We are hosting a full-day pre-conference workshop on May 24, 2019 as part of the International Communication Association’s (ICA) annual conference in Washington, DC. The workshop is co-sponsored by ICA’s Communication & Technology Communication Law & Policy Divisions, the Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC), and the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law. Situated in the heart of national policy making, the workshop will be and will be held at the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law, just steps away from the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall.

The pre-conference will focus on the intersection of privacy, technology, and policy, and will bring together experts from across multiple disciplines to address emerging challenges. In particular, our aim is to unpack the privacy and policy implications of emerging technological AI systems that increasingly pervade our public and private lives. These include algorithmic decision-making, machine learning, big data, and autonomous systems.

Background: Privacy is a central and contested concept in global communication. Over the second half of the 20th century, privacy came to mean control of one’s personal information. Though privacy is never easy no matter its definition and practice, control strains under the weight of the realities of 21st century digital life. International strife around who controls information and how that control leads to power has generated interesting and global discussions. We seek to take advantage of both the location and theme of the conference by: 1) unpacking the perspectives and approaches policymakers and policy actors take, nationally and globally; 2) critique and provoke perspectives and  inspire new angles and outside-the-box thinking; and 3) create plans of action to develop meaningful research in privacy, technology, and public policy that address the emerging landscape of AI systems.

There is significant need and demand for scholarship to help understand and prevent the challenging issues that have presented in the past few years including data privacy and consent in social computing environments, government surveillance, algorithmic bias, and ubiquitous location tracking via mobile devices. This demand is situated within complicated global politics, as well as complex and rapidly changing technical environments. Additionally, there is an ongoing demand from policy makers and legislative professionals to learn from and be guided by emerging research scholarship. Because of overwhelming datafication efforts, privacy today often means digital privacy and cannot be considered without attention to the design, systems, markets, players, and incentives within which privacy is conceptualized and practiced. The event will take meaningful steps toward meeting the demand present in Washington.

This pre-conference will be a cross-disciplinary gathering, addressing both national and global issues in privacy technology policy and law, and co-sponsored by
ICA’s Communication & Technology and Communication Law & Policy Divisions, the
Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC), and the Center on Privacy & Technology
at Georgetown Law. As such, the preconference advances the ICA 2019 conference theme, “Communication Beyond Boundaries,” by furthering cross-disciplinary investigation of privacy, technology, policy and communication, and considering these issues on a global scale.