Information privacy event at UWM May 8

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Information Policy Research (CIPR) will show a documentary and hold a panel discussion on information privacy Tuesday, May 8, starting at 6 p.m. at the Union Theater, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd, second floor. The event is free and open to the public.

The 2006 Emmy Award-winning documentary, “Big Brother, Big Business: Data Mining and Surveillance,” examines the big business of the technologies that allow companies to monitor and record private lives and information.

Following the film, a panel of privacy advocates will discuss its implications. Panel members are:

  • Emilio De Torre, youth and program director, ACLU of Wisconsin
  • Stacy Harbaugh, communications director, ACLU of Wisconsin
  • Angela Maycock, assistant director, Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association (ALA)
  • Michael Zimmer, assistant professor and co-director of CIPR.

Privacy issues have changed since the documentary originally aired, Zimmer says, both for better and for worse. The Obama administration has placed new focus on providing Internet users better privacy protections, and both Congress and the FTC have started working on legislation and policies to help improve industry privacy practices, says Zimmer. He recently completed a survey for the ALA on privacy-related issues.

At the same time, more people are using the Internet, and social media and new risks are emerging.

“We’ve seen an increase in issues related to mobile phone applications accessing data without permission, search engines tracking more about users and social networks sharing even more with advertisers,” says Zimmer. “So, the risks are rising, and the proposed protections are having a hard time keeping up.”

With the increase in smart phones and mobile apps, users’ locations are being tracked, personal data and usage statistics are being shared without permission and companies are failing to provide sufficient warnings or protections, he says.

At the same time, adds Zimmer, studies show that most people are not aware of how much data about them is out there and how it’s being collected, shared and aggregated. Since it’s increasingly difficult to function in the modern world without this technology, he says, consumers need to be proactive about protecting their privacy. “The first step for protecting ourselves is through education and awareness of the issues.”

The UWM event is part of Choose Privacy Week, an annual initiative of the ALA, and is co-sponsored by the UWM Libraries.