The Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference 2001 kicks off in Cambridge, Mass., on Tuesday and will feature a forum for privacy watchdogs, free-speech activists and human-rights specialists to discuss how the Internet is changing society.
The conference will include speakers such as Privacy Foundation Chief Privacy Officer Richard Smith, cryptographer and Zero-Knowledge Systems Chief Scientist Ian Goldberg, and Peter Swire, the former chief counselor for privacy for the U.S. government.
In the past year, several technological blunders and advancements have forced people to evaluate how the Web is shaping our daily lives.
Carnivore, an FBI project that can tap electronic messages in an attempt to capture criminals' messages, has come under fire from those who say it will spy on innocent people.
Numerous high-profile privacy violations have further aggravated consumer fears that companies are watching their every move. And in the wake of election 2000, advocates of online voting have said that electronic ballots could have prevented the mess.
In addition, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has added new top-level domains including .coop and .biz, leaving out those who proposed alternatives such as .sucks and .union.
Congress passed the Children's Internet Protection Act, which requires filtering in schools and libraries that receive federal funds. And law enforcement officials alarmed privacy advocates by capturing images of everyone entering the gates of the Super Bowl and comparing them with a database of pictures in an attempt to ensnare criminals.
The conference, which in past years has attracted a feisty crowd including both the progressive and the paranoid, will address such issues.
Some of the sessions slated for this week include: "Chief Privacy Officers: Boon or Boondogle?" "Gadgets that Spy" and "Carnivore/DCS1000: The Name Has Been Changed, but Are the Innocent Protected?"
Conference organizers also will hand out awards to the biggest privacy violators and Web pioneers. The Big Brother Award, which highlights the most egregious privacy breaches of the year, will be given out Wednesday night. Past recipients have included DoubleClick and the Federal Aviation Administration's BodyScan system.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneers of the Electronic Frontier Award honors those who are dedicated to expanding "knowledge, freedom, efficiency and utility" in the Internet Age. Last year, award winners included World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee and "librarians everywhere."
Representatives from cyberliberties groups including the Consumer Project on Technology, the EFF and the Electronic Privacy Information Center will attend. The conference runs through Friday.