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Lawyer, Activist & Founder of Digital Rights Watch

Technology should be about empowering billions, not enriching billionaires.

Lizzie O'Shea has the precision of a lawyer, but doesn't get lost in the weeds; the mindset of a historian, with a sharp eye on the present; and a spirit of optimism in a world full of unfathomable challenges.

She appears regularly in the media discussing law, technology, and human rights. She has written for the New York Times, The Guardian, and Sydney Morning Herald, among others.

Her first book, Future Histories, has been translated into multiple languages. It provides historical context to the digital revolution, and looks at social movements and theorists from the past and applies them to debates we have about technology today. It was shortlisted for the Premier’s Literary Award.

Lizzie is a founder and the chair of Digital Rights Watch, which advocates for human rights online. She also sits on the board of Blueprint for Free Speech and the Alliance for Gambling Reform. At the National Justice Project, she worked with lawyers, journalists and activists to establish a Copwatch program, for which she was a recipient of the Davis Projects for Peace Prize. In 2019, Lizzie was named a Human Rights Hero by Access Now.

She is also a leading class actions lawyer, and has spent many years working to hold companies and governments to account for wrongdoing. She has brought cases on behalf of refugees and activists, and represented as the Traditional Aboriginal Owners of Muckaty Station, in their successful attempt to stop a nuclear waste dump being built on their land.

She was proud to represent the Fertility Control Clinic in their battle to stop harassment of their staff and patients by religious fanatics. This experience was the subject of her second book, with Susie Allanson, called Empowering Women, which tracks the movement to decriminalise abortion in Australia.

Talking Points

Privacy is not dead, it's just getting started

We have been taught to think privacy is dead in the digital age, but it's more contested and debated than ever. Often when we talk about privacy, what we are actually talking about is freedom, autonomy and the capacity to participate in public life without surveillance. But companies and governments seek to undermine our privacy to shape our behaviour as consumers and citizens. It is imperative we understand how our privacy is interfered with and how we might be able to take it back.

Key Takeaways:
- A deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the right to privacy,
- An insight into data driven business models
- Examples of how to reclaim privacy and campaign for better privacy protections

Artificial intelligence vs human ingenuity - making machines work for humans and not the other way around

The discussion around artificial intelligence is saturated in hype, and often obsessed with the future at the expense of recognising what is happening in the present. The reality is that AI is already being tested and used many people, they just don’t often get listened to because they are marginalised. But we ignore their experiences at our peril, because we risk such systems being deployed against us next. We can build AI that is responsible, ethical and safe, we already have the relevant frameworks and knowledge to do so. We just need to empower the builders to do this, incentivise executives and managers to see the benefits, and listen to people who are using it.

Key Takeaways:
- Knowledge about how AI is already regulated and causing harm
- A framework for incorporating ethics into AI
- A capacity to understand the various types of AI and how they might be regulated

Campaigning to win

The decades-long campaign for women's right to choose in Australia is just one example of how social movements for change often experience failure before success. For years, advocates worked to try and find an audience for evidence-based policy making, but were often ignored. In fact, there were also failures along the way, some quite spectacular. But the failure was not significant, it was the response to the failure that mattered. It took the right combination of politicians, lawyers, activists and some good timing to find success, with laws changing across the entire country in a rapid manner.

Key Takeaways:
- How success and failure works in a campaigning environment
-How to build successful social movements for change
- The value of resilience in advocacy
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