, or correct information held on them. The underlying assumption made by these laws is that services will continue to collect and store consumers’ personal data, so regulators must require them to provide mechanisms through which consumers may exercise data privacy rights. What if it doesn’t have to be this way?

In The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, American scholar Shoshana Zuboff outlines how companies such as Google and Facebook pioneered a new business model based on the hoarding of consumer…


…But it’s better than the alternative

Photo by Fernando Arcos from Pexels

It’s no secret data privacy is the topic du jour in regulatory and press circles. Heightened Big Tech backlash and updated legislation in the European Union, Japan, Brazil, and California in recent years has led to a newfound cultural urgency around how industry manages consumer data. This change reflects not just a recognition of the unprecedented potential for data exploitation, but also a fundamental shift in how we view privacy.

Previously understood as simply the right to be let alone, the definition of privacy is quickly expanding to reflect consumer agency, or “data ownership,” in the data value exchange. …


Coronavirus reminds us exactly who has our personal data

Photo: Webaroo/Unsplash

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last week feeling grateful you’re able to work anywhere without much inconvenience. In the wake of the coronavirus’s spread and the subsequent national emergency declaration from the United States government, many of us are engaging in social distancing practices like working from home or avoiding large gatherings. For me, this has meant some additional time to keep up with my personal email inbox — an activity I usually reserve for every couple of weeks.

Now that I’m paying closer attention, I’ve noticed a surprising number of email responses to Covid-19 from companies…


Probably, but what becomes of the data once the crisis has passed?

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) originating in China spreads globally, top international publications are understandably focusing their energies on reporting the economic toll and the public health crisis the virus represents. Article after article seeks to explain the risks to global systems, but are these the only harms brought on by crises such as COVID-19? Is it possible that beyond infecting populations, coronavirus is also serving to erode our privacy rights?

Big Data & Protected Health Information

In the 21st century, we’ve taken a data-driven approach to addressing public health crises brought on by infectious disease. Innovations in predictive modeling techniques, improved international travel itinerary cooperatives, and…


How data privacy regimes influence economics, user experience & consumer choice

Photo by Ola Dapo from Pexels

When is the last time you opted in to a website or mobile app’s tracking practices? What about opted out? Your answers depend more on the country, region, or state in which you live than you might think.

Why is your place of residence so consequential? Different countries, and even provinces within them, operate on disparate legal frameworks, or “regimes,” when it comes to consumer choice. …


Someone somewhere just took a photo of you

A photo of a sea of phones recording a scene at a concert at night.
A photo of a sea of phones recording a scene at a concert at night.
Photo: MNPhotoStudios/Getty Images

Do you ever think about the myriad profile pics, Instagram posts, and photo slideshows in which you likely play the role of “extra”? What about the number of times you star in government or business-owned surveillance footage?

If you’ve ever done any traveling, or, you know, left your house, your image was likely captured in thousands of places, by hundreds of entities. The images seem harmless, as you think to yourself: “I’ve got nothing to hide.” Maybe you don’t, but that attitude is a privilege reserved for citizens within countries that have deep institutional acceptance of free speech and free…

Lauren Kaufman

Armchair Public-Interest Technologist | Working to make sense of the intersection between policy & technology

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