Through our partnership with the Coalition of Black Excellence founded by Angela J. we have the pleasure of sitting down with Arent Fox associate Eva Pulliam. She sits down with us to discuss her career journey up to this point and to share valuable advice pertaining to privacy and security concerns. We also promote CBE Week, an event designed to highlight excellence in the black community, connect black professionals across sectors, and provide opportunities for professional development and community engagement.
Zach: What’s up, y’all? Now look, if you haven’t heard by now, Living Corporate is partnering with the Coalition of Black Excellence, a non-profit organization based in California, in bringing a Special Speaker Series to promote CBE Week, an annual week-long event designed to highlight excellence in the black community, connect black professionals across sectors, and provide opportunities for professional development and community engagement that will positively transform the black community. This is a special series where we highlight movers and shakers who will be speakers during CBE Week. Today, we have Eva Pulliam. As an associate at Arent Fox, Eva works frequently with issues involving cross-border data transfers and international data privacy law compliance. Additionally, she has experience with helping clients comply with U.S. federal and state regulations that impact data collection, storage use, and disclosures as they relate to children, financial institutions, and others. She also continues to review emerging laws in the privacy area as they impact clients’ data collection, maintenance, and breach procedures. Eva has been recognized as a next-generation leader in The Recorder’s Women Leaders in Tech Law from a pool of over 200 nominees for extensive work in the tech industry. Eva regularly presents on advertising, intellectual property, and privacy. Her recent presentations have spanned topics such as the European General Data Protection Regulation, online gambling, and social media influencers. Eva, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
Eva: I’m well, thank you so much for having me.
Zach: Thank you for joining us. Now, look, for those who don’t know you–I know I read a little bit about your bio, but would you mind telling us a little bit more about yourself and a bit about your professional journey?
Eva: So I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on the East Coast. I started undergrad at Howard University, and I’ve always had a love for the real HU.
Zach: Shout-out to Howard.
Eva: Yes, shout-out to Howard. I finished at Old Dominion and then went onto law school at George Washington University. I had a great experience. I just have a love for D.C. and spent most of my career and adult life in the D.C. area, but once I became [about a mid-year?] associate, one of my mentors shifted from our D.C. office to our San Francisco office, and I was offered the opportunity to come along, and I took the opportunity as I never want to make a decision out of fear. That’s one of my guiding principles. So I said, “You know what? I’m gonna not be scared to California, go cross-country away from family, and take the bar all over again,” and here I am in California having a great experience. I’ve been able to work internally at technology companies and just really get to get a whole new grasp on tech from a hands-on perspective. So that’s been–that’s been my journey thus far, and it’s ongoing.
Zach: That sounds incredible, and, you know, I have a sister-in-law who moved–she went from Texas and then went to Spelman for undergrad, then went to University of Michigan for the rest of her undergrad. Now she’s in San Francisco. So it’s interesting to watch her and her path, and so I would imagine, you know, your journey was similar in that it’s just completely different worlds, you know? Like, you jump from one coast to the other.
Eva: It has been an extreme culture shift, which is part of what gave me the passion for CBE when I met Angela Johnson, the founder of CBE, and she spoke about it. The lack of unity or a united black professional community in the San Francisco area was a bit striking and unexpected. I had been slightly warned, but it was a different thing to see it. I found some really amazing friends and people in the community, and I think that CBE is gonna do a lot to help bring us all together and help to grow the community. It gives you the vibe of CBC Week, the Congressional Black Caucus Week, that I grew up with in D.C. So it’s kind of bringing CBC to the West Coast, and I’m really, really excited about being a part of it.
Zach: Well, it’s incredible, right? ‘Cause it’s interesting for me, and I think black folks, we’re not a monolithic culture, right? So me coming from, like, a Southern perspective, when I see kind of, like, what’s happening in San Francisco on the coast, and I see all these black people with all these huge names tied to ’em, I kind of just assume there’s an interconnected network or something there, but, like, not as much, right? And so that’s why these types of events and these organizations, such as the Coalition of Black Excellence and CBE Week, are so critical and so important. Well, let’s do this then. Let’s talk a little bit about privacy, because I believe that’s what you’re–I believe that’s what you’re gonna be speaking on during CBE Week. So when I think about privacy, I think about making sure, like, no one has access to my social media, people can’t log in to my email, but I know that it’s deeper than that. I know that it’s broader than that. So, like, could you talk a little bit about privacy and why it matters? Especially for black and brown folks.
