With growing concerns over data breaches and privacy, some argue that control over one’s data is necessary, but that might not be the most practical solution, argues Professor Woodrow Hartzog.
Hartzog, professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University School of Law and the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, will speak on the subject at a lecture on Sept. 26. Hartzog’s talk is co-sponsored by the Law School’s Program in Intellectual Property and Technology Law and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center.
“Seemingly everyone, from scholars, industry, and privacy advocates to lawmakers, regulators, and judges has settled on the idea that the key to privacy is control over personal information. But in practice, there is only so much a person can do,” Hartzog said. “Control is far too precious and finite of a concept to meaningfully scale. It will never work for personal data mediated by technology.”
Lawmakers and companies should pursue more direct values like trust, obscurity, and autonomy, Hartzog said.
“They should embrace more direct strategies like mandatory deletion, collection and purpose limitations, and non-waivable duties of care, loyalty, discretion. People's trust in companies should be protected regardless of the control they are given.”
In addition to his work at Northeastern University, Hartzog is also a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, a non-resident fellow at The Cordell Institute for Policy in Medicine & Law at Washington University, and an affiliate scholar at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. He is the author of Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies, published in 2018 by Harvard University Press.
Mark McKenna, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law, director of the Program on Intellectual Property & Technology Law, and acting director of the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center, said Hartzog’s lecture is timely.
“Woody Hartzog is one of the world’s leading experts on privacy and technology, and his work on the false promise of control raises serious questions about the approach we tend to take with respect to privacy,” McKenna said. “Hartzog emphasizes important other values and gives concrete suggestions for other strategies. We’re very excited that he will present his work at the Notre Dame Law School, and in connection with the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center.”