WVU law student finds new ways to gain exposure before graduation

By Kerry Goff | Dec 19, 2016

MORGANTOWN -- Jennifer L. Bauer, a third-year law student at West Virginia University, was recently published by the Institute for Human Rights and Business, an international human rights organization. 

As the profession becomes more competitive, such exposure can be a benefit for students like Bauer. According to West Virginia University’s Law School’s news board, the IHRB published Bauer’s research titled “Data Brokers and Human Rights – Big Data, Big Business” in November as part of its Occasional Paper Series. 

The law school article , published Nov. 17, said Bauer’s article explores the impact of personal data collection and the ethical responsibilities of firms that collect, store, process and share that data. 

“As consumers we create data about ourselves on a daily basis,” Bauer said in her research. “That data is not always personal data but there is no doubt that data relating to our behavior and how to predict it is financially valuable. Data is the new currency, collected and traded, and is a huge economic driver for industry. Due to the scale and variety of data being generated, implementing safeguards for privacy and other rights has become even more challenging.” 

Bauer writes that although consumer data is largely innocuous there are issues that need to be addressed regarding privacy and human rights. 

“It is easy to get bogged down with the infinite possibilities and complexities that technology and big data analytics present,” she said in the article’s conclusion. “But businesses cannot afford to ignore the negative impacts big data analytics can have on individuals or their responsibility to respect those individuals’ human rights throughout their operations. This paper provides several insights and recommendations into how businesses, and data brokers in particular, should begin to address such concerns.”

Bauer is earning her J.D. with an international law concentration. She said in an interview that she became interested in data privacy issues after working on an article for the West Virginia Law Review. 

“With the help of Jena Martin, associate dean for innovation and global development, Bauer connected with IHRB and created an independent study that allowed her to earn class credit for her research and writing,” the November article said.

Bauer said her initial research in data privacy turned out to be more detailed than she expected. 

“Experts are already digging into this and trying to identify all of the ways big data analytics is influencing our legal frameworks, environment, business and human rights,” Bauer said in her interview with the West Virginia Law Review. 

Bauer argues that data analytics and data brokers are not new but with modern technology and big data collection, there are new vulnerabilities. 

“The volume of personal data available and the reliance on computer algorithms to make decisions has introduced new vulnerabilities susceptible to abuse,” she said in her article. “The problem is that most people are not familiar with the volume of personal data that is being gathered, how it is being collected and from what sources, the extent to which that data is being sold or shared, and how it could negatively affect them.”

Bauer said she hopes the article will help her build a career associated with big data analytics, which will help her get her foot in the door while the focus is still new, but growing. 

“While government agencies and law firms are not widely seeking big data experts yet, the field is growing in demand,” she said in her interview with the Law Review. “I’m currently looking for ways I can gain practical experience and additional subject matter expertise so when that time comes, I’ll be fully prepared to step in and really help move the conversation on big data analytics forward.”

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