Eva: So I think that your definition of privacy is right on. The privacy law is concerning all things that make you you. And U.S. laws differ from European laws. European laws go a little deeper to include pretty much anything that would make you you. U.S. laws can be a little more limited in what’s protected. In either case, the goal that I balance on a day-to-day is helping my clients to collect information and use it in a responsible way, so that when you provide information you know how it’s being used, where it’s going, and you’re comfortable with that information. I think that the way that the individual consumer, or user, of various technologies and those providing their information online and offline, on paper, I think it’s important that users empower themselves and actually read the policies and documents that are provided to them and understand what they’re giving away. I would say that when I’m signing on for an app, for instance, if they ask to use my location, don’t just click “Allow” right away. Know that when you click “Allow” you are agreeing to something, and I don’t click “Allow” for location or use of my video or use of my contacts or my camera unless that’s something that I actually need the app for and I understand how my data is being used. So I hope that users will walk away a bit more empowered. In the black and brown community, I think that it’s something to always remember, that your data’s being used, profiles are being created that, you know, you may know nothing about. It may be connected just to your IP address, the number that identifies your computer that you’re using, knowing that this user shops here, eats this type of food, searches for this type of information, engages in these hashtags and conversations, and that you–people know who you are and that you’re creating a profile for you and the type of advertising that you receive, be it positive or negative for your health or well-being.
Zach: You know, it’s just so interesting, especially when you used the word “profile.” It reminds me of a story, and I don’t remember the name of the comic. This was, like–hm, like, 4 or 5 years ago, but I remember I was–you know, I’m very active on LinkedIn. I have a–I have a very current profile. I have a headline. I have the image and all that kind of stuff, whatever. So at one point I got an email from a company that seemed on its face very legitimate. It seemed very established–well, it kind of had that startup feel, but very polished though, and the idea was “Hey, I see that you’re on LinkedIn. Would you mind creating a profile on our page? ‘Cause our website is mainly focused on mentorship. We will pair you with a college undergrad student, and you can help them as they prepare to graduate. You can be a mentor and a coach for them.” And so, you know, it’s like, “Eh, okay.” I mean, whatever. And so it took me, like, just a little second, and you could essentially transfer your LinkedIn page to their website, right? And it would just kind of, like, lift and shift it over there.
Zach: And so I did it. Like, I clicked it really fast. It said, “Do you agree?” Blah blah blah, and I clicked “OK.” To your whole point, I did not read, did not really slow down and really read it read it. So then, like, I forgot all about the website. I forgot all about the thing. And so then, like, fast-forward, like, maybe 3 or 4 months later. I see a profile up on their website, and it’s not my name, but all of the work information, all of the career history, all of the skills and stuff like that, it’s an exact copy of my profile. And so I reached out to ’em and I was like, “Hey, you need to delete this, take this down,” whatever whatever, and they took it down, but it’s scary, the fact that, like, that was out there for months, and, I mean, it still might be out there now. I don’t know. Maybe they just took that one version down. Who’s to say how many shells they made, right? How many copies they made of that? Who knows?
Eva: Exactly. Reputation control is a big thing, especially as black professionals. You are constantly mindful of the way that you are putting out yourself on the internet and just in the world. So having someone take over the identity that you’ve worked hard for would be a terrible thing, so it’s good that you were able to at least–that you came across it. Far too many times I think we don’t even find out when our information is used without our permission.
Zach: Well, you know, it’s becoming more and more commonplace when you hear these announcements of, you know, thousands and hundreds of thousands of passwords were leaked. It’s more than common, and it’s kind of like we just shrug our shoulders at it because–I think this whole world, like, the tech world and just technology in itself is so big and so hard to wrap your arms around that I think it’s kind of easier just to default and be like, “Oh, it’ll sort itself out,” until you then get some notification that your social has been stolen or something crazy. Then you want to pay attention, but it’s–like, there’s plenty of, like, “little” things–quote unquote little. They’re not little, but little things that kind of sprout up fairly common and often enough that we should be paying a little bit more attention I think.
