By: Leslie Gordon
For the fourth consecutive year, Berkeley Law’s privacy and data security experts will travel to the heart of Silicon Valley to discuss the field’s most pressing issues with practitioners and policymakers. More than 150 attendees are expected at the March 13 Privacy Law Forum, organized by the law school’s Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT). Registrants include privacy law attorneys from major law firms as well as business strategists and technologists from Intel Corporation, Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Netflix Inc., Oracle Corporation and Facebook, Inc.
“It’s notable that Berkeley Law scholars are taking their expertise and research to Silicon Valley, right to the focal point of innovation where companies are confronting privacy and data security issues,” said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. “Practitioners are eager to learn from us, and the academy needs to hear their perspective because it keeps our research grounded in reality.”
The information security landscape is of “major concern” to lawyers and companies, explained Christopher Hoofnagle, BCLT’s director of information privacy programs. That Berkeley Law is bringing its scholarship to Silicon Valley is “a signal of Berkeley’s signature style of engagement. Building these connections between technology practice and technology theory allows scholars to integrate their research agenda into Silicon Valley practice,” added Hoofnagle, who will be discussing his forthcoming book Federal Trade Commission Privacy Law and Policy at the conference.
According to BCLT co-director Paul Schwartz, there’s a “huge thirst” among both policymakers and technology companies to learn more about the law school’s privacy scholarship because “we have the world’s best concentration of privacy experts here.” Two major law firms—Hogan Lovells and Ropes & Gray—are sponsoring the conference, which indicates that “our work is used and relevant,” said Schwartz, who will be on the data security panel along with Travis LeBlanc, the Federal Communications Commission’s head of enforcement.
If data security wasn’t top of mind for boards of directors and CEOs before the Sony breach, it is now, Dempsey noted. “Any lawyer in-house or at a firm representing large and small companies in any sector needs to work clients through data security issues. The retail, entertainment and health care industries—together, a huge sector of economy—have all been hit by data security breaches. It’s a truly existential issue that directly affects the bottom line. The reputational harm is huge. The legal headaches are huge.”
During a morning session, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawyer Laura Berger will discuss the agency’s privacy laws and policies. “If you hold personal information about people and you lose or misuse it, the FTC is going to come after you,” Dempsey said. “So understanding the agency’s mindset is critical. When something goes wrong, and it very likely will, companies and attorneys need to know how it’ll likely play out at the FTC.”
The law enforcement community has become increasingly vocal about privacy issues, added BCLT co-director Deirdre Mulligan, who will be moderating a panel about privacy regulation by technology. “This conference combines leading in-house counsel, corporate privacy offices, leading law firms, and academics engaging in a robust exchange of views,” Mulligan said. “It’s a good bridge between the academy and practice.”
The conference keynote speaker, Danielle Keats Citron of the University of Maryland law school, will discuss “Revenge Porn, Hate Crimes, and What Silicon Valley and the Law Should Do Now.”
The conference is just one in “a broad palette of center events in the privacy space,” according to Professor Schwartz. For example, the center also co-produces an annual privacy conference with George Washington Law School and hosts an annual privacy lecture on the Berkeley Law campus.
For more information about privacy events, follow facebook.com/BCLTatBoalt and @BCLTatBoalt on Twitter. The twitter hash tag for the March 13 event is #BCLTPrivacy.