Sonia Arrison, from the Pacific Research Institute came to speak on the campus last week. There was a good turnout, driven in part by Gary Ozanich and I encouraging our undergraduate students to attend, and a good showing of students from the Masters in Informatics program. (Some comments on the lecture from students in my Media Law class can be found here.) A bunch of students (most of them) left directly after Ms. Arrison’s comments, which I thought was really very rude to the two respondents, but what can you do.
I would have preferred that Ms. Arrison delved a bit more deeply into current issues and what she considers to be effective solutions. I suspect she was aiming for a very general audience, which is good–especially considering the number of undergrads there who may not have had any grounding in issues of privacy. But it did come off as a bit of a laundry list of existing issues, rather than a critical analysis or assessment. For example, had she talked in more depth about privacy audits in industry, or directly about the USAPA and its current affects on how law enforcement does its business, or on the current state of crypto as a counter to government incursions on liberty, I think this would have made for a much more interesting lecture. In other words, since she was coming from a “think tank” I wish I had gotten a feel for what she and her colleagues were “thinking” about the issues. I think if she had spoken in a bit more depth on some of the issues she has written about, it would have made for a more interesting lecture.