Eva: We should be paying a lot of attention. I think that, you know, identity monitoring is one way that you can help yourself, at least in the financial world, but then paying attention, like I said, to the privacy policies of what you’re agreeing to. So at least when someone’s doing something wrong, you’re able to say, “Wait, I know I did not say yes to this. I know that you should not have this feature turned on on my phone. You shouldn’t have any of this information,” and sometimes people are using information that they–you know, they’re not following the rules that they’ve agreed to. There have been FTC and Attorney General actions around that, and those are often who you have to turn to when someone becomes a bad actor. You’re reporting them to, you know, regulators to help you sort these things out, but the more proactive we can be on the front end I think is going to help us a lot more in the long run.
Zach: As technology continues to progress around us, right–I mean, it feels as if technology’s almost growing at the speed of thought. Like, it just seems like there’s so much happening. There’s so many new innovations that are coming across month after month, year after year. As technology continues to grow, how do you see tech and privacy law needing to change and adapt, particularly around things like cryptocurrency?
Eva: I think that cryptocurrency is a powerful tool that’s still being worked through in some spheres. You know, we know that governments may be reluctant in some instances to give over control of the dollar. That said, where cryptocurrency’s in place–and not just cryptocurrency but the actual blockchain, the bitcoin, the technology on which its built–it gives a lot of power in the sense that it provides anonymity. And so when we think of the black and brown community and institutional prejudices that have faced the black and brown communities, we have to remember that sometimes, you know, we can move in a bit of silence through cryptocurrency by trading and having finances and assets that are unidentifiable. It wouldn’t be identified through black and brown until the decision to reveal, and that takes up some of the middleman, some of the potential prejudices that can arise when middlemen are involved. So I think there’s a power to it, but I also encourage anyone interested in cryptocurrency to really research. Research the company or the type of currency that you’re interested in purchasing. Research cryptocurrency itself. Understand the blockchain a little bit more, and do the work before following the fad. I think that that’s the biggest–the biggest tip, is to never just follow the fad and, you know, “Someone did it, so I’m doing it too.” Make sure that you actually know what you’re doing. Know the technology and understand the finances behind it, and also understand the risks when you’re doing any type of investment. But cryptocurrency and the blockchain, we’ll have a lot more to do in the future I do believe, particularly with the potential uses for it. It can be used for polling and voting and a lot of ways, when we look at the recent elections and how the votes got mixed up we’ll say or lost, and, you know, Atlanta and Florida vote issues. I think the use of the blockchain could be a beneficial thing in that you could submit your vote. It’s all handled within the blockchain, and no middleman has any say in involving himself in that.
Zach: No, I 100% agree. I think that there’s so much power in kind of eliminating opportunities for bias, right? So a lot of times when we talk about bias, conscious bias, unconscious bias, a lot of times we try to figure out ways to change the individual, and maybe I’m being a bit of a cynic, but I think, you know, another angle that we could go from is let’s just eliminate the opportunity for you to even be biased. Let’s just make it anonymous, right, where can. Let’s eliminate avenues for folks to be discriminatory, and let’s make sure that, you know, where we can, we empower people, and empower the most, like, objective playing fields possible.
Eva: Definitely. I think that there’s a power in it, and that’s because the black community holds so much power, and the brown community holds so much power, and I think that harnessing it and working together could create a very mighty force.
Zach: Now before we get out of here, you know, any parting words? Shout-outs? Any special projects that you’re working on? Anything at all that you’d like to share with us?
Eva: I would–I guess my parting word is that everyone, please read your privacy policies and understand the way that your data is used, and from a professional standpoint I would say to just keep, you know, working hard and moving forward. I think that my career has largely been based on faith and intention, and things seemed to just work out the way that they’re supposed to. Every setback has always ended up landing me where I want to be, including–I would say this move was an exciting and scary adventure, but it was definitely worthwhile. So I’d just encourage everyone to find their passion and work hard, and also protect your data. Protect who you are.
Zach: Amen. You know, we might need to call this podcast episode “Protect Ya Neck.” What do you think about that, Eva?
Eva: Right. [laughs] I like that title.
Zach: [laughing] Oh, man. Well, that does it for us, y’all. Thank y’all for joining us on the Living Corporate podcast, a Special Series sponsored by the Coalition of Black Excellence. To learn more about CBE check out their website, www.cbeweek.com. Make sure to follow them on Instagram @experienceCBE. Make sure you follow Living Corporate on Instagram @LivingCorporate, Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through www.living-corporate.com. If you have a question you’d like for us to answer and read on the show, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This has been Zach, and you’ve been listening to Eva Pulliam, associate at Arent Fox. Peace.