As part of Ashoka's ongoing Technology and Humanity series, I spoke with Albert Fox Cahn, Founder and Executive Director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) about his work and recent legal victories at the intersection of civil rights, privacy and technology.
Konstanze Frischen: Congratulations Albert, STOP celebrated another victory this month!
Albert Cahn: Yes we just helped end the "hijab removal" policy in New York - now suspects will no longer be required to remove hijabs or other religious clothing for photos when their faces are visible. Our complainants included a domestic violence survivor who was traumatized by New York Police (NYPD) when she was forced to strip in front of arrested men and police. Part of the reason we believe the NYPD has continued this practice for so long is that the police continue to seek to expand their facial recognition database and are used to feed more and more photos - including those that should have been suppressed under state law - in their growth. database.
Frischen: Give us an idea of the dimension of digital surveillance in New York.
Cahn: It's huge. I wish more people knew that. When the city was forced to stop the unconstitutional digs, it simply went digital shutdown and search, creating a database of tens of thousands of New Yorkers, 99% of whom were people of color. In New York City alone, there have been 22,000 facial recognition searches in the past three years. The overwhelming majority of target communities are communities of color - there is over-surveillance, over-policing and discriminatory harassment. There are many fusion centers that share information between the state, local authorities, and the federal government, despite claims to be a sanctuary state and a sanctuary city. Billions of dollars have been invested in NYPD counterterrorism surveillance, including thousands of automated license plate readers, drones, a growing range of biometric tracking tools.
Frischen: Thus, the right to privacy is constantly undermined - especially when you are not white.
Cahn: Yes. Police services operate in a space where what they do has not been prohibited, but not allowed either. And so in the absence of legal rules and in the absence of civilian control, the police are rewriting elements of the social contract. And they do it in a way that really undermines these core values of an open society.
Frischen: Your job is to define new legal rules and restore civilian control. STOP has successfully launched new legislation to enable more citizens to defend their rights in court.
Frischen: The underlying argument you are making here is that our legal system has not kept pace with technological change and that we need to update our social contract for the digital age.
Cahn: Yes. For example, in the analog world, the 4th Amendment was supported by the fact that monitoring was so expensive. And now the economy has changed. Let me explain: Under the Fourth Amendment, we require specific evidence to justify a search. And for a long time, the economy imposed a level of particularity beyond what our precedent, our jurisprudence required. Because the police had to choose, is it worth spending thousands of dollars to install this wiretap? Is it worth hours and hours of overtime sending a rotating surveillance team to track a person's movements? To have agents trying to eavesdrop on your conversations and follow you everywhere? All of this costs a lot. But now it is possible to use facial recognition or a geofence warrant or information from carpooling accounts, to completely monitor someone for the act of graffiti, for the act of shoplifting. . And since there is no marginal cost to intensifying surveillance, it is becoming more and more common.
Frischen: To help us update the social contract in the digital age, you bet on litigation and legislation, and you drive both with the communities most affected. How does the support for your work go?
Cahn: Communities have been essential to our work. When I founded STOP, it was in partnership with our Community Advisory Board: I wanted to make sure the organization is held structurally accountable to the communities we serve. We have public intellectuals, academics, organizers, and grassroots community activists who set our priorities as an organization and do the job of choosing what we focus on, making sure to remain accountable to those who have been in the lead. no longer watched for so long.
We received over $ 1.2 million in free legal services from law firms in our first year alone, and we hope to do more than double this year. Many lawyers feel deeply alarmed and see the need to defend basic guarantees of civil rights. And this is indeed something particularly powerful right now due to COVID-19. There are invasive COVID-19 contact tracing technologies, deployed in the name of public health, but often without proof that they work, without proof that they work without significant risk of bias and without guarantees against misuse by law enforcement. All of this goes to the heart of our constitutional rights. What does religious freedom mean if going to a mosque will potentially put you in a database? What does freedom of assembly mean when participating in an anti-Trump protest might put you in a database? When can the names of all the participants in a public protest be instantly obtained by serving a court order on Google? Suppose you have parents who are undocumented. The fact that you are in a database - could that cause ICE to prioritize your parents for deportation? These are the kinds of horrific questions that people, especially communities of color, face every day in the age of mass police surveillance, and it undermines the very concept of our open society.
Albert Fox Cahn is the founder and executive director of STOP, and a social entrepreneur from Ashoka. Albert serves on the Council of Immigrant Leaders of the New York Immigration Coalition, on the Advisory Board of the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund, is a member of the Editorial Board of Anthem Ethics of Personal Data Collection, and a member of the Engelbert Center at the NYU School of Law . He received his JD from Harvard Law School (where he was editor of the Harvard Law & Policy Review) and his BA in Politics and Philosophy from Brandeis University. Previously, he was Legal Director of a statewide civil rights organization and partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, where he advised Fortune 50 companies on technology policy, antitrust law and consumer privacy.
The biggest problem founders and small business owners have is that they’re experts in their field and novices in what it really takes to effectively run a . That’s what usually trips them up, sooner or later.
