Earlier this month, the Future of Privacy Forum and George Washington University Law School announced a partnership to address the privacy issues presented by emerging technology. Last week, I had the chance to speak with the Forum's co-chair, Christopher Wolf, about the partnership and what it hopes to accomplish.
A D.C.-based think tank, the Forum was founded in November 2008 "to advance responsible data practices." It is supported by the likes of AT&T, Deloitte, AOL, Microsoft, The Nielsen Co., eBay and Facebook, among others. More specifically, its mission is best summed up in this sentence, from a blog post dated Nov. 15, 2008:
We believe that if dedicated technologists, policymakers, industry groups and advocates focus on advancing privacy in a manner that businesses can achieve, then privacy, profits and personalization are all possible.
Wolf told me last week that the faculty at GW Law School is well known for its scholarship on privacy issues, such that it was natural for the Forum and GW to have a more formal partnership. To that end, the two organizations have planned a series of programs hosted by GW and organized jointly by both. Moreover, the Forum has instituted an internship program in which recent GW Law School graduates or current students can help with the Forum's projects.
The current "hot topics" for the Forum, Wolf said, include behavioral profiling, smart grid technologies, mobile devices and smart networks. As for what folks at the Forum are working on now, Wolf said:
One of the things we are doing right now is creating, with an advertising firm and a consumer research firm, an icon that can appear in online ads that consumers can click to find out more about the ad-why it's being tailored to them, what's being collected, and thus giving the consumers more control.
In the next few days I'm hoping to get a chance to pick his brain a little more regarding the Forum's work regarding the smart grid and mobile devices.