Next on CLBR: The Privacy Paragon from Providence


With major developments on both the data security front with:

  • The FTC’s defeating Wydham Hotel’s challenge to its authority in data security matters; and
  • The FTC announcing consent decrees with Fandango and Credit Karma over their mobile app’s failure to properly implement SSL encryption.

Plus Europe moving forward on data protection reform, who better to speak with than the Privacy Paragon from Providence – Robert Ellis Smith.


Robert Ellis Smith   
Publisher – Privacy Journal

(Adapted from Wikipedia)

Smith is an American attorney, author, and a publisher/journalist whose focus is mainly privacy rights.

Robert began his career in journalism during high school and while attending Harvard. He was President of The Harvard Crimson. After college, he wrote for newspapers such as the Detroit Free PressNewsday in New York, and the Southern Courier. He also worked for the ACLU.

Since 1974, he has published Privacy Journal newsletter as well as several books, such as Ben Franklin’s Website: Privacy and Curiosity from Plymouth Rock to the Internet (2000/2004). From the book:

Just what is privacy? It is the desire of each of us for physical space where we can be free of interruption, intrusion, embarrassment, or accountability and the attempt to control the time and manner of disclosures of personal information about ourselves.

He has written Workrights (1983, E.P. Dutton),The Law of Privacy Explained (1993, Privacy Journal), and Privacy: How to Protect What’s Left of It (1979, Doubleday) The 1979 book was nominated for a National Book Award.  For more than 35 years Smith has edited successive editions of Compilation of State and Federal Privacy Laws, which is now available in eBook mode as well as an edition available for loading onto hand-held devices. This allows individuals to consult their palm devices, in the workplace or the marketplace, to determine whether privacy protections cover certain transactions. He continues to write and publish Privacy Journal, and is often called to speak and testify concerning privacy rights. Smith has twice been asked to write the definition of privacy for the World Book Encyclopedia.

“Privacy Journal,” one of the longest running newsletters in North America, celebrated its thirty-seventh anniversary of continuous monthly publishing in November 2011. Smith is the author also of “Our Vanishing Privacy” (Loompanics Unlimited, 1993). He is co-author of “The Big Brother Book of Lists” (1984, Price/Stern/Sloan), published to commemorate the fateful year of 1984.

It was Smith who posed as President Kennedy, fooling the crowd in a notorious stunt at the Harvard-Yale football game in 1961. 

Smith, formerly active as a land conservationist for environmental protection, has written four editions of a quiz book called Block Island Trivia, about the tiny island off the coast of Rhode Island. In the 1990s he was president of the Block Island Conservancy, a non-profit group that purchases land to maintain it as open space.  And he was vice chair of the Coastal Resources Management Council, which is responsible for preservation and orderly development of land within 200 yards of the entire coast line of Rhode Island.

FYI – For the uninitiated, Block Island has been called “heaven on earth” by NBC News Anchor Brian Williams.  Below is a Good Morning America profile of the island.