ACLU of Washington position focuses on how new and emerging technologies affect human rights.
DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY AND LIBERTY
What do you do? I’m the director of technology and liberty at the ACLU of Washington. My job is focused on how new and emerging technologies impact our rights — everything from privacy and government surveillance to free speech. I get to work on a variety of projects: developing policies and frameworks for thinking about these problems, collaborating with our other lawyers on court cases that involve technology issues and assisting our lobbyists with legislative bills that touch on these concerns.
How did you get started in that field? In my early 20s, I did a lot of work focused on the intersection between cutting-edge technologies and art. As a part of this, I began to think a lot about how our collective ability to gather detailed information from the world around us would impact our ability to maintain private lives. I also became involved in projects related to censorship and artistic expression. This all led to law school, where I focused on privacy and intellectual property issues and did a lot of work with nonprofits in this space.
What’s a typical day like? As much as I have a typical day, it involves trying to frantically stay up on the latest news related to government surveillance and police practices, privacy-protecting technologies like encryption, and local government use of new technology. I communicate constantly with local allies and community stakeholders about cutting-edge concerns about how new technologies should be used. I collaborate with engineers and technologists to understand the nuanced inner workings of new developments. At any given time, I’m working on a variety of different projects and preparing presentations for governments and the public alike to educate on these issues.
What’s the best part of the work? I love being able to dedicate my time to issues that I’m passionate about. I get to work with cool technologies on a day-to-day basis and get to fight for important rights. That said, the best part of my job is hearing about the amazing work that others at the ACLU of Washington are working on. From immigration, discrimination, drug and criminal justice reform, to reproductive rights, everyone in our office is working on difficult issues and are incredibly passionate about every project they work on. It is easy to be inspired every day when you work with people that have given their lives to fighting on behalf of the public.
What surprises people about what you do? I think nowadays, people expect all my work to be focused on things like the NSA and the important disclosures [Edward] Snowden has made. Although that is certainly a part of it, my time is spent on all kinds of topics — things like police body cameras, copyright law and online expression, student rights on social media, and ways technology can be used to enable people to understand their government’s activities and to hold them accountable. A key feature of this job is the wide array of issues I get to work on.
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