What We’ve Learned About Privacy & Policy – Thanks to a Little Help From Our Friends

We had the pleasure of hosting a security panel in San Francisco last week, focusing on ‘Privacy and Policy in the Age of Disinformation.’ If you were able to attend, let us be the first to say that we appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to do what is most imperative in this era of disinformation and distrust – learn more about the issue at hand. 

For those of you who were not in attendance, we were fortunate enough to have an expert group of panelists — including Joe Menn from Reuters, Michael Liedtke from The Associated Press, Seth Rosenblatt from The Parallax, and Shaun Nichols from The Register — shed some light on the matter.  Our panelists shared some of the ways they personally have been following along as these issues continue to grow worse entering into election season, a new era of data privacy legislation (via the California Consumer Privacy Act in early 2020), and as we continue through the ever-evolving age of social media.

The panel was moderated by our SVP and head of the Highwire security practice, Christine Elswick, who noted that, “As we head into an election year, questions are still swirling about where the balance is between privacy and security and our freedoms and safety.” Christine continued, “2016 was a rude awakening for Americans who were inserted in their first interaction with social media driven disinformation. But what has happened since, and what does the future look like?” Our expert panelists were there to break down many of these issues and more. 

What does ‘fake news’ mean in 2019?

The panel kicked off by diving straight into what constitutes ‘disinformation’ in this day and age. Joe Menn of Reuters explained that “Disinformation is intentionally false information whereas misinformation is accidental – such as when your grandma misremembers a story from her past”.

The panelists discussed ways to better identify disinformation and the role social media has played in perpetuating the dissemination of false messages. When highlighting how regulation of big tech has begun to factor into the conversation, Shaun Nichols of The Register warned, “We can’t get too focused on Google, Facebook, and big tech models because, if we’re only addressing one type of model, we are going to miss a whole bunch of others.”

Michael Liedtke of The Associated Press also chimed in on the effect disinformation has had on the consumer noting, “Average folks sitting at home are now more suspicious of the information they see online – which is a good thing. Identifying disinformation is not the same thing as stopping it.”

The panel then dove into some of the larger privacy concerns facing us everyday as consumers, writers, PR practitioners, tech enthusiasts, and more. “The problem is, partially, we don’t have a national standard on privacy, but we also don’t have an international standard for a lot of different things that have been around for far longer than digital privacy issues,” explained Seth Rosenblatt of The Parallax. 

When highlighting ways to level the playing field in cybersecurity and bring new perspectives to data privacy awareness in general, Joe Menn of Reuters noted, “I think one thing that would really help affect change in privacy is if there were more senior technology executives who were women. Because I think an extremely alarming percentage of women have been stalked…and women, because they’re frequently victimized in this way to an astonishing extent, are much more privacy-aware.” 

The group’s consensus at the conclusion of the event? There is still much that needs to be done in the world of data governance and data privacy legislation, but what is the best way to deal with the current state of data privacy and disinformation? Give more power to the consumers. Let the people decide if and how and when their data should be used. Only then can we restore democracy to data.

Interested in hearing more about how this panel came to be? Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on how we created and leveraged digital assets to amplify awareness for the event.