McGeorge School of Law

Inaugural Michael Belote Endowed Lecture Explores Individual Privacy in the Internet Age

December 10, 2013

Liebert, Goldman and Fakhoury

From left: Drew Liebert, Eric Goldman and Hanni Fakhoury, '07.

McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific's Capital Center for Law & Policy hosted its Inaugural Mike Belote Annual Endowed Capital Center Lecture on the evening of Dec. 5, 2013 at the Sutter Club in Sacramento.

Three legal experts addressed the topic of "Protecting Individual Privacy in the Internet Age: Where, if at all, Should Lines be Drawn, and Who Should be the Artist?" Drew Liebert, Chief Counsel of the Assembly Judiciary Committee; Hanni Fakhoury, '07, Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); and Eric Goldman, Professor of Law at Santa Clare University School of Law composed the panel.

The panel discussed how Big Data is intersecting with the traditional privacy expectations of Californians, and how these expectations should be protected – or if it is even possible, or desirable, to do so. More than 175 guests attended the lively discussion in the California Room, followed by a reception downstairs.

Leslie Gielow Jacobs, Director of the McGeorge Capital Center for Law & Policy, moderated the discussion. Jacobs invited the speakers to address how Internet businesses are collecting unprecedented amounts of personal information, including the places we travel, the products we buy, the entertainment we watch, as well as other behaviors and preferences.

Professor Jacobs posed six questions that each panelist addressed for three minutes:

  1. Notwithstanding the continuing reports of possible privacy abuses by our federal government in the NSA scandal, is there any evidence yet that California consumers' privacy rights are actually being harmed by private Internet companies, i.e., is this really much ado about nothing?
  2. Many Internet service providers defend their data collection practices by claiming they have customer "consent" through "terms of service" or customer agreements. How well do you feel the current "disclosure and consent" process used on the Internet is working, and if it isn't, what if anything should be done to change it?
  3. One of the key methods Internet-based companies suggest protects their customers' privacy is to "anonymize" and "aggregate" information they turn over to advertisers. Is this an effective way to ensure consumers' privacy rights are protected and to eliminate privacy risks?
  4. What, if any, currently appear to be the biggest privacy threats facing consumers on the Internet? Identity theft? What if anything else? Should consumers be more worried about these issues than they currently appear to be?
  5. Is there any appropriate role for the California Legislature to play in seeking to protect consumer expectations of privacy on the Internet, or is it better to let the tech sector — which arguably has a very strong incentive to keep consumers happy and feeling safe — regulate itself?
  6. Finally, and briefly, what do you predict to be the major areas of concern by policy-makers regarding Internet privacy as we move forward in the next few years? Should we expect more legislation on the state level, and if so, addressing what likely issues?

The Michael Belote Endowed Capital Center Lecture was made possible by a generous donation from Mike Belote, '87, President of California Advocates, Inc. and longtime McGeorge alumni donor and volunteer. Belote's gift was matched by the University of the Pacific Powell Fund.

The McGeorge Capital Center hosts notable, keynote speakers who bring timely and thoughtful commentary to current state and federal issues relating to government and public law and policy. On Nov. 13, 2013, Chip Nielsen, '71, senior political law partner at Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP, and Lance H. Olson, '77, senior partner at Olson Hagel & Fishburn LLP, presented "Dark Money — The 11 Million Dollar Problem Defined." On May 23, 2013, a panel of experts presented "California Gaming — Implications of Internet and Off-Reservation Gaming Activities" at the Chamber of Commerce.

About the Speakers

Drew Liebert has been the Chief Counsel to the Assembly Judiciary Committee in the California Legislature for over 15 years. He is an adjunct professor at McGeorge School of Law, where he teaches the course "Legislative Process, Strategy & Ethics " with Anthony Williams, '05. In his role as Chief Counsel to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Liebert works in the fulcrum of many of the most important pieces of legislation debated and enacted by California policy-makers, including bills seeking to regulate the Internet.

Eric Goldman is a Professor of Law and Director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law. Before he became a full-time academic in 2002, he practiced Internet law for 8 years in the Silicon Valley. His research and teaching focuses on Internet, IP and advertising law topics, and he blogs on these topics at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog [] and the Tertium Quid blog at Forbes [].

Hanni Fakhoury, '07, is a Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where he focuses on criminal law, privacy and free speech litigation and advocacy. His work includes representing Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer on appeal, arguing before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on the constitutionality of warrantless cell tracking, and serving as co-counsel in a First Amendment challenge to California's Proposition 35 in federal court. In addition, Hanni has testified before the California state legislature on proposed electronic privacy legislation.