Future of Privacy Forum’s “Must Read” Privacy Papers for Policymakers

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on January 29, 2018


In honor of yesterday’s “Data Privacy Day,” TAP commends the winners of the Future of Privacy Forum’s 8th Annual Privacy Papers for Policymakers (PPPM) Award. The PPPM Award recognizes leading privacy scholarship that is relevant to policymakers in the United States Congress, at U.S. federal agencies, and for data protection authorities abroad. Several TAP scholars have been honored with the PPPM Award.


These papers demonstrate a thoughtful analysis of emerging issues and propose new means of analysis that can lead to real-world policy impact, making them “must-read” privacy scholarship for policymakers.


Future of Privacy Forum’s Top Privacy Papers for 2017


Artificial Intelligence Policy: A Primer and Roadmap
by Ryan Calo, Associate Professor of Law, University of Washington


Talk of artificial intelligence is everywhere. People marvel at the capacity of machines to translate any language and master any game. Others condemn the use of secret algorithms to sentence criminal defendants or recoil at the prospect of machines gunning for blue, pink, and white-collar jobs. Some worry aloud that artificial intelligence will be humankind’s “final invention.”


This essay, prepared in connection with UC Davis Law Review’s 50th anniversary symposium, explains why AI is suddenly on everyone’s mind and provides a roadmap to the major policy questions AI raises. The essay is designed to help policymakers, investors, technologists, scholars, and students understand the contemporary policy environment around AI at least well enough to initiate their own exploration.


Topics covered include: Justice and equity; Use of force; Safety and certification; Privacy (including data parity); and Taxation and displacement of labor. In addition to these topics, the essay will touch briefly on a selection of broader systemic questions: Institutional configuration and expertise; Investment and procurement; Removing hurdles to accountability; and Correcting mental models of AI.


The Public Information Fallacy
by Woodrow Hartzog, Professor of Law and Computer Science, Northeastern University


The concept of privacy in “public” information or acts is a perennial topic for debate. It has given privacy law fits. People struggle to reconcile the notion of protecting information that has been made public with traditional accounts of privacy. As a result, successfully labeling information as public often results in a free pass for surveillance and personal data practices. It has also given birth to a significant and persistent misconception—that public information is an established and objective concept.


In this article, I argue that the “no privacy in public” justification is misguided because nobody even knows what “public” even means. It has no set definition in law or policy. This means that appeals to the public nature of information and contexts in order to justify data and surveillance practices is often just guesswork. Is the criteria for determining publicness whether it was hypothetically accessible to anyone? Or is public information anything that’s controlled, designated, or released by state actors? Or maybe what’s public is simply everything that’s “not private?”


The main thesis of this article is that if the concept of “public” is going to shape people’s social and legal obligations, its meaning should not be assumed. Law and society must recognize that labeling something as public is both consequential and value-laden. To move forward, we should focus the values we want to serve, the relationships and outcomes we want to foster, and the problems we want to avoid.


Transatlantic Data Privacy Law
by Paul M. Schwartz, Jefferson E. Peyser Professor of Law, Berkeley Law School; and Karl-Nikolaus Peifer, Director of the Institute for Media Law and Communications Law of the University of Cologne and Director of the Institute for Broadcasting Law at the University of Cologne


International flows of personal information are more significant than ever, but differences in transatlantic data privacy law imperil this data trade. The resulting policy debate has led the EU to set strict limits on transfers of personal data to any non-EU country—including the United States—that lacks sufficient privacy protections. Bridging the transatlantic data divide is therefore a matter of the greatest significance.


In exploring this issue, this Article analyzes the respective legal identities constructed around data privacy in the EU and the United States. It identifies profound differences in the two systems’ images of the individual as bearer of legal interests. The EU has created a privacy culture around “rights talk” that protects its “data subjects.” In the EU, moreover, rights talk forms a critical part of the postwar European project of creating the identity of a European citizen. In the United States, in contrast, the focus is on a “marketplace discourse” about personal information and the safeguarding of “privacy consumers.” In the United States, data privacy law focuses on protecting consumers in a data marketplace.


This Article uses its models of rights talk and marketplace discourse to analyze how the EU and United States protect their respective data subjects and privacy consumers. Although the differences are great, there is still a path forward. A new set of institutions and processes can play a central role in developing mutually acceptable standards of data privacy. The key documents in this regard are the General Data Protection Regulation, an EU-wide standard that becomes binding in 2018, and the Privacy Shield, an EU–U.S. treaty signed in 2016. These legal standards require regular interactions between the EU and United States and create numerous points for harmonization, coordination, and cooperation. The GDPR and Privacy Shield also establish new kinds of governmental networks to resolve conflicts. The future of international data privacy law rests on the development of new understandings of privacy within these innovative structures.


