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Transparency and Digital Surveillance

Berkman Fellow Chris Conley

Government surveillance of Internet activities - like most law enforcement practices - is designed to prevent harmful activities through two mechanisms: by identifying persons who are planning or are likely to plan such activities, and by discouraging others from joining such groups or planning such activities. In the case of surveillance, these two mechanisms of preventing activity are often perceived as being in conflict: effective surveillance requires secrecy, whereas deterrence requires publicity.

Breaking down the set of information about digital surveillance that might be revealed, and the various behaviors that surveillance might target, helps to understand why governments choose whether to disclose their surveillance practices. This talk looks specifically at a few pieces of information about surveillance: legal authorization to conduct surveillance; third party agreements concerning surveillance; and auditing statistics about the overall use of surveillance. Making such information available helps prevent civil liberties harms through both intentional abuse and propagated mistakes; however, it does not necessarily negatively impact, and in some cases may even further, the ultimate goal of online surveillance.

About Chris

Chris graduated from Harvard Law School in June, 2007. While a student at HLS, Chris served as Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology and an officer of Net Dialogue, and enrolled in as many technology-related courses as he could manage. As part of one clinical project with the Berkman Center, he co-produced a study entitled Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies: A Survey for UNESCO. He spent one summer as a Legal Intern for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a second summer as a Summer Associate with the law firms Heller Ehrman LLP and Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear LLP.

Prior to law school, Chris earned a B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering from The University of Michigan and a S.M. in Computer Science from MIT. He was employed for several years as a software engineer for Intel Corp., and later as an independent software designer working on real-time applications and database solutions for performing arts organizations. Between those two positions, he spent a year living and traveling in western and central Europe.

When not focused on issues concerning human rights and civil liberties on the Internet, Chris can often be found cooking, hiking and camping, or ballroom dancing.

Past Event
Apr 29, 2008
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM