The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, in partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, invite you to join our virtual event, "Deciphering Data Privacy," on Wednesday, November 18, at 11 a.m. central time.

Privacy is a paramount issue of our time; one made even more urgent during a pandemic when so many aspects of our lives are mediated through technology.

In our workplaces. In our schools. In our social interactions. And in so many areas of our day-to-day, we are being observed and our data is being collected, sometimes for the collective good—but more often for private profit.

Privacy is also a complex issue, one that intertwines a range of high-level expertise—engineering, design, governance and the law—with our deeply held notions of social responsibility and individual freedom.

RJI and EFF believe journalists can help the public better understand what's happening and what's at stake with data privacy. Through that public accountability, we also believe journalists can play a critical role in revamping the incentive structures driving the technology industry's incentive structures and building greater trust.

Together in conversation with journalists, technologists and privacy experts, we will unpack the messages and the mechanisms surrounding data privacy and develop strategies for more effective coverage around this important issue.

Lindsey Oliver, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Before joining the EFF in 2017, Oliver managed the nonprofit accelerator program at Geeks Without Bounds, focusing on open source technology solutions to humanitarian and disaster relief challenges, as well as working with a number of nonprofit, civil society, and social enterprise organizations on capacity-building for diverse communities. Prior to her forays into civic technology, Oliver worked as a public high school teacher, and holds both a BA in English from Loyola University Chicago and a MAT in Secondary English Education from National Louis University. In her copious spare time (lol), she makes costumes and races suped-up Power Wheels.


Melanie Ensign, CEO/Founder of Discernible

After managing security and privacy communications for some of the world’s most notable brands, including Facebook, Uber, and AT&T, Ensign founded Discernible to help even more organizations adopt effective communications strategies to improve risk-related outcomes. She counsels executives and technical teams alike to cut through internal politics, dysfunctional inertia, and meaningless metrics. Additionally, Ensign is the press department lead for DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker con. She is also an accomplished scuba diver and brings many lessons learned preparing for and navigating unexpected, high-risk underwater incidents to her work.


Kashmir Hill, The New York Times

Hill has produced some of the most engaging and relatable tech stories by working with engineers, academics, and technologists to demystify the way that companies collect, share, and sell consumer information in the modern data economy. Hill writes about the unexpected and sometimes ominous ways technology is changing our lives, particularly when it comes to our privacy. She joined The New York Times in 2019, after having worked as an investigative reporter at Gizmodo Media Group and as a writer and editor at Fusion, Forbes Magazine, and Above the Law. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker and The Washington Post.In 2018, she gave a TED talk—"What your smart devices know (and share) about you"—in which she described what happened when she transformed her apartment into a smart home and monitored the data being sent out of it. She has degrees from Duke University and New York University, where she studied journalism.


Our panelists

Drhuv Mehrotra is an investigative reporter at Gizmodo Media Group. He applies technology unconventionally to issues concerning social justice and accountability. His work has been supported by Eyebeam, The ACLU, and NYU's Courant Institute of Applied Mathematics. He is the investigative data reporter for the Special Projects Desk which produces investigative work across all of Gizmodo Media Group's web sites. He has a cat named Frank and a dog named Maggie

Aaron Krolik is an interactive news journalist and developer at The New York Times. Before joining the Times, he was a software engineer at the Duke University Reporters’ Lab.

Maddy Varner is an investigative data journalist at The Markup. She extracts datasets from public documents and databases to help build a more concrete understanding of how organizations use technology to predict and affect behavior—and the problems in those assumptions. Before The Markup, she was a researcher at ProPublica, where she was on a team that won a Loeb Award for Beat Reporting in 2017 for “Monetizing Hate,” a series of stories that examined Facebook’s ad practices.


Nov 18

11:00 AM CST

Keynote - The Landscape of Data Privacy

Lindsay Oliver, Activism Project Manager at EFF


We will begin by defining what’s at stake.

Oliver will walk us through the current landscape of data privacy while keeping us grounded in the real-world experience of consumers, students and individuals.

11:15 AM CST

Dialogue - Understanding how companies talk about data privacy

Melanie Ensign, CEO/Founder of Discernible & James Gordon, RJI Senior Editor


Corporate and government public relations often obscure the real priority of users’ privacy. Especially during a high-profile crisis like a data breach, it’s difficult to delineate neglect from malfunction and incompetence from malfeasance.

Ensign and will talk with Gordon about how to parse privacy-related PR and understand the most relevant factors of privacy practice, good and bad.

12:00 PM CST

Panel - Understanding how companies engineer data privacy

Kashmir Hill of The New York Times


Companies make a lot of promises, but to find the truth, journalists often have to dig deeper—and work with those who know how to analyze those promises.

Hill will lead a discussion with data journalists—Maddy Varner of the Markup; Dhruv Mehrotra of Gizmodo; and Aaron Krolik of The New York Times—about lessons learned covering privacy and how they've demystified the inner workings of the modern data economy.

12:45 PM CST


James Gordon, RJI Senior Editor


We’ll wrap up by sharing additional resources and ask for your feedback.


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