#2 Champions of Digital Trust <> Heidi Saas

01 Nov 2023

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In our second episode of Champions of Digital Trust, Heidi Saas, a data privacy and technology attorney, discusses the importance of trust in the digital world. Heidi emphasizes that trust is personal and believes in speaking truth to power.

Heidi reflects on the lost trust in the digital age and highlights the significance of social proof in building out that trust. Heidi explains her contributions to trust, including her work with the think tank For Humanity, which focuses on ethical AI issues and efforts to combat algorithmic bias.

When asked about what she would change in the digital world, Heidi expresses a desire to shift the mindset of enterprises regarding their entitlement to user data. She envisions a future where data is shared responsibly, emphasizing the need for a collective "we" mentality. To learn more about her work, Heidi can be found on LinkedIn, where she shares her insights and perspectives.

W´╗┐atch the Interview HERE

Full Transcript:

Welcome to our new interview Series where we speak to champions of digital trust we're joined here today by Heidi Saas who are you Heidi and why should we trust you?

My name is Heidi Saas I'm a data privacy and Technology attorney uh these are my personal opinions not legal advice uh your question is very interesting on why should you trust me uh well trust is one of those things that is personal to you you can hear someone and their ideas and you may or may not agree with them but the truth rings out and you know what you can trust when you hear from someone else so um a lot of people that I know come to me uh because they know me as being one who tells the truth because I am brave enough to speak truth to power and I have the kind of Courage that shouts and the kind of Courage that says I will try again another day so people come to me for those sorts of reasons uh and it it made me think about the the loss of trust that we have amongst humans today um social proof is something that we used to use before computers to decide if we believed what someone was saying or not do you know them in your community what are they saying what are other people saying about them uh if you were interviewing for a job you would send in a resume they would call and talk to humans your references that you provided that know you personally so they would get a better idea who you were and if they could trust you to be a good employee we've lost that in the digital world so I I understand why people are coming to me and it it just seems a little absurd to me that um I'm a lawyer known for telling the truth and that's newsworthy that's just kind of a sad State of Affairs of where we are right now um so it's you know if you want to trust me it I would hope that it would be because you looked into the information I put out and you could decide for yourself whether it was good information, misinformation, misguided information uh but I would hope that you would look into what I have said publicly the speeches talks um things that I've written and published to see if it rings true to you before you decide if you want to trust someone so um why you should trust me it's kind of all I have that's a great answer.

Heidi thank you so much, next question, how do you or your organization contribute to trust in the digital world?

What sort of working um in the field of data during the financial crisis I was the practice manager and direct supervising attorney of a national consumer rights law firm I managed over 200 lawyers in all 50 states and we were doing new things at a tough time so that involved a lot of of trust but it also involved a lot of skill to be Forward Thinking and to figure out where can we apply pressure to the benefit of humans in this area when I left that I realized that we just have crossed the threshold that all we are is data now other than the cash in your pocket you can't prove anything else about you without data so I needed to learn as much as I could about privacy and technology so I could fight the consumer rights violations where they're happening now I started doing that you know um about five years ago I added privacy to consumer rights um since that time you know I tried working with Enterprise businesses but we just we don't have agency over our data in this country uh in ways that are respected by businesses yet uh so I decided where can I apply pressure globally and got to work on those initiatives now a lot of the things that I've done I didn't get credit or get paid for and I'm okay with it because that's how change is made it's also a decision that I make when I get into a project are my fingerprints going to help or hinder this project because I now have a reputation so you know that there there's a lot of moving Parts into some of the the things that I do some of the things I can tell you that I do is I work with For Humanity it is a uh think tank that works on ethical AI issues uh I specifically am on the working group for algorithmic bias and employment tools uh we've spent a couple of years drafting the criteria for how to conduct an audit for algorithmic um bias in autonomous tools we're now expanding that to cover the eu's AI act uh hopefully we could use Frameworks like this to also audit Supply chains for an ad campaign or in other areas that haven't been looked at before the opacity is the problem so in building tools and working with toolmakers in working with businesses that are forward L thinking and they're tired of banding their existing system they want to build something for where they're going not what they need now um and we're working with researchers um so those are some of the um things that I can tell you about what I'm doing for for now yeah

Last question, if you had a magic wand what would be the one thing in the digital world that you would change?

that's easy and it's not going to be data Brokers it's not I know you're surprised it's not going to be data Brokers no no because we're still gonna need them uh my magic wand would change the mindset of people in the Enterprise side over their entitlements to our data I would like to change that in their mind because they've done this for a very long time they gotten used to it and they don't really see a problem with it because everything's great they're comfortable but you never should have been able to do this in the first place so I want to take that entitlement from you so that you'll begin to see you know data as something that you share with the people it is a business asset because you have legitimate needs but it is also a human obligation to respect the rights of the people whose data you are processing so I I need to remove the sense of entitlement here so that we can bring Humanity less of the me more of the we.

Wonderful thank you and Heidi that's why you're one of our champions of digital trust and finally how can people find out more about what you're doing?

I'm only on LinkedIn Microsoft and Apple or my digital overlords so um that's made those choices a long time ago um so if you I publish on LinkedIn and that's the only place I go just for mental safety I can't really get involved with all the other places to go and interact with people I just keep it in one spots also because it's The Truman Show um because you know some of the things that I produce are being used as exhibits in cases against me so it's it's easier just to keep things in a nice little box and uh I don't mind if people want to come and follow me um I ask that um I'm not able to take new students to Mentor at this time but if you do want to reach out I can find other people who are interested in mentoring others so that's I used to do a lot of mentoring I just I don't really have a lot of time for that now so um and don't sell me things like don't yeah