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Sixth Law and Information Society Symposium

March 2, 2012

Big Data, Big Issues

Over the past few years we have witnessed the growth of a new type of data analysis where computers are able to analyze and use large interconnected databases of information to make useful predictions. This new form of data processing, popularly referred to as “Big Data,” has both benefits and risks. The public and private sectors are able to use this information aggregation and analysis to create new helpful information sets, but the same data collection and processing also poses threats to individual privacy. This conference examined the rise of Big Data and considered how the law can address privacy concerns without hampering innovation.

Panel 1: How is Big Data Being Used?

This introductory panel explored how the private and public sectors are using aggregated information to solve problems and create new products. Representatives of government and commercial data projects discussed how information aggregation and analysis has produced new tools and useful information systems.

Andrew E. Roth, Chief Privacy Officer, American Express


  • Stephen A. Brodsky, Technical Executive and Distinguished Engineer, Big Data Products, IBM Silicon Valley Laboratory
  • Linda I. Gibbs, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, New York City
  • Eric Sammer, Principal Solutions Architect, Cloudera

Panel 2: Public Perceptions about Information Aggregation

This panel explored what the public understands about data collection and aggregation and what they should know. Panelists discussed what users understand about data collection, use and analysis. They explored whether current methods of notice about aggregation and use are effective. Panelists also discussed what level of knowledge consumers need and whether there are effective ways to educate and empower the public.

Joseph Turow, Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communications, University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication


  • Alessandro Acquisti, Associate Professor of Information Technology and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Ryan Calo, Director, Consumer Privacy Project, Center for Internet & Society, Stanford Law School
  • Daniel Jaye, President and Chief Operating Officer, Korrelate
  • Maritza Johnson, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Computer Science, Columbia University

Panel 3: Social Shifts and Privacy Risks Associated with Big Data

This panel explored how big data projects have raised privacy concerns and altered social dynamics. Panelists discussed how information aggregation and analysis can lead to re-identification and associated privacy risks. They also explored the social and political impact of using aggregated information to predict behavior and serve content.

Joel R. Reidenberg, Stanley D. & Nikki Waxberg Professor of Law and Academic Director of the Center on Law & Information Policy, Fordham Law School


  • Maneesha Mithal, Associate Director, Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, FTC
  • Christopher Soghoian, Open Society Fellow, PhD Candidate and Graduate Fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, Indiana University
  • Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor in Media Studies, University of Virginia
  • Darren Erik Vengroff, PhD, Chief Scientist & VP of Product, RichRelevance
  • Tal Zarsky, Senior Lecturer, University of Haifa Faculty of Law

Keynote Address

The Hon. Julie Brill
Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission

Panel 4: Balancing Privacy Interests and Innovation

This panel explored how the law can protect consumer privacy without stifling innovation. Panelists considered both how information aggregation has spurred innovation and impinged on individual privacy. They discussed various regulatory and market options available to address the privacy concerns.

Christopher Wolf, Partner, Hogan Lovells LLP


  • Edward W. Felten, Chief Technologist, Federal Trade Commission and Professor of Computer Science and Public Policy and Director of the Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
  • Paul Ohm, Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
  • Ari Schwartz, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Department of Commerce
  • Felix Wu, Assistant Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
  • Jane Yakowitz, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School

Panel 5: The Ethics of Big Data Collection and Use

This panel explored practitioners’ ethical obligations when advising clients engaged in big data projects. Panelists considered what rights consumers have regarding their data and what level of notice companies should ethically provide about their use of consumer data. Panelists explored what level of caution practitioners should suggest given the diversity of international privacy laws and the evolving nature of privacy regulation in the U.S. They also explored how practitioners should weigh their obligations to a corporate client against their professional values of fairness and justice.

Alexander H. Southwell, Partner, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP


  • Solon Barocas, Doctoral Candidate, Media, Culture and Communication, New York University
  • Alison Pepper, Senior Director, Public Policy, Interactive Advertising Bureau
  • Brendan Schulman, Special Counsel & E-Discovery Counsel, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
  • Lisa J. Sotto, Partner, Hunton & Williams LLP
  • Omer Tene, Associate Professor, College of Management School of Law, Israel