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Hastings Alumni Mag-Spring 2014

{ ENTERPRISE } UC HASTINGS 39 tech boom positions it to offer forward legal guidance. The school’s tech-savvy faculty, alumni, and students are helping companies navigate the increasingly complex minefield of using and protecting consumer data, and shaping the evolution of the law in real time. The Privacy and Technology Project In 2011, Charles Belle ’10 secured seed funding to launch the UC Hastings Privacy and Technology Project—now part of the school’s Institute for Innovation Law—a research program focused on issues of privacy that result from emerging technology. One of the program’s initiatives includes educating small app developers about privacy law. “Early-stage companies often lack the legal resources for proper compliance,” says Belle. “But they are just as vulnerable to the regulations as larger companies. They want to stay on the good side of privacy but don’t always know how. And in this hypercompetitive environment, they can make avoidable mistakes that may expose them to liability.” The Privacy and Technology Project reaches technologists where they’re at: It hosted a hackathon at UC Hastings and co-hosted a daylong seminar in April 2013 with AG Harris for app developers in the Twitter building, just blocks from the law school. The project also launched a Bay Area Privacy Professionals speaker series for law and tech professionals, presenting speakers such as the computer security specialist at Twitter and the general counsel for Splunk, a big data analytics company. Alea Garbagnati ’11 was one of the first Privacy and Technology Project fellows. She had an interest in digital privacy issues since taking the school’s privacy class and interning with Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco–based digital rights nonprofit. While there, she helped research privacy-related issues, such as the potential privacy concerns in using smart meters to measure hourly household energy usage. (For example, a regular surge of energy demand at 2:30 in the morning could indicate a heavy drinker coming home after bars close, information potentially valuable to an insurance company.) “What fascinates me is finding the balance between letting information flow freely and completely restricting information,” Garbagnati says. Now working in the cyber risk services practice at Deloitte & Touche, Garbagnati advises companies on handling client and employee data. A Complex Trade-Off The incentive for companies to protect information is not just a legal one, says Jim Snell ’94, who is co-chair of the privacy and security group at Bingham McCutchen in Palo Alto. A lot of the incentive is preserving consumer trust. “To me, privacy is as much about customer relations as it is about compliance with the law,” he says. “In many cases, if consumers understand the trade-off, they’ll agree to it. For example, with a GPS app, they’re OK with giving their location information if it means they’ll get timely traffic information and the fastest routes. But technology is evolving so rapidly that it’s a challenge to educate people on what data is collected and how it’s used.” Snell—who successfully defended a client in the first lawsuit under the 2003 federal CANSPAM Act, which requires companies to allow consumers a way to opt out of marketing emails—brings his real-world experience back to UC Hastings as an adviser to the Privacy and Technology Project. “One of the things UC Hastings has done well is to marry the lawyer’s and the technologist’s perspectives,” says Snell. That symbiosis creates new career opportunities in a growing legal sector. “I was always fascinated by the battle between technology and the law,” says Deloitte’s Garbagnati. “Working at the Privacy Project prepared me for the privacy work I do now. One thing led to another.” “ Technology is evolving so rapidly that it’s a challenge to educate people on what data is collected and how it’s used.” — Jim Snell ’94


Hastings Alumni Mag-Spring 2014
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