The Columns

W&L Law’s Margaret Hu Wins Young Scholar’s Award at Privacy Conference

— by on July 7th, 2015

Washington and Lee law professor Margaret Hu received the Young Scholar’s Award for her paper at the 8th Annual Privacy Law Scholars Conference, held this June in Berkeley, CA.

Hu’s paper, titled “Big Data Blacklisting,” examines government use of database screening and digital watchlisting systems to create “blacklists” of individuals based on suspicious data. For example, big data tools can now be used to prevent individuals from working and voting—the No Work List and the No Vote List—and can also be used to nominate individuals for the No Fly List and the Kill List.

“In its most extreme form, big data blacklisting may facilitate ‘collateralkilling,’ whereby the government may be at risk of erroneously nominating an individual for targeted killing based upon suspicious metadata and other digital data,” says Hu.

Hu argues that these big data systems create a “guilty until proven innocent” problem for the digitally blacklisted.  Hu contends that due process rights may be threatened by the government’s potential overreliance on these tools to justify restrictions, and that the process of big data blacklisting and the digital suspicion it creates is in itself an infringement upon a fundamental liberty interest.

At this year’s Privacy Law Scholars Conference (PLSC), nearly 300 academics, privacy law experts, government representatives, and others came together to hear presentations on 75 topics selected through a call-for-papers.  By popular vote, Hu’s article was one of six papers selected for an “encore” presentation at the conference.

The PLSC conference includes an awards ceremony. As a recipient of the Young Scholar’s Award, Hu was among three pre-tenured scholars to be recognized for outstanding research.

Before entering academia, Hu served as senior policy advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and also served as special policy counsel in the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), Civil Rights Division, U. S. Department of Justice, in Washington, D.C. She attended Duke Law School and clerked for Judge Rosemary Barkett on U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Hu’s paper will be published this fall in the Florida Law Review.

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