As Americans are becoming more privacy conscious over what they voluntarily make available on the internet, a new and exciting product from Google may pose a significant risk in the form of traditional snooping. Google Glass is essentially a futuristic pair of glasses which provide a heads-up display to the wearer, allowing them to view a wealth of information hands-free. Privacy concerns arise from the integrated photo/video camera, which can record both video and audio at any time, and without giving any sort of external indication that it is doing so.

Google has stated that they are conscious of the privacy concerns, and are attempting to build in ways to prevent unauthorized snooping. However, just as cell phones can be jail-broken, tech enthusiasts will likely be able to modify their devices to circumvent any sort of protections which Google would build into the device. Essentially, this means that anyone could be under surveillance from private individuals at any time, and be totally unaware of it.

While such snooping would in many circumstances still be illegal, were Google Glass to become common, it may become difficult or impossible to properly police this surveillance, and would easy fodder for abuse. Clearly, there needs to be a greater dialogue on the issue before the technology can be widely disbursed.


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Practical Technology Tools is an experiential course designed to introduce affordable and accessible online dispute resolution (ODR) technology to the practice of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Participants will engage in four synchronous, real-time lectures and discussions over a five-week period, with asynchronous forums, wikis, directional study, and instructor interaction.  Students will learn about numerous tested online platforms and tools that can elevate and streamline their current mediation and dispute
resolution practices.  These technologies will concentrate on the functions of an ADR practice that can most easily be adapted to working digitally, including client intake, client narrative, document review and storage, information sharing, brainstorming, and agreement development, drafting, and execution.

Skills targeted by course:

  • Understanding and Assessing Technology: learn about available tools and which are most appropriate  for ADR and your practice
  • Digital Case Management: assess and apply case management skills to information and communication technologies (ICTs)
  • Third Party Skills: anticipate and prepare for how clients will react to and learn to use new platforms and technology tools
  • Ethical Evaluation: analyze and adapt mediation and legal ethics to the use of ICT
  • Technology Integration: dissecting the practicalities of maintaining a face-to-face dispute resolution practice while integrating technology and/or creating your own virtual ADR practice

About the lead instructor:

Daniel_Rainey_headshot_dropDaniel Rainey is one of the leading ODR educators and practitioners in the world. Working with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he was one of the first instructors to teach a university ODR course, and has since developed graduate level ODR courses for several universities and dispute resolution centers. He has designed ADR and ODR systems for numerous organizations.

He is a Fellow of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution, a delegate at the UNCITRAL Working Group III on ODR, a member of the ABA Web-based Interdisciplinary Dispute Resolution Environment Task Force, a member of the ABA President-elect’s Technology Initiative, and co-author and editor of the definitive ODR source book, ODR Theory and Practice.

The proliferation of GPS devices represent a prime example of technology outpacing the law, with profound effects on individual privacy. As of yet there is no unified law dictating when using GPS tracking is acceptable or not.  Although there have been some cases on the issue, it is far from clear when businesses are allowed to track employees, when the government can track suspects (or individuals in general), when cellphone companies can track their users, or even how that data should be handled when collected.

The proposed Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (hr. 1312/s. 639, or simply the GPS act) is an attempt by lawmakers to give “government agencies, commercial entities, and private citizens clear guidelines for when and how geolocation information can be accessed and used”.  Information on the bill and other proposed legislation can be found at

The National Institute of Standards and Technology have recently released new security guidelines for protecting digitally stored information from intrusions.  NIST security guidelines represent a collection of the best company practices, and in the past have represented industry standards for digital information security.  When so much of the onus of keeping individual’s personal data private and secure falls on the companies themselves, these guidelines become an incredibly important gauge of the trustworthiness of the companies holding your data.  Avoid dealing with businesses not conforming to the NIST’s recommendations.

Last week, ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden came forward to tell America that the NSA has been conducting a secret, nationwide surveillance campaign in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings this past April.  Details of the campaign are slowly coming to light, but suggest that the NSA demanded from Verizon telephone data on individual American citizens, and has developed a data mining program with direct access to emails, chat logs and other data stored on the servers of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and Apple.  In leaking this information, classified top-secret by the NSA, Edward Snowden chose to face decades in jail to bring to light what he considers an Orwellian breach of American privacy.

While many applaud his decision as an act of self-sacrifice protecting Americans from abuse by their own government.  A recent poll by the Washington Post revealed that a slim majority of Americans are willing to accept the NSA’s surveillance of their personal emails and phone calls, if conducted in the name of a terrorist investigation.  The poll also shows that Democrats are much more willing to choose security over privacy now than during the Bush era.  One must wonder whether such surveillance would have been as well received if the Boston Marathon Bombings were not so fresh in everyone’s mind.  Having watched the military style police vehicles roll past my Boston apartment with the city in lockdown, I have seen how willingly people forsake their liberties when they perceive a threat.  It is unfortunate then that no matter how secure our countermeasures are, we can never become fully protected from all threats.

It is not paranoia to say that there are groups “out there” trying to know everything they can about you all of the time.  It is more terrifying to realize that so much of your most personal data is collected and aggregated into databases ripe for the picking. We are often lured into a false sense of security with the knowledge that there exist laws and privacy policies ostensibly designed to keep our information secret.  However, these protections are deceptively weak, especially in the face of new methods of data reconstruction.

For example, HIPAA is a piece of federal legislation designed to protect the privacy of patient’s medical records.  It demands certain methods be taken when collecting and handling data, but also that such data is “anonymized” before being released. Under certain circumstance, the law allows anonymized data to be sold for research purposes, essentially to anyone seeking to buy.  Unfortunately, recent research is revealing that supposedly anonymized data can be combined with other public records to fill in the blanks, thereby linking you to your sensitive information.  Jordon Robertson’s recent article for Bloomberg News highlights the frightening implications of this process.  In light of last week’s NSA snooping scandal, it is shocking to consider how exposed Americans really are.