Notes From the Stanford Privacy Conference

There still isn’t any wifi at the Stanford privacy conference, but the nice tech gurus there found me a way to connect via cat 5 cable.

The first day of the conference was good. At dinner afterwards we agreed there were at most two dud presentations in the whole day, which is a ridiculously small number. My only complaint is that the chairs here at Stanford are much much too comfortable. Combined with the high quality of the presentations, it means that everyone has been staying in to hear them instead of congregating outside in the courtyard to gossip and enjoy the perfect weather. Since I’m usually one of the folks hanging out in the hallways at conferences, this enforced good citizenship is unusual; then again, the talks are good.

I’ve been doing this presentation thing for almost a decade now so I suppose I’m a veteran, but it seems odd to be described as an old-timer even in the context of the very gracious introduction offered by Anupam Chander in introducing our panel. As for my presentation, I think it’s fair to say the audience was somewhat skeptical about my ID paper, although it certainly engaged with it.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the more junior scholars almost all run over their assigned 15 minutes while the more experienced ones tend to stick to the time limits. (I should add that I have painful memories of doing exactly the same thing in some of my first presentations.) You might think that this is just because the young scholars have done very careful, detailed work and are presenting innovative ideas (which is all true) while we old farts just have less to say. But in fact, probably the most interesting talk from my perspective was by one of the most senior people here, Pam Samuleson, who, rather then giving us tidy shrink wrapped intellectual conclusions, outlined a research program that she will probably be working on for the next two or three years, focusing on what rules should govern the use of promiscuous sensor technologies. Among the questions she’s considering are, If people are going to deploy ubiquitous mini-sensors which are always on and always broadcasting, what privacy rules should apply to those data emissions? Can privacy be engineered into the standards now, before too many tools are deployed? It’s a great project, and timely in the best sense of the word, in that Prof. Samuelson and her group are worrying about this when there’s still time to build the right solutions into the technology, rather than asking the law to impose after the fact rules that don’t well match the deployed technology.

Rumor has it that some students here are blogging the conference, but the only one I’ve found is not very detailed; the conference has been more interesting than this summary description makes it sound. I’ll add more links if/when I find them.

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6 Responses to Notes From the Stanford Privacy Conference

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  6. Marina says:

    I’ve been always considering the women to be more genious and talanted. Unfortunately most of the women’s good and perspective features are killed by the men.

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