Colorado State Welcomes Community to Privacy Conference: How Much Personal Privacy are We Willing to Surrender in the Name of Security?

Note to Editors: Brief biographies of conference speakers are attached. Media professionals are welcome to attend featured events. Contact Brad Bohlander at (970) 491-1545 to arrange interviews.

In the post 9-11 era and in light of the nation’s current war against terrorism, how much personal information and privacy are United States citizens willing to surrender in the name of security? What should informed persons know about information being collected about themselves by the government, corporations and others? How could this information be misused? A panel of recognized experts will debate these and related privacy issues during the upcoming Communication Privacy in the 21st Century Conference.

The two-day event, hosted by the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication at Colorado State, will take place in Denver and Fort Collins on October 23-24. The conference, free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the University of Denver and is part of the Bridges to the Future program, a statewide series of events intended to explore American history, values and expectations in light of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Digital technology offers individuals the ability to communicate rapidly and efficiently using the Internet and other electronic media, and it also makes possible highly-evolved security and surveillance tools," said Colorado State journalism Professor Pete Seel, co-organizer of the event. "While this provides benefits for personal, commercial and security purposes, it also poses new threats and heightened opportunities for privacy infringements. Throughout the conference, we will discuss and debate the appropriate balance of these issues."

The 2002 Holmes Lecture on Communication Privacy, the conference’s first event, features internationally-renowned privacy expert Jeffrey Rosen and cyberspace free-speech advocate Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Their presentation, "Communication Privacy after 9-11-2001," will be Oct. 23 at the Adams Mark Hotel in Denver from 7-8:30 p.m. Rosen and Tien each will address the audience for 40 minutes before opening the floor for questions.

Two panel discussions will be hosted on the main Colorado State campus in Fort Collins on Oct. 24. Both feature privacy experts Rosen and Tien, and Privacy Foundation Executive Director Stephen Keating. Thursday’s first session, "Surveillance and National Security after 9-11-2001," will be held in Room A101 of the Microbiology Building from 9:30-10:45 a.m. The second panel discussion, "Communication Privacy after 9-11-2001," will be held in room W205 in the Anatomy/Zoology Building from 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Audience members will have opportunities to ask questions at both sessions.

After the events of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Congress passed the USA Patriot Act that significantly expanded federal powers to conduct surveillance on electronic communication. One focus of the privacy conference will be to examine and debate the ramifications of this law for individuals. Featured speakers and guests will discuss the appropriateness of checks and balances to prevent misuse of this type of electronic surveillance.

Government agencies also have recently proposed expanding video surveillance using facial recognition technology in public areas and suggested requiring retinal scanning, fingerprinting and other new forms of identification for air travelers. Conference speakers and attendees will analyze the privacy implications and potential misuse of this type of data gathering.

"Since 9-11, the government is putting more efforts into collecting information about individuals for security efforts. For example, the Transportation Security Administration is considering developing a universal database to identify and confirm air travelers," said journalism Professor Jamie Switzer, co-organizer of the conference. "Panelists and guests will debate the pros and cons of surrendering privacy information for the sake of security and where the line between safety and confidentiality should be drawn."

Another area of discussion concerns citizens understanding the many ways in which personal information is digitally collected. Discussion topics include:

  • When Internet users sign up for free Web services, they are giving up a variety of information;
  • E-mail does not disappear when deleted;
  • Through the use of cookies and tracking software, Web surfers leave behind personal information and a trail of their Internet activities.

Panelists will discuss how this information can be used and misused and what individuals can do to protect themselves.

"Identity theft through the use of digital communication technology is increasing in the United States," said Seel. "Speakers will lead a discussion about how vigilant we as citizens should be about protecting our private information."

Colorado State and the University of Denver are partners in "Bridges to the Future: American History and Values in Light of Sept. 11th," a yearlong, statewide effort to encourage exploration and greater understanding of American history and values. This innovative collaboration aims to create a framework of quality programs and stimulating engagements to inspire the communities of Colorado to remember, to understand and to renew or reframe fundamental public value commitments. For more information, go to

For more information about the Communication Privacy in the 21st Century Conference, contact Pete Seel at (970) 491-2030 or Jamie Switzer at (970) 491-2239.

Conference Speakers:

  • Stephen Keating — Executive Director, Privacy Foundation
    Mr. Keating is responsible for strategic planning at the Privacy Foundation, including research, operations, and communications. In the 1990s, he was a newspaper reporter, most recently at The Denver Post, where he covered the cable, satellite TV and media industries. Cutthroat, his book on the personalities and power plays in those industries, received the 2000 Colorado Book Award for non-fiction. He has also written for Wired magazine and Advertising Age. He is based in Denver at the University of Denver.
  • Jeffrey Rosen — Associate Professor of Law, George Washington University
    Professor Rosen teaches constitutional law, criminal procedure, and the law of privacy. He is also the legal affairs editor of The New Republic. His book, The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America (2001) was called by The New York Times "the definitive text to privacy perils in the digital age." He is a graduate of Harvard College, summa cum laude; Balliol College, Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar; and Yale Law School. His essays and book reviews have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer. He is a frequent contributor to National Public Radio.
  • Lee Tien — Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney (Privacy, Free Expression & Freedom of Information)
    Lee Tien is a Senior Staff Attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, specializing in free speech law, including intersections with intellectual property law and privacy law. Before joining EFF, Lee was a sole practitioner specializing in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation. Mr. Tien has published articles on children’s sexuality and information technology, anonymity, surveillance, and the First Amendment status of publishing computer software. Lee received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Stanford University, where he was very active in journalism at the Stanford Daily. After working as a news reporter at the Tacoma News Tribune for a year, Lee went to law school at Boalt Hall, University of California at Berkeley. Lee also did graduate work in the Program in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at UC-Berkeley.