Influential privacy scholar Joel Reidenberg died after a long battle with leukemia. He was 59.
Reidenberg was Fordham University's Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair in Law and the founder of the Center on Law and Information Policy. He was also the inaugural Microsoft Visiting Professor of Information Technology Policy at Princeton University.
He influenced a generation of privacy students, scholars, professionals and policymakers over the course of the last 30 years and published a number of well-respected articles on privacy, including "Lex Informatica: The Formulation of Information Policy Rules through Technology" in 1998, which, according to Fordham Law News, "showed that the developers of networked technologies were as important to data protection and cybersecurity as policymakers and conventional legal mechanisms."
In 2005, Reidenberg founded CLIP, a pioneering effort that came in response to the legal and regulatory challenges posed by rapidly advancing technology. CLIP conducts research and helps lead public discourse on data protection and information security, among other initiatives.
The reaction to Reidenberg's death has been wide-ranging across the privacy community.
IAPP Vice President and Chief Knowledge Officer Omer Tene said Reidenberg "personified the bridge connecting the privacy communities across the Atlantic." Tene has also written about the pioneering efforts of Reidenberg in this Privacy Perspectives post.
Cameron Russell, The Western Union Company's EU data protection officer and a former executive director at CLIP, said,
Joel’s enduring contribution to the privacy world, in part, is how he was able to bring us together with daring optimism — a legacy of bridges, both for the vital policy conversations of the day, as well as to coalesce our community around kindness and warmth.
Reidenberg had a global influence. Allende & Brea Partner Pablo Palazzi obtained his LL.M. from Fordham Law School in 2000. He shared some of his memories with the IAPP:
Joel was a superb privacy scholar. He was the first U.S. law professor to write a book about data protection (with Professor Paul Schawtz). The book was published in 1995, when data protection was an unknown word in U.S. law. He developed the concept that code is law long before other academics popularize the idea. His pioneering analysis of the EU-U.S. Safe Harbor was confirmed by the European Court of Justice in 2015. In March 2019, Joel received the 2019 BCLT Privacy Award from the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. The award recognizes Joel’s seminal scholarship, innovative policy entrepreneurship, and tireless support of the privacy community.
In comments provided to the IAPP, Boston University School of Law Professor Danielle Citron said,
Reidenberg's influence was not only felt in the academic community, but in the business and policymaking communities, as well. Future of Privacy Forum Founder Jules Polonetsky, CIPP/US, said,
Joel was a mentor to an incredible number of privacy leaders, from his students who became top scholars like Danielle Citron to leading privacy pros like Yael Weinman at Verizon and many more. He was a true intellectual, capable of collaborating across disciplines with computer scientists and ethicists, regularly conducted projects for European institutions, and produced award-winning papers that are appreciated by academics and industry. He integrated his love of community and his faith into his work, as well, organizing a side trip to a concentrations camp during the privacy commissioners conference in Warsaw and regularly traveling and speaking in Israel.
Reidenberg was also a pioneer in student privacy issues. World Privacy Forum Executive Director Pam Dixon said,
Joel’s contributions to the field of privacy are significant and will stand the test of time. His career was long, and there are many areas I could focus on, as he was a respected privacy and law scholar. One of his major contributions is in student privacy. Joel pioneered modern student privacy and created a full national privacy curriculum for schools, not just university level, but also for younger children. Joel always knew that teaching younger students about core privacy ideas was essential. Joel most recently researched and wrote a groundbreaking report on the marketplace for student data. I spoke with him frequently about this work, and he assisted me as I wrote WPF’s recent student privacy report, "Without Consent," which built on Joel’s prior work. I last spoke with Joel just a few days before he went into the hospital this last time. He gave me some final advice on the report, and he told me to keep on fighting the good fight and to be strong. Joel leaves behind him an extraordinary legacy of scholarship, advancement of ideas around student privacy, and cherished memories of a generous person with the utmost integrity.
His law school teaching once made headlines and continues to be cited in privacy circles today.
In May 2009, The New York Times reported on one such incident involving the now-late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. At the time, Scalia had been dismissive of internet privacy concerns. To facilitate what he called "a teaching moment," Reidenberg had his students create a dossier of Scalia to demonstrate the power of personal privacy. His students created a 15-page dossier of the justice, which Reidenberg presented at a Fordham privacy conference. The dossier included Scalia's home address and phone number, as well as his favorite TV shows and food.
Reidenberg was born Feb. 6, 1961, and is survived by his wife, two children, two grandchildren, and his mother.
Photo by Yousef Espanioly on Unsplash
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