Practitioner Series: Albert Fox Cahn on Activism in Surveillance and Technology

On Wednesday, 7 February 2024, CGHR had its first Practitioner Series of the year with Albert Fox Cahn, hosted online by CGHR Co-Directors, Dr Sharath Srinivasan and Dr Ella McPherson. Albert is the founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project ( S.T.O.P). He is also a Practitioner-in-Residence at N.Y.U Law School’s Information Law Institute and a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center For Human Rights Policy, Yale Law School’s Information Society Project, Ashoka, and TED . As a lawyer, technologist, and activist, Albert has become a leading voice on how to govern and build the technologies of the future. He started S.T.O.P. with the belief that local surveillance is an unprecedented threat to public safety, equity, and democracy. 

At the Practitioner Series, Albert spoke to us about how he came to work around privacy, endeavouring to abolish local governments’ systems of mass surveillance. His work highlights the discriminatory impact of surveillance on Muslim Americans, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, indigenous peoples, and communities of color, particularly the unique trauma of anti-Black policing. Albert also shared about how his organisation— S.T.O.P.— fights to ensure that technological advancements do not come at the expense of age-old rights. S.T.O.P. hopes to transform New York City and State into models for the rest of the United States of how to harness novel technologies without adversely impacting marginalized communities. S.T.O.P. also believes that directly-impacted communities are best equipped to lead this fight, and that their voices should be at the forefront for this and any movement.

This session was highly inspiring and CGHR was privileged to have had Albert as our speaker.

CGHR’s Practitioner Series:

CGHR runs a Practitioner Series each year in Lent term, which features human rights activists, aid practitioners, journalists and others working in the fields of governance and human rights. Our speakers relate stories about their own experience and trajectory with details about what the work itself involves. The session thus offers a combination of substantive discussion of the speaker’s work and critical views on the challenges of working in their area, as well as personal and practical insights into how they ended up doing what they do and how they would advise others thinking about practice/policy as a possible future after studies/research.

CGHR’s Practitioner Series provides undergraduate and postgraduate students and researchers with the chance to interact with practitioners at the cutting edge of their fields.