A defendant in a criminal trial is accused of threatening someone over a social media app. The prosecution can subpoena digital records from the social media company to build its case against the defendant. However, evidence that would prove the defendant’s innocence is also held by that company, and yet defense investigators are unable to obtain it due to the way data privacy laws are currently written. In this scenario, a privacy asymmetry exists between prosecution and defense that could keep an innocent person in jail.
Rebecca Wexler, a law professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law and a nonresident fellow at Brookings’s Center for Technology Innovation, has identified and studied this emerging problem and has suggested how legislators can fix data privacy laws to address it. On this episode of the Brookings Cafeteria, Wexler is interviewed by John Villasenor, a Brookings nonresident senior fellow, about her research on this issue.
Also on this episode, in a new Coffee Break segment, meet Alex Engler, a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in Governance studies who examines the implications of artificial intelligence and emerging data technologies on society and governance.
How well-intentioned privacy laws can contribute to wrongful convictions
Privacy Asymmetries: Access to Data in Criminal Investigations
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The Brookings Cafeteria is part of the Brookings Podcast Network.