My law practice today is primarily made up of doing privacy-related work with a good dose of freedom-of-information files. Back in 2007 when I first went out on my own, some people thought that I was crazy to open up a specialty shop. I must say that in the first few months of waiting for the phone to ring, I also had some doubts about what I was doing. But, shortly after I got started, a good friend of mine, Ian Kerr, referred someone to me, to handle a unique “slip and fall” case with a privacy twist.
The person Ian introduced me to was Steve Mann. Yes, that Steve Mann, the world’s first cyborg. To put it simply, Steve was doing work in the 1980s that paved the way for wearable computers and his eye-tap technology looks eerily familiar to Google Glass or, if you prefer, to some of the scarier Borgs on Star Trek.
The case I worked on with Steve resulted when he slipped and fell while walking around a detour set up by a film crew in downtown Toronto. The fall resulted in some bodily injury, but perhaps more devastating was that it also resulted in significant damage to some of the computers that were attached to his body. Luckily, the video recording apparatus continued to work, and there was clear evidence that the detour was unsafe—not to mention the not-so-great treatment he received from the film crew’s security staff.
In essence, it was my first (and only) slip-and-fall case, but because of the unique situation in which everything was caught on video that came from wearable computing devices, I decided to take the case. I’m sure you can see how the privacy nerd in me liked the challenge—not to mention how I thought I’d be able to say that I was the lawyer who worked on the first Cyborg vs. Hulk case. (Yes, that’s right. The movie being filmed was indeed The Hulk.)
I say all this because Steve Mann is truly a unique individual that you have to experience to believe. He has a fascinating mind; he has invented countless cool inventions and is one of the loudest proponents of sousveillance—letting the watched be the watchers. We were thrilled this year when he accepted the invitation to keynote at the IAPP Canada Privacy Symposium. I hope those of you who make it to the audience in late May will be too.
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