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CFP: Activism and Social Networking Advocating For Privacy

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The Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference (CFP) continued Tuesday afternoon with a panel called Activism and Social Networking: Advocating for Privacy.  Panelists each described recent campaigns utilizing both online and in-person strategies. 


Harry Waisbren, of Get FISA Right, began by describing how the movement used social networking, and especially during the presidential campaign to advance its cause.  He called this a "new kind of activism," allowing people at the grass roots level greater access to grass tops and policy makers resulting in increased disussion of FISA and Patriot Act during the campaign.  Disappointingly, once in office, the Obama administration was unresponsive.  The campaign's next steps were sparked at CFP in 2009, that was to build a new coalition online.  Get FISA Right sees twitter as a way to engage women, minority groups, migrant groups, and others typically marginalized in this type of activism. 

A late addition to the panel was Christina Zaba of No2ID in the United Kingdom.  No2ID's coalition of more than 60,000 UK citizens has been built over the last decade mainly with the support of small organizations networked to do in-person ground work.  The organization also has a lobbying arm and has become a main source of information on ID and giant databases to the UK's main stream media.  No2ID is special because it is non-partisan broad ranging campaign that is simultaneously a "populist and specialist" movement made up of both experts and laypersons.  Their main method to build support has been through local groups, and meet-ups.  Between the media's acceptance of No2ID's expertise and it's large coalition of supporters, they have gained the weight needed to lobby and educate policy makers.  The organization expects to count a great victory soon as the 2006 ID Act in the UK is currently slated to be repealed.

Shahid Buttar, Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) described his organization's focus on action at the local level to fight federal legislation siting the 406 towns that passed resolutions against the Patriot Act.  He suggested that this local resistance impacted the reauthorization of the Act, resulting in sunsets for many provisions.  He called the relevance of local measures to federal action "paramount," suggesting that the goals of BORDC will never be met in DC.  The organization has made put a particular effort into bringing together diverse groups that have a narrow mutual interest.  They reach out grassroots groups and policy groups, and attempt to mobilize both online & offline, saying that moving from online to offline is vital. 

Christina Gagnier, the managing partner of Gagnier Margossian LLP went on to discuss her activism around social networking and privacy.  Facebook activism has about a four year history and in the past could be described as very "stop-start" with public response flaring up around policy changes and then dying out almost immediately.  Facebook's most recent changes, "instant personalization" and the latest privacy policy changes, however, have inspired a much more sustained response both from users and the media.   She sees the next steps for Facebook protest as moving to the legislative level.  One roadblock to this is the percieved "newness" of social networks making legislators question regulation (so as not to stymie innovation.)  There is also the problem of the framing social networks as "fun toys," they are much more than that and have at this point become vital political tools. 


The slides used in the presentation are below.



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