Don’t let that happen to you. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know about , starting with these 15 tips guaranteed to help keep you and your company out of hot water. Some are straightforward, others are counterintuitive, but they’re all true. And some day they’ll save your butt.
Always make sure there is and will be enough cash in the bank. Period. The most common business-failure mode, hands down, is running out of cash. If you know you’ve got a cash flow or liquidity problem coming up, fix it now. You can’t fire bad employees fast enough. You just can’t. Just make sure you know they’re the problem, not you ( see next tip ).
The problem is probably you. When I was a young manager, my company sent us all to a week of quality training where the most important concept we learned was that percent of all problems are management problems. When things aren’t going well, the first place to look for answers is in the mirror.
Take care of your stars. This goes for every company, big and small. The cost of losing a star employee is enormous, yet business précurseurs rarely take the time to ensure their top performers are properly motivated, challenged, and compensated. Your people are not your kids, your personal assistants, or your shrink. If you use and abuse them that way, you will come to regret it. Capiche ?
Learn to say ' yes ' and ' no ' a lot. The two most important words owners and founders have at their disposal are “yes” and “no. ” Learn to say them a lot. And that means being decisive. The most important reason to focus – to be clear on what your company does – is to be clear on all the things it doesn’t do.
It boggles my mind how little most fondateurs value their customers when, not only are their feedback and input among the most critical information they will ever learn, but their repeat is the easiest business to get. Learn two words : meritocracy and nepotism. The first is how you run an organization – by recognizing, rewarding, and compensating based solely on ability and achievement. The deuxième is how you don’t run an organization – by playing préférés and being biased.
Know when and when not to be translucide. Transparency is as detrimental at some times as it is beneficial at others. There are times to share openly and times to zip it. You need to know when and with whom to do one versus the other. It comes with experience.
Trust your gut. This phrase is often repeated but rarely understood. It means that your own instincts are an extremely valuable decision-making tool. Too often we end up saying in retrospect and with regret, “Damn, I knew that was a bad idea. ” But the key is to know how to access your instincts. Just sit, be quiet, and listen to yourself.
Protect and defend your intellectual property. Most of you don’t know the difference between a copyright, trademark, trade secret, and patent. That’s not acceptable. If you don’t protect and defend your IP, you will lose your only competitive advantage.
Learn to read and write effective agreements. You know the expression “good fences make good neighbors ? ” It’s the same in business. The more effective your agreements are, the better your relationships will be.
Far too many fondateurs run their like an extension of their personal finances. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Construct the right business entity and keep it separate from your personal life. Know your finances inside and out. If you don’t know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits ( gross and net ), debt, cash flow, and effective tax rate – among other things – you’re asking for trouble. Big trouble.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Humility is a powerful trait for précurseurs, and that goes for new owners, veteran CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between. More times than not, you will come to regret thinking you knew all the answers. Behind every failed company are dysfunctional, delusional, or incompetent précurseurs. The irony is, none of them had the slightest idea that was true at the time. Even sadder, most of them still don’t. Don’t end up like one of them.
For every success you have in growing your market share, another business or other businesses will inevitably lose ground. Here are 11 quick and easy tips to gain a competitive advantage over your rivals and insulate yourself from the threat of new entrants in the market.
Of course, we all want to spark business growth and increase revenue. But the way you do this in a sustainable way is to focus instead on the building of a loyal database of avid fans. Content marketing, paired with optimized website forms and intelligent mail automation follow-up is critical to success. This approach builds trust by giving away free value before asking for someone’s hard-earned money. Not an expert in creating optimized lead generation pages on a website ? No worries, use a trusted tool like Leadpages to make it happen.
Like it or not, folks out there aren’t searching for your brand, they’re just looking to solve a problem or find a particular type of product ( unless you run Starbucks or Adidas ! ) Don’t list all the benefits your product brings. Focus on the solutions. Explain to the customer in simple, straightforward terms how or why your product can help them or assist in the attainment of their goals. Consider FedEx’s iconic slogan : When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. This was a clear example of addressing widely-spread anxiety about the reliability of delivery services. Run through some market research to profile your target customer. How does your product or service – and your delivery and and price point – solve other people’s problems and make their lives easier or more pleasurable ?
Dropping prices doesn’t necessarily raise sales, for instance ( though it will definitely squeeze margins ). If you position yourself as a premium brand, then your customers aren’t necessarily value-driven in the first place, and cutting prices could even tarnish your brand. Consider this case study from Robert Cialdini’s seminal book ‘Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion’ : a jeweller sold out of turquoise jewelry after accidentally doubling, instead of halving, the price. The inflated price tag lent the product an unwarranted cachet ! If you are a de haute gamme brand, there are ways to optimize your pricing without lowering prices. For example, offer the quality-conscious customer an ‘exclusive’ benefit that your rivals do not or cannot provide. If you are at the value-driven end of the market, on the other hand, don’t assume slashing prices means incurring a loss. Low pricing can help you rapidly onboard a heap of new customers who may also buy other items in your site and return again. Context also counts for a lot with pricing. The best way to sell a $5, 000 watch, for instance, could be by putting it next to a $10, 000 watch. Think strategically when it comes to deciding any price point.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s so very important ! Whether consciously or not, people are more likely to buy a product if they like the sales assistant who’s attending to them. While the employee’s personality obviously has no bearing on the price or your product’s ability to serve their needs is irrelevant. Friendly customer-facing staff will always attract more sales. Be rigorous in hiring people who are genuinely cheerful, friendly and outgoing. Make sure your training program teaches them to adopt a consistently friendly approach that puts customers at ease and feel like a priority.
