Tiger of the Week: Internet Privacy Expert Peter Swire ’80

When President Barack Obama selected a four-person panel to review domestic surveillance programs last week, critics cried foul, noting that the “outside experts” had several ties to the Obama administration. But Washington Post editorial writer Stephen Stromberg saw much to like in one panelist: Peter Swire ’80, a professor in the law and ethics program at Georgia Tech’s Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business.

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Peter Swire ’80 speaks at a Center for American Progress event in 2009. (Photo: Courtesy Center for American Progress)

Stromberg wrote that Swire has a record that should please civil libertarians: “Yes, he served in the Clinton and Obama White Houses. And, sure, he’s not a bomb-throwing ideologue, which might be a problem for some. Instead, he appears to be a measured but critical voice of post-9/11 information-gathering practices.” Stromberg cited a recent interview with the Information Security Internet Group, in which Swire voiced skepticism about creating large databases and spoke about the need to “put some checks and balances back in place.”

Swire served in the Clinton administration as chief counselor for privacy in the Office of Management and Budget. He was an adviser during the Obama-Biden transition in 2008-09 and later joined the National Economic Council as a special assistant to the president. After leaving the White House in 2010, Swire returned to academia, rejoining the law faculty at Ohio State University before moving to Georgia Tech this fall. He also has led a World Wide Web Consortium working group that aims to establish a uniform “do not track” standard for Web browsers. In July, The New York Times reported that the group was moving closer to a consensus standard.

Technology policy apparently has been on Swire’s mind since his undergraduate days, when he earned highest honors as a Woodrow Wilson School major. His senior thesis was presciently titled “The Onslaught of Complexity: Information Technologies and Their Effects on Legal and Economic Thought.”

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