Swire Presents at Privacy Working Group

Swire Presents at Privacy Working Group

On April 26, FPF Senior Fellow and Ohio State Professor Peter Swire gave a presentation to the Privacy Working Group based on his forthcoming article in the University of North Carolina Law Review, entitled “Social Networks, Privacy, and Freedom of Association: Data Empowerment vs. Data Protection.” The presentation focused on Swire’s new research exploring how social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are platforms for association, and Swire explored how to establish a legal framework regarding social networks.

Swire examined some of the complex benefits and risks of social networks. Social networks can inadvertently reveal very personal information about individuals and increase privacy concerns. On the other hand, social networks can be used for political mobilization and allow people to freely voice their opinions, such as during the Arab Spring or the 2008 presidential campaign. Indeed, social media has become increasingly essential to associational activity; Swire pointed out that virtually all charities in the U.S. use some form of social media and political campaigns are increasingly relying on social media, too. Social networks, therefore, are an important way people can exercise their First Amendment rights to freedom of association and speech.

Privacy, Swire pointed out, can both help and hinder freedom of association and speech on social networks. Privacy can be essential to protect politically unpopular organizations from harassment. For example, in 1957 the Supreme Court found that the NAACP did not have to divulge its membership lists to the state of Alabama as this would chill free speech. Conversely, privacy controls can make it very difficult for political organizations to find new members, for example by preventing them from easily contacting new potential members.

Swire also explored how the concepts of data empowerment and data protection impact social networks. In the U.S., the debate frequently centers around how to use data in innovative ways (data empowerment). Technology can consequently be used to empower the creation of new associations, a right enshrined in the first amendment. Meanwhile, in the E.U., the debate frequently focuses on how to protect privacy (data protection). Data protection implies that data is fundamentally risky, and that users’ rights frequently outweigh the utility of new uses for data. The tension between these two outlooks can lead to a conflict between rights: freedom to associate vs. privacy.

There are therefore a number of complex legal issues surrounding social networks that have yet to be decided. Swire’s presentation and research are an important step in determining what this framework should look like. However, the details of this legal framework will be very difficult to determine, and as Swire ironically pointed out, “this may turn out to be just as easy as campaign finance reform.”

 

-Steven Beale
Social Networks, Privacy and Freedom of Association

Leave a Reply


Privacy Calendar

Oct
29
Wed
4:00 pm Big Data and Privacy: Navigating... @ Schulze Hall
Big Data and Privacy: Navigating... @ Schulze Hall
Oct 29 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
The rapid emergence of “big data” has created many benefits and risks for businesses today. As data is collected, stored, analyzed, and deployed for various business purposes, it is particularly important to develop responsible data[...]
Oct
30
Thu
9:00 am The Privacy Act @40: A Celebrati... @ Georgetown Law
The Privacy Act @40: A Celebrati... @ Georgetown Law
Oct 30 @ 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
The Privacy Act @40 A Celebration and Appraisal on the 40th Anniversary of the Privacy Act and the 1974 Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act October 30, 2014 Agenda 9 – 9:15 a.m. Welcome[...]
Nov
7
Fri
all-day George Washington Law Review 201... @ George Washington University Law School
George Washington Law Review 201... @ George Washington University Law School
Nov 7 – Nov 8 all-day
Save the date for the GW Law Review‘s Annual Symposium, The FTC at 100: Centennial Commemorations and Proposals for Progress, which will be held on Saturday, November 8, 2014, in Washington, DC. This year’s symposium, hosted in[...]
Nov
11
Tue
10:15 am You Are Here: GPS Location Track... @ Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
You Are Here: GPS Location Track... @ Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
Nov 11 @ 10:15 am
EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury will present twice at the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s Annual Sunny Climate Seminar. He will give a presentation on government location tracking issues and then participate in a panel[...]
Nov
12
Wed
all-day PCLOB Public Meeting on “Definin... @ Washington Marriott Hotel
PCLOB Public Meeting on “Definin... @ Washington Marriott Hotel
Nov 12 all-day
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will conduct a public meeting with industry representatives, academics, technologists, government personnel, and members of the advocacy community, on the topic: “Defining Privacy.”   While the Board will[...]
Nov
20
Thu
all-day W3C Workshop on Privacy and User... @ Berlin, Germany
W3C Workshop on Privacy and User... @ Berlin, Germany
Nov 20 – Nov 21 all-day
The Workshop on User Centric App Controls intents to further the discussion among stakeholders of the mobile web platform, including researchers, developers and service providers. This workshop serves to investigate strategies toward better privacy protection[...]
Dec
2
Tue
all-day IAPP Practical Privacy Series 2014
IAPP Practical Privacy Series 2014
Dec 2 – Dec 3 all-day
Government and FTC and Consumer Privacy return to Washington, DC. For more information, click here.

View Calendar