We created Relay as solution for parents and kids in the digital age. It offers communication with the people who matter and eliminates all the risks, tradeoffs, and drawbacks of screens. To help us in our goal of keeping kids’ tech and media diet age-appropriate and healthy, we’ve partnered with like-minded organizations such as Common Sense, a nonprofit dedicated to helping parents find smart media choices for kids, teaching digital literacy and citizenship, and standing up for kids’ rights and privacy in the internet age.
Organizations like Common Sense are valuable partners in the journey towards making parents’ lives easier and kids’ lives healthier. Just as valuable are the people who transform our commitment to safety, privacy, and family-friendly values into policy. Today we talk to Pete the crusading lawyer about privacy, family, and lawyering for a good cause.
Lawyers are often stereotyped as stodgy and boring, but your colleagues say you are actually a lot of fun to be around. How does that make you feel?
I’m honored. I’ve always wanted to be the fun “stodgy, boring lawyer,” so this is extremely gratifying.
Relay is a very personal endeavor for the organization. What is your experience with screens, phones and playtime in your own family?
In my house, everyone thinks everyone else has a screen addiction, while at the same time firmly believing their own usage is perfectly reasonable. We’re probably already doomed.
Now onward to the good lawyer stuff! Let’s dig into the state of privacy and data security in today’s society. Why is this a rising issue?
Some of the world’s most successful companies are built to make money off you and your family’s every action, thought and move. If that doesn’t raise interest and concern over privacy, nothing will. If you want nerve-wracking detail, buy lunch for someone you know in the data analytics business and listen to the possibilities.
What was Relay’s approach to dealing with this issue?
We are blazing a path that we hope others follow. We don’t want to know what your family is doing, or saying, or where it’s going. Families shouldn’t have to face unfair ultimatums with technology—they should be able to have the convenience and benefits that tech provides without their every interaction being saved, monetized, and used to sell them things.
What are some of the trade-offs Relay made in order to stay true to our mission of safety and privacy?
Why should retaining less data about our users and choosing not to monetize that information be viewed as a “trade-off”? And yet, that’s exactly how it’s likely to be seen today. Hopefully, as we join with other like-minded companies and organizations, it won’t be viewed the same way in the future.
You’re a worldly lawyer. Is it unusual for a company/product to treat something this carefully?
I’ve been very fortunate to be part of some large companies full of high integrity leadership that cared about the world and wanted to do the right thing. In my experience, the challenge for a company doesn’t come from its intentions as it starts the journey, but from the lack of appreciation of the temptations that evolve later. For example, even if you collect a lot of user information with no desire to ever use it, eventually some very smart people are going to suggest ways you can turn that information into money. If you don’t consider that on Day 1, you can find things look a lot different on Day 3,650.
For fun: who is your favorite TV lawyer?
Oh no—the last thing I want in my life is more law! I always thought it would be fun to be Fox Mulder in the X-Files. Saving the world while having a full head of hair—that’s the stuff balding, corporate lawyer dreams are made of.