Nuala O’Connor & Alan Henry on Privacy

We previously featured MIT PhD candidate Jean Yang and her perspectives on the subject of privacy.

Featured on the blog today are Nuala O’Connor (@privacymama / CEO of @CenDemTech) and Alan Henry (@halophonnix / Deputy Editor @LifeHacker).

Here’s their QnA on why privacy matters!

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TGD: Why are you passionate about privacy?

nuala oconnor

Nuala O’Connor | Pic from @privacymama


“It’s my children’s future that makes me truly passionate about privacy.

I’m committed to helping shape a world where we are not forced to cede all of our privacy, and where our personal thoughts, expressions, and communications are not all collected by the government.

We need private spaces to create, to grow, and to be human. Even in an always on, always connected world, I am confident we can achieve a balance both between privacy and surveillance, and between information sharing and innovation.”

Nuala O’Connor is a mom, tech diva, and CEO of The Center for Democracy & Technology. Follow her on Twitter @privacymama.

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TGD: Why are you passionate about privacy?

alan henry

Alan Henry | Pic from Lifehacker


“I’m passionate about privacy because at its core, privacy is a basic human right, but not in the way that most people think. Most people think privacy is this amorphous ability to keep your personal business to yourself without being watched, but it’s much more than that. Privacy gives us the freedom to keep our actions—from the library books we read to the things we buy online—from having any impact, positive or negative, on the rest of our lives. It gives us the freedom to grow and change our opinions, and learn new things and look back on the way we used to be without fear that what we used to say and think will haunt us. It gives us the option to choose when we’re marketed to, and when our information is marketable, rather than have that dictated to us by the people looking to make money on us, or take our money from us.

In essence, privacy is about the ability to control your own destiny, and how you interact with the world around you—from other people, to the companies you patronize, to the government you live under. It’s about being able to actively steer that destiny, without taking a backseat to it with the illusion of you having had some input.”

Alan Henry is Deputy Editor @Lifehacker and the classiest geek you’ll ever meet. He tweets @halophoenix.

Jean Yang on Privacy

We recently contacted a few industry experts to share their opinions on a subject that matters to them.

Featured on the blog today is Jean Yang — a final-year PhD  student at MIT and Harvard alumnus. Her research interests include programming language design, and privacy and security. She was in a Gigaom Structure podcast in January 2015, discussing internet misogyny and programming for privacy.

Here’s what she had to say!


Jean Yang | Photo by Daniel Jackson

TGD: Why are you passionate about privacy?

JEAN YANG: This is a good question. I am interested in privacy because I’m deeply interested in people sharing information with each other.

I love the social spaces that the internet creates. I’ve had an email address since 1995 and a website since 1997. I’ve always loved the random connections I make online that sometimes turn into very real friendships. Through encouraging my friends to do more online, I’ve realized that reliably preserving privacy is a crucial part of making people feel comfortable enough to participate in online spaces. We’ve got a long way to go and I’m excited to work on solving this problem.

Another reason I’m interested in privacy is because I think there is a *ton* of very cool data that we can have our hands on if people trusted us to preserve their privacy. Right now, there are interesting public data sets about things that are already pretty much public: for instance, census data on how people live and how people commute. Every now and then people with access to more secret data will do something fun with it. A great example of this is OKCupid analyzing dating profiles and messages to bring us data-backed stories on how people represent themselves and court each other online. Imagine a world where this kind of data could be made public for anyone with spare time to analyze–while preserving guarantees about the privacy of individual people. I don’t know whether such a world is possible and what exactly it would take to get there, but I’m excited to see what happens.

Finally, it’s just really intellectually fun to think about how information flows in order to reveal secrets. I like designing programming models because I like thinking about how people should think. Applying this to privacy means I get to think about how people should think about how secrets gets revealed. Meta fun. 🙂

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Thanks to Jean for sharing her insightful thoughts! Stay updated with her posts and projects via the following links.

Jean Yang Online: Website | Twitter | Quora | Github