SXSW Interactive 2014

Power and Privacy: What Superheroes Can Teach Us


Mobile computing and open government are bringing more people into government than ever before. As government managers develop requirements for app developers to create the tools that citizens will use to participate in government, they need to offer participants the right level of privacy so that they will feel comfortable participating, but not so much that people can abuse the system and others lose trust in it.

There are three interesting models of privacy that are embodied by Superheroes: Authenticated Identity (Tony Stark/Iron Man); Persistent Pseudonymity (Peter Parker/Spiderman and Clark Kent/Superman) and Anonymity (Bruce Wayne/Batman). I'll illustrate how each of these are already being used in civic apps and talk about what individuals should expect, government managers should require, and app developers should encode in terms of privacy and power from new citizen engagement tools.

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  1. How much privacy should I expect when I use mobile citizen engagement apps?
  2. What are some examples of various levels of privacy that are baked into mobile apps?
  3. What kind of government functions can be wrapped into civic apps, and are there some functions that cannot or should not be offered for citizen engagement?
  4. What is the benefit of basically "outsourcing" government functions to groups or individuals in the first place, and why, if many of those groups or individuals are volunteering their time and talent, should they be required to divulge any of their identity at all?
  5. What do Iron Man, Superman, Spiderman, and Batman have to teach about power and privacy; what, exactly, is the relationship between power and privacy?



Gadi Ben-Yehuda, Innovation and Social Media Director, IBM Center for the Business of Government

Meta Information:

  • Tags: privacy, government
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Solo
  • Track: Policy and Civic Engagement
  • Track 2
  • Level: Intermediate

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