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The Character of Consent: Cookies Across Legal Cultures (Data Privacy Seminar Speaker Series Spring 2022)

Event Type
School of Information Sciences, European Union Center
Jan 20, 2022   12:00 pm  
Originating Calendar
European Union Center Events

Data protection and privacy are growing concerns in our ever more connected world. Some believe that over the next decade, data privacy will be recognized as one of society’s most pressing problems. Therefore, the School of Information Sciences in collaboration with the European Union Center at the University of Illinois is pleased to offer this timely seminar series which brings world class privacy experts of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to share their points of view with us each month.

You will need to register in advance via this link in order to join these virtual meetings.

Data Privacy Seminar Series Spring 2022 Speakers:

  • Lecture 1, January 20, 2022, 12-1pm, Meg Leta Jones
  • Lecture 2, February 17, 2022, 12-1 pm, Anita Allen
  • Lecture 3, March 22, 2022, 12-1 pm, Helen Nissenbaum
  • Lecture 4, April 20, 2022, 12-1 pm, Michele Gilman
  • Lecture 4, May 4, 2022, 12-1 pm, danah boyd

About this talk:

Confronting cookies remains one of the most quintessential technological experiences of daily life. Weary internet travelers click through and dodge billions of cookie notifications around the world each day. This phony performance of privacy based on consent has plagued networked computer communications for decades. How is such a phenomenon explained? How did a technology – originally designed to protect privacy and promote additional functionality – become an essential tool for an invasive and clunky internet? Other accounts describe the contemporary click-through-consent arrangement as the product of a system broken by a flood of digital information: the privacy self-management problem that has resulted in the consent crisis. But this talk will be about a project investigating the cookie through a historical lens with origins earlier than the 1990s beyond Silicon Valley and instead starts its story in the mid-1960s on both sides of the Atlantic. The project tells the story of the familiar technology and its political disputes by focusing on who exactly is supposed to be consenting to what and why. The story is told through the narration of three “Computer Characters”: the Data Subject from data protection law, the Anonymous User from communication privacy law, and the Privacy Consumer from consumer protection law. The story of the cookie becomes a tale of domestic technology policy agendas, the evolution of the global computer industry and its professionals, and the messy entanglement of consumer protection, data protection, and privacy law. The weakness of digital consent is not one of volume, but one of technical convergence and legal conflation.

Meg Leta Jones is an Associate Professor in the Communication, Culture & Technology program at Georgetown University where she researches rules and technological change with a focus on privacy, memory, innovation, and automation in digital information and computing technologies. She’s also a core faculty member of the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, a faculty affiliate with the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law Center, a faculty fellow at the Georgetown Ethics Lab, and visiting faculty at the Brussels Privacy Hub at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Meg’s research covers comparative information and communication technology law, critical information and data studies, governance of emerging technologies, and the legal history of technology. Ctrl+Z: The Right to be Forgotten, Meg’s first book, is about the social, legal, and technical issues surrounding digital oblivion. Her second book project, The Character of Consent: The History of Cookies and Future of Technology Policy, tells the transatlantic history of digital consent through the lens of the familiar cookie. She is also co-editing a volume called Feminist Cyberlaw that explores how gender, race, sexuality and disability shape cyberspace and the laws that govern it. Meg holds a Ph.D. in Technology, Media & Society from the University of Colorado, Engineering and Applied Science (ATLAS) and a J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law.

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