Trolling “Privacy Professionals” on The 2014 Privies

December 20th, 2013

When Stewart Baker blogs on Volokh, I tend to skip it. I know what I’m going to get, and there is not much room for discussion or thought. But I’ve been amused at his recent posts about his Privies Awards for dubious achievements in privacy law. So I indulged, and clicked onto the survey.

The first question asks “Are you voting as a privacy professional?” If you select yes, it asks for your name, affiliation/employer, and email address. Only if you provide accurate information can you vote (providing false information no doubt violate the CFAA).

Huh, I thought? Why in the world is he asking that question. But then I looked at the “privacy policy” on the nomination page.

We’ll use the information provided by privacy professionals to verify that you are a privacy professional and to send you email about the results of the vote — and other issues, if we have the energy.  If we do manage to send you email, we’ll include an unsubscribe link.  Surveymonkey runs the voting site.  If you don’t like their privacy policies, take it up with them.

So it turns out there are two ways to vote:

1. The Privy Council. You can participate as a Privy Council member if you’re a privacy professional with expertise in the field. The Privy Council is roughly analogous to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Votes from Council members will be weighted more heavily in choosing the winners in each category. To qualify for the Privy Council, you’ll be asked to provide your name, title, and email address, and we may check back with you to verify that you qualify.

So how do you qualify? Simple, you are a privacy professional if as part of your job you provide advice about privacy and security issues to the public or to government, private, or nonprofit enterprises.

2. The People’s Choice. If you don’t qualify or don’t want to participate as part of the Privy Council, you are still free to vote on an anonymous basis. People’s Choice votes will determine the winner in each category in the event of a close vote in the Privy Council.

Is Baker trolling? He is asking “privacy professionals” to vote in his survey by disclosing their contact information? And he is trying to build up a mailing list of privacy professionals? Is this even a joke? He suggests he will use this list for “email about the results of the vote — and other issues, if we have the energy.”

This entire experiment must be some sort of parody that I’m not in on.