UA Panel Discusses Privacy, Apple, Surveillance and the FBI

The battle between privacy and security is back in the headlines with a new case involving Apple and the FBI. The FBI wants Apple to crack the password on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernadino shooting suspects. Apple is refusing, citing the importance of civil liberties and the need for personal data protection.

This particular case is not the first of its kind, but casts attention to ongoing tension between Washington and companies like Apple. Most people want security, and we might assume that we need to give up some degree of control and privacy to afford ourselves increased protections, especially amid terrorist activity around the globe. Many would be happy to give up small amounts of privacy in order to catch criminals of all sorts. However, this case points to the troubling nature of unharnessed government access to personal data and, in this scenario, individuals’ personal mobile devices. Giving the FBI the key to access all personal data on iPhones means, not only full access to the particular phone in question today, or a series of phones down the road, but it also sets precedent for giving access to other countries’ governing bodies, aiding them in their own ‘security’ efforts. These are not clean, easy, black or white concerns.

On March 3, 2016, the newly created University of Arizona Center for Digital Society and Data Studies (CDSDS) is gathering a team of experts to debate the tensions that exist between and amid our needs for both privacy and security. The panel discussion, titled “Privacy, Apple, and the FBI,” will be at 5 p.m., March 3 in the new Environment and Natural Resources Building (ENR2) room N120.

The UA School of Information launched the new CDSDS to bring together the UA's top digital information experts from across disciplines to analyze today's mediated landscape for social life and to address questions and opportunities presented by the new era of big data.

Lee Rainie, the Director of Internet, Science and Technology research at Pew Research Center will join the panel via Skype. Rainie, who is also the Director of Pew Research Center’s new initiative on the intersection of science and society, has commented on the Apple FBI case on major news outlets such as National Public Radio. 

The four other panelists are part of the newly-formed Faculty Advisory Board for the CDSDS.

  • Derek Bambauer, UA professor of law, studies Internet law, intellectual property, Internet censorship and cybersecurity. Bambauer spent two years as a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. His recent post about the Apple/FBI tension is here:
  • Steven Rains, UA associate professor of communication, examines the implications of new communication technologies for health communication. 
  • Suzanne Weisband, UA associate professor of management information systems, researches health information technologies and telemedicine. 
  • Yotam Shmargad, UA assistant professor of information, analyzes large sets of online user and behavior data and studies online privacy, political networks, and information diffusion. 

“We created the new Center to address topics of national and international significance, so we are bringing together a group of amazing scholars, members of the CDSDS advisory board, to address the question of what this case really means for our future as digital citizens,” said Catherine Brooks, the Founder and Director of the new CDSDS.

This event is part of a year-long conversation on privacy being held by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, including the college’s Downtown Lecture Series in the fall, which will explore how we can balance people’s concerns about privacy with the power of big data to improve our lives.

Contact:  Catherine Brooks, Director of the UA Center for Digital Society and Data Studies,


Published Date: 

02/29/2016 - 8:41am