Designing Against Discrimination in Online Markets
by Karen Levy, Assistant Professor, Department of Information Science at Cornell University; and Solon Barocas, Assistant Professor, Department of Information Science at Cornell University


Platforms that connect users to one another have flourished online in domains as diverse as transportation, employment, dating, and housing. When users interact on these platforms, their behavior may be influenced by preexisting biases, including tendencies to discriminate along the lines of race, gender, and other protected characteristics. In aggregate, such user behavior may result in systematic inequities in the treatment of different groups. While there is uncertainty about whether platforms bear legal liability for the discriminatory conduct of their users, platforms necessarily exercise a great deal of control over how users’ encounters are structured—including who is matched with whom for various forms of exchange, what information users have about one another during their interactions, and how indicators of reliability and reputation are made salient, among many other features. Platforms cannot divest themselves of this power; even choices made without explicit regard for discrimination can affect how vulnerable users are to bias. This Article analyzes ten categories of design and policy choices through which platforms may make themselves more or less conducive to discrimination by users. In so doing, it offers a comprehensive account of the complex ways platforms’ design choices might perpetuate, exacerbate, or alleviate discrimination in the contemporary economy.


The Undue Influence of Surveillance Technology Companies on Policing
by Elizabeth E. Joh, Professor of Law, U.C. Davis School of Law


Conventional wisdom assumes that the police are in control of their investigative tools. But with surveillance technologies, this is not always the case. Increasingly, police departments are consumers of surveillance technologies that are created, sold, and controlled by private companies. These surveillance technology companies exercise an undue influence over the police today in ways that aren’t widely acknowledged, but that have enormous consequences for civil liberties and police oversight. Three seemingly unrelated examples — stingray cellphone surveillance, body cameras, and big data software—demonstrate varieties of this undue influence. The companies which provide these technologies act out of private self-interest, but their decisions have considerable public impact. The harms of this private influence include the distortion of Fourth Amendment law, the undermining of accountability by design, and the erosion of transparency norms. This Essay demonstrates the increasing degree to which surveillance technology vendors can guide, shape, and limit policing in ways that are not widely recognized. Any vision of increased police accountability today cannot be complete without consideration of the role surveillance technology companies play.


Health Information Equity
by Craig Konnoth, Associate Professor of Law, Colorado Law, University of Colorado, Boulder


In the last few years, numerous Americans’ health information has been collected and used for follow-on, secondary research. This research studies correlations between medical conditions, genetic or behavioral profiles, and treatments, to customize medical care to specific individuals. Recent federal legislation and regulations make it easier to collect and use the data of the low-income, unwell, and elderly for this purpose. This would impose disproportionate security and autonomy burdens on these individuals. Those who are well-off and pay out of pocket could effectively exempt their data from the publicly available information pot. This presents a problem which modern research ethics is not well equipped to address. Where it considers equity at all, it emphasizes underinclusion and the disproportionate distribution of research benefits, rather than overinclusion and disproportionate distribution of burdens.


I rely on basic intuitions of reciprocity and fair play as well as broader accounts of social and political equity to show that equity in burden distribution is a key aspect of the ethics of secondary research. To satisfy its demands, we can use three sets of regulatory and policy levers. First, information collection for public research should expand beyond groups having the lowest welfare. Next, data analyses and queries should draw on data pools more equitably. Finally, we must create an entity to coordinate these solutions using existing statutory authority if possible. Considering health information collection at a systematic level—rather than that of individual clinical encounters—gives us insight into the broader role that health information plays in forming personhood, citizenship, and community.


Additionally, the following papers received Honorable Mentions for the 2017 PPPM Awards:


Public Values, Private Infrastructure and the Internet of Things: The Case of Automobiles
by Deirdre K. Mulligan, Associate Professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley; and Kenneth A. Bamberger, Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology


The Idea of ‘Emergent Properties’ in Data Privacy: Towards a Holistic Approach
by Samson Y. Esayas, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law


Algorithmic Jim Crow
by Margaret Hu, Associate Professor of Law, Washington & Lee Law


The winning authors have been invited to join the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), Senator Edward J. Markey, and members the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus on February 27, 2018 to discuss the year’s leading privacy research and analytical work that is relevant to policymakers. This 8th annual event will open with remarks by FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny. FPF will subsequently publish a printed digest of summaries of the winning papers for distribution to policymakers, privacy professionals, and the public.


Read more about the Future of Privacy Forum’s Privacy Papers for Policymakers program and about this year’s winning authors.



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