Say you’re a bricks-and-mortar store and you’re getting a rush of customers as closing time approaches… why not close up an hour later ? While this may cause disgruntlement among staff, solve this venant by getting creative with rosters. Monitor customer footfall throughout the day and week to identify your busiest periods, and staff people accordingly. You can also reduce headcount during quieter periods to offset the higher costs and longer sérieux hours created by your extended opening hours. It’s a win-win !
Even in the web age, some customers will always prefer to contact you by phone rather than courier or Facebook. While many online companies with tight margins eschew manned phone lines altogether, it’s worth giving customers the option of having a voice-to-voice conversation with your brand. By all means, slash the time and cost spent responding to queries by funnelling customers to standardized, pre-existing responses on your webpage ( i. e., FAQs ). But if their query isn’t listed in the drop-down menu of FAQs, then don’t make them click more than once more to find your phone number. Put it front and center on your digitale page, particularly if you’re a retail offering. ‘Live chat’ bots are an inexpensive way of offering real-time communication, too.
Why not give your happy customers a voucher with their purchase to redeem on your products and services ? If they love what you do already, they’re only going to love you more for this. It’s good for you because : It guarantees they will return to your store again. People hate to waste freebies ! When they return to your store to redeem their voucher, they may buy other items, too. If your business operates online, then the freebie could be strategically timed to coincide with a special sale. Oh, and guess what ? Chances are customers who have received vouchers or freebies won’t stay quiet about it either, so you could enjoy some positive buzz on social media.
Local businesses can arguably connect with their unique communities with much greater authority than any global chain. A local retailer, hair salon or gardening company can sponsor a kid’s sports team and offer deep discounts for OAPs at the same time. Some cinemas feature special ‘sensory’ screenings where parents can bring kids with autism ( who would normally be overwhelmed by busy, noisy environments ) to enjoy a movie in a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere. This reflects well on them and also guarantees them a loyal customer niche. Whatever you choose to do to support your community, make sure it authentically fits with your brand offering and business journey to date.
Social media is a great medium through which to build a solid relationship with customers – just don’t forget what ‘social’ actually means ! Soul-less corporate shop-talk won’t work on Twitter. Try to give your brand some ‘personality’ when you write updates or posts. This can bring its own risks, oui. But if you get it right, the benefits can be très grande. Develop a tone of voice that aligns well with your brand identity. Seek to inform, help, entertain or amuse. And most importantly – given the dire PR consequences – don’t patronize, try too hard to be funny, or tweet after a few alcoholic drinks !
Sometimes it’s better to be a master of one discipline than a jack of all trades. Admittedly, multiple revenue streams do spread your risk : if one falters, others can take up the slack. Nevertheless, consumers often associate ‘specialists’ with higher quality products or services than generalists. And with good reason, too : specialists typically invest all their resources into perfecting a solo product or service. So what should you specialize in ? to state the obvious, it should be something in which you excel. You could also pick something with rising or recession-proof demand which is resilient to technological change in which you possess a competitive advantage over your rivals or where there’s an obvious gap in your local market. Own it, whatever you do.
Don’t ever get too satisfied with your . You can always improve – and improve you must ! Don’t get me wrong : without the odd moment of smug satisfaction, what’s the point ? Do relish in the successful launch of a game-changing product or take pleasure in positive customer feedback. But don’t let your customers hear you banging on about it time after time ! Be alert to the common element that has led to the downfall of countless hitherto thriving brands : complacency. Imaginative, nimble and innovative start-ups often do better than big market leaders that just got lazy. You may be the disruptive innovator today, but tomorrow you could be the complacent market leader with a tired model. So try to be humble and always strive to improve. Seek inspiration from other entrepreneurs, from books and from seminars. The moment you think ‘mission accomplished’ is the same moment you become vulnerable to being usurped.
There are lots of ways in which you can improve your business, and not all of them are complicated ! Try out the above business tips or integrate them with your existing strategies, and let me know how you go in the comments below. Guest Author : Faye Ferris is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Dynamis APAC Pty Ltd offices in Sydney. She develops the DYNAMIS durable of brands and their expansion into the Asia Pacific region as well as BusinessesForSale. com, FranchiseSales. com and PropertySales. com. If you have an interest in partnering up with Faye or advertising on any of these websites in the APAC territories, please do not hesitate to contact her on faye@businessesforsale. com.