On April 12, students in Professor of Practice Urs Gasser’s Spring 2016 Comparative Online Privacy Seminar at Harvard Law School hosted a student-led mini-symposium on data privacy in the U.S. and the EU with experts from private companies, law firms, and academia. The student-moderated discussion focused on bringing data privacy from theory to reality, and included a close look at the strengths and flaws of the current U.S. and EU regulatory regime. As part of the symposium, students presented their seminar papers to the outside experts in roundtable conversations.

Invited panelists brought together insights on the trajectories of current data privacy protections in various industries. Panelists included Sara Cable, assistant attorney general and director of data privacy and security in the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General; Heather Egan Sussman, a privacy and data security partner at Ropes & Gray; John Deighton, the Baker Foundation Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School; Scott Gallant, of Gallant Consulting Group; and Dipayan Ghosh, a privacy and public policy advisor at Facebook.

Among other topics, the experts discussed the implementation of privacy-by-design, the importance of data flow within and among companies, and data’s increasing importance among start-ups. Panelists debated the trade-off between privacy and greater data functionality in companies that collect and use more data face a growing concern over breaches. Panelists also illuminated the various data breach notification laws across states, including the unique set of laws in Massachusetts.

Panelists and student participants agreed that student privacy and data breach laws will remain an important discussion. Many also agreed that while state laws and local enforcement are beneficial, greater consistency is needed. The current trend toward a principle-based approach by translating the distinct needs of regulators and consumers into universal principles could provide a solution. Other potential solutions mentioned by panelists included building privacy into the design of company practices, rethinking the notice-choice-consent model, and ultimately endorsing greater transparency and choice for subjects to control their own information.

This event brought together many of the themes featured in Gasser’s written works, as well as those related to various projects and initiatives at the Berkman Center.

The Berkman Center’s privacy-focused projects include Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data and the Student Privacy Initiative. Gasser has written extensively on a variety of privacy related issues, such as student privacy, privacy behaviors on social media, and privacy law, both within the U.S. and abroad, independently and through his capacity as executive director of the Berkman Center. His current projects include a book detailing current digital privacy challenges, affecting factors, and solutions, which will be inspired by the discussions and readings generated in this class.


Creating a Kinder World

A panel featuring Susan Benesch, Perry Hewitt, Sandra Cortesi and Chris Bavitz gathered in April for a discussion on combatting bullying in online spaces. The discussion, moderated by Berkman Center Executive Director Urs Gasser, was followed by audience breakout sessions.