Online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Airbnb, Uber, Amazon, Apple, TikToc and Microsoft have created attractive opportunities and efficiencies. Yet the platforms have come at a heavy price. Familiar platforms collect, use, analyze and share massive amounts of data about individuals. They are motivated by profit and have limited transparency or accountability. The social costs of diminished information privacy include discrimination, misinformation and political manipulation. The self-governance efforts adopted by Big Tech companies have not silenced criticism that platform firms prioritize free speech, interconnectivity and interoperability at the expense of equitable privacy protections and antiracist measures. New rules, statutes and authorities are needed. From the ash heap of World War II, privacy emerged as a human right. Now, less than a century later, advocates are insisting that privacy is a civil right. A new generation of privacy and data-protection laws is evolving. These initiatives require a hard look to determine whether they go far enough toward addressing the digital-era vulnerabilities. Focusing on Black Americans and Black Canadians, I ask: what are those vulnerabilities? I employ a new framework for describing vulnerabilities of Black North Americans. I call it the “Black Opticon,” echoing the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who in 1791 popularized the idea of the Panopticon that became a popular metaphor for digital life. Black people dwell under the attentive eye of a Black Opticon—a threefold system of societal disadvantage comprised of discriminatory oversurveillance (the panopticon), exclusion (Didier Bigo’s ban-opticon) and predation (I dub it the con-opticon). As I will explain, the Black Opticon metaphor encapsulates literal aspects of the urgent privacy and data-protection problem facing racialized minority groups.
Tea and coffee will be available in the Piano Lounge in Graham House at 4:30 pm.
Anita L. Allen is the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, she is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition, the Warren Center for Network & Data Sciences and a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics. A graduate of Harvard Law School with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Michigan, Allen is an expert on privacy and data protection law, bioethics and public philosophy. She holds an honorary doctorate from Tilburg University, Netherlands. In 2019 Allen was President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association. In 2021, she was awarded the Quinn Prize for service to philosophy and philosophers. In 2022, she was given the Founders Award for service to Bioethics by the Hastings Center and the Privacy Award of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Anita Allen served under President Obama as a member of the National Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and she currently serves on the boards of the National Constitution Center, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Future of Privacy Forum. She has lectured on privacy in Canada, Europe, Japan, Taiwan and Israel; published five books and over 120 scholarly articles; contributed to and been featured in popular newspapers, magazines, podcasts and blogs; and appeared on numerous television and radio programs. In 2024, she will give the H.L. A. Hart Memorial Lecture at the University of Oxford.