10 Things I learned at a Privacy/Security conference in Silicon Valley

September 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

  1. Hipsters in Silicon Valley look just like hipsters where I live — plaid shirts, unnecessary knit caps (it’s 85 degrees?!); skinny jeans, no socks, etc.
  2. “Business” culture is changing — while DC lawyers are still pretty easy to spot, casual attire and behavior is definitely the conference norm.  (At my first privacy conference held in DC at the Federal Trade Commission, I remember saying to the grey-suited woman next to me, “I thought this was business casual.” to which she replied, “This IS my business casual.”)  This conference even included a block party (with live music, bottled beer and a photo booth).
  3. Privacy and Security are finally in the same room.  They’re not speaking the same language yet, but it’s a start.  (And I heard that some of them danced together …)
  4. Keynote speeches are now designed to look and feel like TED talks.  They’re shorter and speakers generally are more engaging and move around more.  My favorites this conference were Judith Donath and Julie Hanna — both with inspiring content, engaging speaking styles and a way of seeing old things in a new way that was (honestly) a little life-altering.
  5. Networking has become a little easier for those of us who are introverted.  Instead of awkward small talk, you get to spend your time pulling out your smartphone and showing each other how to find your profile in LinkedIn so you can connect.  (Plus, as an added benefit, you can pull your phone or iPad out at anytime to avoid awkward conversations in between sessions and the conference even had its own app.)
  6. Conferences are still planned by extroverts.  Even in the world of Privacy and Security (which surely has a high percentage of introverts some of whom might even be called “anti-social,”) this conference included cocktail hours, speed networking and a dance.  The up-side is that activities like these drove like-minded souls seeking escape from excessive stimulation to meet up in quiet hallways where conversations and meaningful (LinkedIn) connections happened.
  7. Technology is really, really, really changing the world.
  8. Being a geek is good.  The most fascinating sessions were the ones where Privacy/Legal/Techno geeks could dig deep into their field.  I never thought I would be interested in search-and-seizure laws, but listening to the lawyers in there geek out about case law was actually fascinating.
  9. No approach to privacy is perfect.  While I appreciate the “fundamental human right” adopted by Europe, it also is clear that this approach slows innovation.  And while I strongly believe that America’s greatest strength is innovation, our wild-west mentality often results in negative unintended consequences.
  10. Privacy and Security are both growth industries with lots of opportunity to be of service to others, if you just keep sight of why you’re here.
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