Privacy Blueprint3.27.18 — Every day, internet users interact with technologies designed to undermine their privacy. Social media apps, surveillance technologies and the internet of things are all built in ways that make it hard to guard personal information. And the law says this is okay because it is up to users to protect themselves — even when the odds are deliberately stacked against them.

In Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies, Professor Woodrow Hartzog pushes back against this state of affairs, arguing that the law should require software and hardware makers to respect privacy in the design of their products. “This is a book about the technology design decisions that affect our privacy,” says Hartzog, who is a professor of law and computer science. “It’s about going beyond scrutinizing what gets done with our personal information and confronting the designs that enable privacy violations. And it’s about how everyone — companies, lawmakers, advocates, educators, and users — can contribute to and interact with the design of privacy-relevant technologies.”

Current legal doctrine treats technology as though it were value- neutral: only the user decides whether it functions for good or ill. But this is not so. As Hartzog explains, popular digital tools are designed to expose people and manipulate users into disclosing personal information.

Against the often self-serving optimism of Silicon Valley and the inertia of tech evangelism, Hartzog contends that privacy gains will come from better rules for products, not users. The current model of regulating use fosters exploitation. Privacy’s Blueprint aims to correct this by developing the theoretical underpinnings of a new kind of privacy law responsive to the way people actually perceive and use digital technologies. The law can demand encryption. It can prohibit malicious interfaces that deceive users and leave them vulnerable. It can require safeguards against abuses of biometric surveillance. It can, in short, make the technology itself worthy of our trust.

Book Talks

April 9: Book launch at Northeastern University School of Law, Boston (details: northeastern.edu/law/hartzog-book)
April 25: Book signing at the Museum of Science in Cambridge after the event “Robot Sex: Connection, Privacy and Ethics in the 21st Century” (details: mos.org/public-events/robot-sex)
May 10: Harvard Coop, Cambridge
July 28: Square Books, Oxford (Mississippi)

Check back for updates — more coming soon!

About Northeastern University School of Law

The nation’s leader in experiential legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law offers the longest-running, most extensive experience-based legal education program in the country and is a national leader in legal education reform. Founded with cooperative legal education as the cornerstone of its program, Northeastern guarantees its students an unparalleled full year of practical legal work. All students participate in four, full-time legal placements, and can choose from the more than 900 employers worldwide participating in the school’s signature Cooperative Legal Education Program. The future of legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law blends theory and practice, providing students with a unique set of skills and experience to successfully practice law.