Privacy, Security, and Ethics in an Asymmetric World




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Apr 04, 2019
by Lucy Browett
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Privacy, Security, and Ethics in an Asymmetric World

The inaugural program of the Salzburg Global Law and Technology Forum to take place this week Photo by Alan J. Hendry on Unsplash

Rapid changes in technology mean many countries are unable to keep up with creating suitable legislation. Differing international approaches also lead to gaps in the law, lack of territoriality, and imposition of extra-territorial jurisdiction.

In the private sector, there is a question of whether companies can be trusted to monitor ethics internally, or whether they should be subjected to external, governmental regulation. This is part of the wider notion of power asymmetry between the citizen, governments and technology companies, eroding public trust.

Judiciaries are often left unable to apply existing laws to systems, innovations and concepts that did not exist at the creation of said laws, rendering them outdated. This coupled with a lack of technical literacy by some lawyers and policymakers means that legal loopholes begin to form.

Huge scandals, such as that involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, have led to widescale public mistrust. In the UK, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee’s 18-month investigation into Facebook in light of the scandal concluded that Facebook violated data privacy and competition laws. Characterizing tech giants as “digital gangsters”, the select committee’s report called on the British government to develop regulations to shape the way technology companies approach user privacy.

With public trust of tech companies waning, and with accusations of democracy being subverted and unethical surveillance in play, cross-border strategies must be devised to enhance flexibility and pragmatism in law and policymaking. Technology companies, as well as civil society, must be privy to this, to ultimately regain the public’s trust.

Additionally, society must ask how technology can be utilized as a force for good? How can it aid society’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and how can the public and private sector facilitate this?

The establishment of a new multi-year series to accompany Salzburg Global’s existing programs in the field of Finance & Governance aims to address these current challenges, questions and emerging trends.

The aim of the Salzburg Global Law and Technology Forum is to establish a high-level, cross-sectoral leadership network connecting technology, law, policy, academia and civil society. The Forum’s inaugural program, Privacy, Security, and Ethics in an Asymmetric World, will take place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, from April 7 to April 9, 2019.

The Forum aims to enhance opportunities for cross-border frameworks; equip judges, regulators, policymakers, and the legal profession to understand new technology; and align law and ethics with technological progress.

Participants at the inaugural program will partake in facilitated plenary discussions and small-group discussions to deliberate the issues, and help to chart the future direction of the new Forum.

Charles Ehrlich, program director for the Forum, said, “We are very excited about launching this new initiative, which draws from multi-year programs we already run in corporate governance, finance, public sector strategy, and philanthropy.

“Last year, at those programs, many high-level leaders identified a need to seek out new opportunities at the intersection of law and technology, where a small group of diverse senior and emerging leaders and specialists who work at the forefront of their fields can influence global policy and practice.

“The group assembling for this inaugural program will help set the Forum’s priorities and the activities in the coming years. There is a strong desire from all participants to ensure we reach practical outcomes and concrete next steps.”

The objectives of this preliminary program will be to establish initial priority issues and identify possibilities for new international norms and practical collaborations. For the Forum going forward, two concrete goals have been established:

1. Facilitate peer-to-peer dialogue across sectors within an atmosphere of trust, to share perspectives and insights on critical challenges and emerging trends.
2. Enhance opportunities for cross-border regulatory frameworks, accords, and protocols, to clarify applicable rules and avoid conflicts of law or legal gaps.

To find out more about the outcomes of the program and the future of the Forum, sign up to our “Apex” newsletter:

The Salzburg Global Seminar program, Privacy, Security, and Ethics in an Asymmetric World, is the inaugural program of the Salzburg Global Law and Technology Forum. More information on this multi-year series is available at the following link: