While attending Esther Dyson’s PC Forum earlier this year I had a brief conversation with a consultant who advises senior government officials. During this conversation I mentioned that I am spending 30-40% of my time working in the area of privacy and civil liberties. This comment gets a nod. And then I highlighted proudly that I spend a lot of time speaking with key folks at many of the leading privacy advocacy groups. I got the most unexpected response – to paraphrase her, "Why? The privacy community only kills projects, they are crazy and useless. I would not go near them!"
In a rebuttal I add that these are, for the most part, very rational people, people who really care about balancing security and civil liberties, people with very insightful perspectives. And, in many cases, this improved insight is something that can be translated into more responsible innovations.
She looked at me like I was from Mars. Desperate to figure out the deep disconnect, I asked her when was the last time she had had a conversation with the folks in the privacy community. She replies "10 or 15 years ago!" What’s wrong with this picture?!
So now when asked why I recommend maintaining a conversation with the privacy community, I find myself trying to "sell" folks on the importance of this concept by throwing in this possible motivation, "A more privacy-responsible system is a more sustainable system," or said another way, "Should your program cause enough consumer surprise, your program will be shut down with prejudice."
And while there are no perfect programs, there are certainly better programs. And listening to the privacy community leads to better programs.
For starters, here are some organizations worth listening to and dialoging with: