2021 NAAG Eastern Region Meeting
The Surveillance Economy: How Attorneys General Protect
Privacy, Safety, and Equality in the Information Age
October 7-8, 2021 | Burlington, VT

Conference Summary

The speakers at this conference discussed how regulators and law enforcement could help protect privacy and safety — while preventing discrimination — in an ever-increasing digital world. They addressed important, current issues, including:

  • the inability of laws and regulation to keep up with technology;
  • the need for government officials to take the lead — rather than Big Tech;
  • the need to protect children on the internet;
  • potential racial disparities in algorithms; and
  • that algorithms maximize clicks and revenue rather than privacy and safety.

Opening Remarks


T.J. Donovan (Vermont Attorney General and NAAG Eastern Region Chair)


Attorney General Donovan illustrated how technology has outpaced the law using a shopping story from his childhood, while posing two important questions to answer. First, can the law keep up with technology? Second, what does privacy mean in the digital age?

Fireside Chat


Kashmir Hill (The New York Times, Technology Reporter)
Karl Racine (District of Columbia Attorney General)


New York Times Tech Reporter Kashmir Hill and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine discussed the profound and often unforeseen ways new and emerging technologies change our concepts of privacy and impact our lives.

The Supreme Court and Evolving Legal Principles of
Privacy, AI, and Racial Disparities


Maura Healey (Massachusetts Attorney General) (Moderator)
Heidi Li Feldman (Professor, Law and Philosophy, Georgetown)
Katherine Forrest (Partner, Litigation, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP)


The panelists examined how new technologies offer the promise of enhancing social welfare, while also exacerbating existing social inequalities and biases. They also discussed how state attorneys general must navigate how states use technology and ensure the public they serve is not oppressed by it.

The Surveillance Economy


William Tong (Connecticut Attorney General) (Moderator)
Sara Cable (Chief, Data Privacy & Security, Massachusetts AG’s Office)
Shawn Davis (Director of Digital Forensics, Edelson PC)
Clare Garvie (Senior Associate, Center on Privacy & Technology, Georgetown)
Maureen Mahoney (Senior Policy Analyst, Consumer Reports)


Using Prof. Shoshanna Zuboff’s landmark economic concept — surveillance capitalism — as the foundation for this discussion, these speakers analyzed how this emergent economic reality claims “human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data” and impacts our daily lives. They also addressed ways regulators and enforcers can use their authorities to protect individual privacy and autonomy.

Keynote Speaker


Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) (House Committee on Energy and Commerce)[1]


Welch offered his views on ways Congress can strike an appropriate balance between regulation and innovation.

Privacy in the Information Age:
Legislative and Policy Approaches


Letitia James (New York Attorney General) (Moderator)
Pam Dixon (Executive Director, World Privacy Forum)
Tom Galvin (Executive Director, Digital Citizens Alliance)
Tim Sparapani (Founder, Strategic Government Relations Consultancy)
Jennifer Urban (Berkley Professor & Chair, California Privacy Protection Agency)


The panelists examined how the passage of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016, followed by California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2018, ushered in a new age of privacy rights for personal information. They also discussed new and innovative legislative and policy approaches to enhancing privacy in the digital age and the prospects of a comprehensive federal privacy bill becoming law.

What’s Next for Law Enforcement:
Cryptocurrency and Public Protection


T.J. Donovan (Vermont AG and NAAG Eastern Region Chair) (Moderator)
J.C. Boggs (Co-Lead FinTech and State AG practices, King and Spalding)
Hester Peirce (Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission)
Bob Seeman (Managing Partner, CyberCurb)
Brian Quintenz (Commissioner, Commodity Futures Trading Commission)


These experts discussed the development of regulatory frameworks, emerging consumer protection issues, and challenges and opportunities in the new digital economy concerning cryptocurrency.



[1] Welch has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2006. He serves on the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.