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Last updated: Version 2.3 (Updated May 15, 2018).

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Wednesday, May 16 • 10:30 - 11:45
The surveillance tool we love to carry: Cell phones searches and privacy in the evolving legal landscape

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Cell phones are increasingly becoming ubiquitous tools for participating in contemporary societies around the globe. We use them to communicate by voice, and increasingly by text. They help us keep information at our fingertips, including intimate details about our relationships, activities, and transactions. They help us navigate our physical environment with mapping tools and GPS. And in the process, they create a treasure-trove of personal information about us and those we are connected to, while facilitating real-time and after the fact tracking and surveillance of our movements, online and off.

But while both the technology and social norms are developing rapidly, the laws that protect our privacy in relation to cell phones are not. Courts are increasingly struggling with cases that involve privacy not just in the personal information we store on the phones, but also the information about us that the phones collect and transmit by virtue of the way they are designed and the infrastructures they must interact with to function. In Canada, the Supreme Court recently ruled in the combined cases of R. v. Marakah and R. v. Jones, establishing some privacy rights in text messages once they are sent. In the US, Carpenter v. the United States is before the U.S. Supreme Court, looking at whether police should be able to obtain detailed tracking information, collected routinely by service providers, without a warrant. On both sides of the Canadian/US border, warrantless searches by border officers are being challenged on constitutional grounds.

This public roundtable session will engage a mix of legal professionals, activists and advocates, and technologists in a guided discussion about the legal issues, ways to engage in the kinds of advocacy that might help shape privacy protective outcomes, and ways that technology can help solve the problems it has created. We will begin with experts providing brief summaries of key cases and issues to launch a wide-ranging and interactive discussion with the goals of identifying core issues shared by (or debated among) legal, policy, and technology sector participants. We hope to create a new, cross-border shared understanding of commonalities and differences in current approaches to cell phone privacy and legal advocacy, establish ongoing relationships that could, where appropriate, lead to shared interventions in key cases in the form of amicus briefs, and engage and build relationships with non-legal stakeholders whose support can contribute to the advocacy efforts for legal reform, and the efforts to establish new precedents for the digital age.

avatar for Lex Gill

Lex Gill

Citizen Lab

avatar for Robyn Greene

Robyn Greene

Policy Counsel and Government Affairs Lead, New America's Open Technology Institute
avatar for David Greene

David Greene

Civil Liberties Director, EFF
I am the Civil Liberties Director at EFF, which means I direct the team of US lawyers working on free speech and privacy rights issues. My personal expertise is in US free speech law.
avatar for Brenda McPhail

Brenda McPhail

Director, Privacy, Technology & Surveillance Project, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Privacy advocacy. Social implications of new and emerging technologies. Laws protecting privacy. Lack of laws protecting privacy. Exciting legal challenges. Surveillance, especially face surveillance. National security (especially signals intelligence). Talk to me about any of these... Read More →
avatar for Jon Penney

Jon Penney

Assistant Professor / Research Fellow, Schulich Law, Dalhousie University / Citizen Lab / Princeton CITP /
Jon Penney is a legal academic and social scientist. He is presently a Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab located at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, a Research Affiliate of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy, and teaches law as an Assistant... Read More →

Wednesday May 16, 2018 10:30 - 11:45 EDT