Gary Marx and Woodrow Hartzog Featured in European Data Protection Law Review

EPIC Advisors Gary Marx and Woodrow Hartzog were recently featured in the “European Data Protection Law Review.”

Gary Marx opened the publication with “A Less Perfect But Freer Society” an essay that analyzes the “costs” to the individual and society as the technological world rapidly progresses. As Marx explains, it is not necessarily a win/win. He notes that the responsibility, and in many cases the challenge, is to “see clearly what it is” in order to move forward with “wisdom” in a better effort to achieve balance.

“Discussions of the future require humility.” Says Marx. “Regarding specific predictions, social scientists who failed to predict the civil rights movement, the coming computerization, the end of the cold war, 9/11 and subsequent events in a jarring context of globalisation and global warming may do no better than telling from a broken clock which will sometimes (twice a day) be correct. But what is life without risk?”

In other words, it’s hard to predict exactly where technology will take us. We may get it right, but we also run the risk of getting it very wrong.  Marx cautions that we should neither think of technology akin to “utopianism” nor “dystopianism” but rather to simply have an understanding of the choices we have as the world changes.

“It is too easy to have a cheerleader response, just as it is too easy to have a fearful, abhorrent reflex response to technical developments. We face a complex set of shifting, and inherently debatable, trade-offs.” Marx says. “The good news is that there are often choices. The bad news is, that they can be costly and we need to be made aware of them.”

“The good news is that there are often choices. The bad news is, that they can be costly and we need to be made aware of them.”


Woodrow Hartzog discusses technology, but focuses attention on the issue of privacy in the “Case Against Idealising Control.”

What do we [the consumer/user] think privacy means? And what does industry and policy think it means? From Professor Hartzog’s research, most people in industry and in policy think of privacy in terms of control. “The entire tech industry seems to have reached a consensus that privacy is, in fact, all about control. Many scholars agree. Even professional organisations and privacy advocates embrace the concept of control.” Hartzog notes this concept of control has moved beyond the tug-of-war between industry and privacy advocates. “Lawmakers, regulators, and judges seem to have more or less settled on the notion that the key to privacy generally and data protection specifically, is control over personal information.”

Hartzog sees the emphasis on control as a “misguided path.”

“Our personal agency is required for control to work and, after all, we are only human.” Hartzog explains. “The concept of control is far too precious and finite to meaningfully scale. It will never work for personal data mediated by technology.”

You can read both essays here. They are open for public viewing.

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