At CPDP, thinking about privacy
Brussels is a pretty nice place for a hellhole (according to Trump). I got here early yesterday and walked around; obviously I bought a bunch (technically an asston) of chocolate and took pictures of impudent statues.
I know this sounds entirely unhistorical and arrogant, but I can’t help thinking that Brussels was created out of some indulgent American fantasy of Europe that confused Paris and Amsterdam and added a bunch of chocolate stores, beer, and waffles. Oh, and gold leaf.
It’s a great city; possibly it’s replaced Amsterdam as the place I’d like to live if I moved away from New York (which will never happen). It’s pedestrian dominated, there are plenty of sex shops, and the recycling bins are covered with graffiti. In other words, it’s got the right values and it’s not overly sanitized. Trump’s got it wrong once again.
I’m here for an annual conference called CPDP, which stands for Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection. This morning I attended a super interesting panel on privacy and the world’s poor. In that panel I learned about an algorithm being used to sort unemployed people in Poland. As is typical of many of the algorithms I’m interested, it’s both entirely opaque and high impact; the open information laws also don’t apply for inscrutable reasons.
Later today I’ll be on a panel in which we’ll discuss software tools that investigate privacy and data protection in the real world. Besides me, the people on the panel are working within the context of European privacy and protection laws, which are both very different and much more protective than we have in the states (although the UK is an exception). I will surely learn a lot, both about how people think about data and privacy over here and what the obstacles are to enforcing the strong laws.