John Cabot University Welcomes Privacy Advocates Simon Davies and Mike Godwin

On Wednesday, November 19, John Cabot University welcomed two pioneers of digital rights, Simon Davies and Mike Godwin, for one of the most well-attended events in University history.

Simon Davies, a privacy advocate and academic based in the U.K., was the first campaigner in the field of international privacy advocacy and the founder of watchdog organization Privacy International. American attorney and author Mike Godwin was the first staff counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the creator of the Internet adage Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies.

After giving a lecture series at JCU in February of 2014, Davies was invited to return as a visiting professor. He is currently teaching CMS/BUS 385: Surveillance, Privacy and Social Identities: Practices and Representations.

JCU President Franco Pavoncello greeted the audience and introduced the speakers and panelists before giving the stage to Davies. He was joined onstage by Godwin and the two kicked off a discussion of what privacy means and how it has changed in our lifetime with the advancement of technology and the internet.

Godwin and Davies differ on current issues like the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” law, which allows people to request that their information be removed from search engines. While Davies believes that individuals should have a say in what comes up when they enter their names in Google, Godwin expressed concern that the E.U. law could end up enabling censorship.

The Panel Participants

The Panel Participants

According to Godwin, in places like Great Britain and the USA, human rights to privacy are easier to protect than in developing and non-western countries. Davies added that while this may be true, people in the western world tend to take the right to privacy for granted.

A panel discussion mediated by Professor Daniele Pica followed Davies’ and Godwin’s debate. Panelists included Annie Machon, a former MI5 Intelligence Officer, Shahzad Ahmad of Bytes for All, Pakistan, Bart Van Der Sloot, privacy researcher at the University of Amsterdam, and Caroline Hunt, professor at Webster University and UN whistleblower.

The panel touched upon a wide rage of topics ranging from civil liberties and internet censorship to issues of security and intelligence, electronic visual surveillance, and the advantages of open source technology.

In the question and answer session that followed, many students took advantage of the opportunity to further their understanding of how to protect their right to privacy.

Learn more about the Department of Communications and the Department of Business Administration at John Cabot University.