Researcher talks to UMD about changing privacy standards online

By Jamie Kerner

Dr. Tatevik Sargsyan addressed a room of University of Maryland students and faculty members about the privatization of privacy within technology companies during a seminar sponsored by the Center for the Advanced Study of Communities and Information on Nov. 14.

Sargsyan has conducted many studies throughout her career regarding consumer privacy on the internet. She is a senior research fellow at the nonprofit research initiative Ranking Digital Rights and a fellow at the Internet Law and Policy Foundry. She is also an adjunct professor at American University, where she teaches about the social impact of information and communication technologies.

The host of the seminar, The Center for the Advanced Study of Communities and Information (CASCI), is a multidisciplinary research network based at the University of Maryland.

Sargsyan gave her own perspective on the different privacy policies, technical tools, self-regulation and multi-stakeholders used by various technological companies.

According to Sargsyan, privacy is one of the most debated public issues and continues to have gain attention. She says technology companies are the ones at the forefront of defining consumer privacy.

The information and insight Sargsyan presented is still a work in progress, part of her ongoing research. Throughout her studies, she has conducted 24 interviews with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and intermediary representatives in order to further understand the privacy policy operations of different companies.

Throughout the seminar, Sargsyan discussed privacy changes, such a encryptions and transparency reports, as well as patterns of different companies.

“There is a definitely a pattern of behavior within the companies,” Sargsyan said.

These patterns included defying regulators’ requirements, making only symbolic changes in response to backlash from investors rather than actually changing privacy conditions of users and making changes to policies due to pressure from investors only if the changes benefit them.

Freshman psychology major Daniel Copland said he learned a lot from the seminar.

“I thought the seminar was very informative regarding data privacy,” Copland said. “Dr. Sargsyan was intelligent on the subject matter of privacy and knew information in different parts of the field and she demonstrated her knowledge in a clear and efficient manner.”

Sophomore early childhood special education major Hannah Dornbush said the talk’s subject matters to many.

“This was an important topic to discuss because privacy relates to everyone because everyone values privacy.”


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