What didn't happen in Austin: quick wrap-up of the BCLT Privacy Forum

For those of us who didn’t make it to Austin this week, I thought I would take a moment to share a quick wrap-up of some key themes from Berkeley Center for Law and Technology’s Privacy Law Forum last Friday.

Surveillance, law enforcement access to data, extraterritorial jurisdiction, and even the previously obscure world of MLATs were underlying themes of the day.  Will deVries from Google’s privacy team even declared government access to data as the “issue of our time”. 

This might seem entirely predictable now, given this week’s Pew survey statistics that 87% of the adult American population is aware of the surveillance programs (perhaps more baffling is how 13% have managed to remain unaware). Helping companies, governments, and users make good decisions about if, when, and on what terms governments should be able to access user data is not only an interesting topic to discuss over conference pastries and drip coffee, it’s genuinely important.  It’s critical for criminal justice, national security, and user privacy that the right decisions are made and the rule of law is followed.  Surprisingly, while the level of public, civil society, and industry interest in this topic has mushroomed, there is still not much practical advice or resource materials for companies facing these issues (stay tuned as this is something I plan to help remedy).

Other recurring themes throughout the day included:

  • the privacy challenges created by the Internet of Things and the role for the FCC.
  • cyber insurance and the need to carefully analyse your policy (because all policies are definitely not created equal)
  • attempts to create a federal data breach notification law and the role of consumers in the wake of the Clapper decision
  • whether 2015 will be the year that the EU General Data Protection Regulation is passed.

If you’re up to date with the backlog of things to read from SXSW, you can check out the audio recordings of the BCLT conference on their website.