2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Power and Privacy - What Superheroes Can Teach Us

Written by Megan Simpson | January 21, 2014

Gadi Ben-Yehuda talks superheroes, power and privacy at SXSW 2014

Spanning the course of five days this March, the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival will feature more than 800 sessions, including several about privacy concerns in today’s digital world. Today’s installment of the Session Spotlight features an interesting spin on this topic, with a solo presentation by Gadi Ben-Yehuda (@gbyehuda) titled, “Power and Privacy: What Superheroes Can Teach Us”.

SXSW: A panel about privacy and superheroes? Tell us more.
Ben-Yehuda: This session will address what individuals should expect, government managers should require, and app developers should encode in terms of privacy and power from new civic-engagement apps. Developers need to incorporate enough user-privacy into civic apps so that the people will feel comfortable participating, but not so much privacy that some people can abuse the system and others lose trust in it. There are three interesting models of privacy, typified by Iron Man, Spider-Man, Superman and Batman.

SXSW: What makes you qualified to talk about this topic?
Ben-Yehuda: I am a thought leader in the field of technology and government. I’m also a superhero (shhhhh!).

SXSW: Who should attend this session? What do they need to know before walking into the presentation?
Ben-Yehuda: This session is for three kinds of people: First, people who create civic apps. They'll want to know about the different kinds of privacy models they can build into their tools. Second, it is for government managers. They'll want to understand what citizens expect in the way of privacy. Finally, the citizens who will be using civic apps -- really, this is almost everyone, as we all will come into more-frequent contact with our government in the digital space. We'll want to have a thorough discussion about how much privacy we're willing to give up in exchange for a greater say in how we are governed. The attendees of this session should have a basic knowledge both of civics and of superheroes.

SXSW: What can these attendees hope to gain by the end of your talk?
Ben-Yehuda: They will have an understanding of the trade-offs between power and privacy, and, one hopes, an appreciation for the compromises made by civic activists (like Iron Man, Superman, and Batman). They'll also understand the conversations that are really happening in the halls of power as more people are clamoring for entry without quite grasping the cost in terms of personal exposure.

SXSW: In relation to this topic, what is the best book you’ve read?
Ben-Yehuda: The Transparent Society by David Brin.

SXSW: What is the most exciting part about your topic?
Ben-Yehuda: It’s exciting to help people understand the truth – that when it comes to getting involved in government, we are all superheroes. But before we begin our alter-ego life of do-gooding, we have to figure out: how will I preserve my regular life and private identity? Because once you lose your privacy, it is hard (if not impossible) to reclaim.

SXSW: What do you usually tweet about from (@gbyehuda)? Superheroes?
Ben-Yehuda: I tweet about technology, government, food and culture, but mostly about technology.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “Power and Privacy: What Superheroes Can Teach Us” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.