RAND Conference Asks: How Do Emerging Technologies Impact Privacy and Privacy Policy?

More than seventy participants, including leading scholars, government officials, privacy advocates, journalists, attorneys, technologists, and industry representatives, attended RAND's Privacy and Emerging Technologies Conference, which was held on July 23, 2001 at the Washington office. The conference, sponsored by the Arroyo Center, featured interactive presentations and case studies by RAND analysts, legal scholars, and others.

During the morning session, several RAND analysts presented a "Survey of Emerging Technologies & Privacy Issues."

  • Philip Anton discussed The Global Technology Revolution: Bio/Nano/Materials/IT Synergies and Privacy Implications, drawing on his recent scholarship in this area.
  • Martin C. Libicki provided a humorous overview of privacy implications related to computer monitoring, the Internet, and related IT technologies.
  • John C. Baker presented on overhead imaging, global positioning systems and geographical information systems.
  • Katherine Watkins Webb discussed biometrics, which includes emerging technologies of automated human recognition.
  • Bruce D. Berkowitz explained thermal imaging & other electro-optical sensors.

Making his first public speaking engagement, Daniel P. Collins, the newly appointed Associate Deputy Attorney General and Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) of the Department of Justice (DOJ), gave the luncheon address and discussed his work as the DOJ's CPO. In announcing Collins' appointment as CPO, Attorney General John Ashcroft said, "As new technologies and scientific developments emerge, we are faced with new challenges to citizens' privacy rights. I trust him to make certain we are taking precautions to protect the right to privacy that every American deserves." Collins explained that a high priority for him as CPO is the DOJ's review of DCS1000, the technology formerly known as "Carnivore".

Ivan K. Fong, the Senior Counsel for E-Commerce and Information Technology for the General Electric Company, presented on Privacy and Emerging Technology: Where Do We Go From Here? Mr. Fong explained that from his perspective, legal and policy questions are center stage. He identified several areas of growing privacy interest:

  • Online privacy concerns,
  • Medical records privacy; privacy of genetic information,
  • Employee privacy, and
  • Wireless/location tracking

Mr. Fong predicted that technology will continue to drive the debate over privacy, noting that privacy-protective technologies are often developed in response to privacy-invasive technologies. He also opined that laws and policies will continue to struggle to keep up with technological advances. He emphasized that more and better public policy research on privacy (and the impacts of privacy regulation) is needed, pointing out by way of example that there is a cost to heightened privacy from an efficiency perspective.

In her case study, Julie Rose O'Sullivan, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, discussed the legal implications of the recently-decided Supreme Court case, Kyllo v. United States, 121 S.Ct. 2038 (2001). Professor O'Sullivan explained that in the Kyllo case, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the use of law enforcement's use of a thermal-imaging device aimed at a private home from a public street to detect relative amounts of heat within the home constitutes a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Professor O'Sullivan gave an overview of the Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and discussed leading Supreme Court precedents.

RAND's John D. Woodward, Jr. presented a case study on Super Bowl Surveillance. Woodward based his case study on an incident at Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001 where law enforcement officials in Tampa secretly scanned spectators' faces with surveillance cameras and instantly compared their "faceprints" against those of suspected terrorists and known criminals in a computerized database. Alarmed civil libertarians quickly raised the specter of a Big Brother government spying on its citizens. Woodward discussed recent attempts by state and local governments to regulate public sector use of biometric facial recognition.

A panel led by RAND's Richard Silberglitt presented concluding observations and synthesized the various points made at the conference.