August 31, 2011 | By Richard Esguerra

SXSW 2012 Panels to Pick

UPDATE: More privacy panels added below.

Every year, the South by Southwest (SXSW) media festival invites the Internet at large to contribute to the SXSW schedule by voting on thousands of submitted panels. Community votes—combined with editorial input from the SXSW staff and advisory board—ultimately decide the final panel schedule.

What follows are some choice panel proposals that address timely, interesting technology and freedom issues, and that usually feature EFF panelists and friends of EFF. If these catch your eye, grant them a thumbs-up vote!

  • Now that social media sites are being tied to political uprisings worldwide, companies need to be asking an important question: How can we better protect users in situations where using our platform puts them at risk of real, personal harm? "How to Run a Social Site and Not Get Users Killed," organized by EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York, aims to address what social media companies can do to keep users safe. The panel of activists and free expression advocates plans to address critical issues of sites' terms of service, anonymity/pseudonymity, and more.
  • "Fighting For Your Users Without Becoming A Target" is another panel directed towards Internet companies and covering free expression issues. Organized by EFF Intellectual Property Director and Kahle Promise Fellow Corynne McSherry, the panel aims to highlight the options available for mitigating or responding to common legal threats when running services that encourage users to share ideas and communicate.
  • Review sites provide would-be customers access to a wealth of opinions about businesses and service providers. But when it comes to the more complicated relationship between health care providers and patients, the stakes are much higher. So, what's appropriate when a professional's reputation is under assault online? With panelists from both sides of the online review experience, the "WARNING: Are online reviews bad for your health?" panel promises to be a fascinating debate.
  • The Humble Indie Bundle has proven that giving away content for free can be profitable. In the "Set Your Content Free (It's Harder Than You Think)" panel, organized by EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels,panelists from creative industries will host "a practical discussion of strategies for using free content." Successfully competing with free is a hallmark of success in the digital era, and this panel will provide valuable insight into that process.
  • The mainstreaming of online sharing—of every kind of content, for every kind of purpose—is challenging aging intellectual property laws more than ever. The "Intellectual Property Issues in Social Media" panel seeks to address how courts and industry have been handling unprecedented controversies, like mock Twitter accounts and the use of widely shared pictures for news or marketing purposes.
  • In the last two years, more people have been sued by copyright trolls than were sued by the RIAA during their five-year campaign against music downloaders. The "When Copyright Trolls Attack" panel, organized by EFF Activist Eva Galperin, will discuss the perils of copyright trolling, a practice by which unscrupulous law firms use the threat of copyright infringement suits to scare individuals into settlement payments. This panel will explore the ways in which content creators and fans have grappled with this ominous new business model.
  • Facebook largely pioneered the stubborn social network policy of requiring that users provide and display their real names (and not a pseduonym or otherwise) on their profiles, and Google Plus has so far slavishly adhered to similar ethos. In "Debate: Should Social Sites Allow Anonymous Users?" EFF's Legal Director, Cindy Cohn will debate another top Internet lawyer, Colette Vogele, on the topic of anonymity on social sites.

We also asked for people's favorite panel proposals on Twitter and Facebook. Here are some other honorable mentions:

UPDATE: Here are a number of privacy panels that are also vote-worthy:

  • In addition to the anonymity panel mentioned above, "In Defense of Pseudonymity" seeks to cover the nymwars (a shorthand way of referring to the "pseudonym wars") in detail. Some key questions addressed by the panel include: "Are there ways to enforce a "real name" policy without providing offline ID?" and "How do government proposals like NSTIC and corporate policies requiring employees and applicants to disclose their social network accounts and passwords change the landscape?"
  • The "Sex, Lies, and Cookies: Web Privacy EXPOSED!" panel, which includes researcher and EFF board member Lorrie Cranor, plans to discuss web tracking methods and highlight ways to improve the ability of consumers to make informed choices about privacy on the web. This panel topic is particularly relevant given the momentum of "Do Not Track" controls in popular web browsers and the progress of "Do Not Track" legislative proposals in Congress.
  • Organized by Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director at the ACLU of Northern California, "Can Privacy Bootcamp Firm Up Your Bottom Line?" seeks to address how (and why) companies can avoid the kind of privacy and security pitfalls that generate lawsuits, bad press, or government fines.
  • Chris Conley, a Technology and Civil Liberties Fellow at the ACLU of Northern California, is organizing an excellent technical panel titled "Mobile Privacy: Developer Kits & Tips." The following quote from the panel description says it all: "We'll include hands-on demos of existing apps and developer kits and tools that help you think through and address the privacy implications of the data you collect and use." Anyone working on a mobile appication seeking to compete on privacy should definitely vote for this panel and attend.
  • The "Selling Your Soul: Privacy Choices People Make" panel seeks to address a troubling dichotomy: that consumers value privacy very highly, yet can be goaded to accept terms that compromise privacy. The panel description explains their evidence-driven approach: "We will examine recent original research from Create with Context and the Future of Privacy Forum that examines the factors that drive trust in online experiences, focusing on design and brand perceptions."
  • The "Is privacy dead or a billion dollar business?" and "Principles and Practices for Privacy by Design" panels plan to approach privacy from the angle of innovation, by discussing the challenges and opportunities available to capitalize on user demand for trust and improved personal data privacy.
  • "Your Body is Your ID: Data Mining Defines You" promises to tackle biometric privacy, an issue destined to become contentious as the tools for measuring, storing, and checking biometric data become more common.
  • The "Help! I Have An Internet Stalker or Blackmailer!" features leading attorneys and researchers covering the tough topic of dealing with excessive negative attention online. While less scrupulous individuals have resorted to misuse or abuse of the law to silence critics, this panel seeks a better way, through "strategies for legal and de facto solutions, without breaking the Internet along the way."
  • The "right to be forgotten" seeks to make the online world behave more closely to the offline world when it comes to remembering an individual's words and actions. It is a compelling concept, but is fraught with the core concern of whether or not it will be—in practice—used for censorship. The "Right to be Forgotten: Forgiveness or Censorship?" seeks to expose some of the practical realities around the "right to be forgotten" idea.
  • We've raised our initial privacy concerns about the "National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace," or NSTIC, a plan encouraging the private sector to develop identity-focused technologies for the Internet. Dazza Greenwood, identity researcher and organizer of "Obama & NSTIC: All Your IDs Are Belong To U(S)," promises that the panel will provide a sober assessment of the privacy issues in the proposal, covering the challenges and concerns surrounding NSTIC.

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