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FBI head to keynote CSAD conference on privacy, surveillance

FBI head to keynote CSAD conference on privacy, surveillance

James Comey P’16, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will be the keynote speaker at the Center for the Study of American Democracy’s (CSAD) biennial conference, scheduled for April 6-8.

This year’s conference topic is “The Expectation of Privacy: Encryption, Surveillance, and Big Data,” and was chosen for its timeliness and wide-reaching relevance, according to Thomas Karako, CSAD director and professor of political science.

“Anyone who uses a smartphone, searches the Internet, or has medical records, has a personal interest in thinking about these things,” Karako said.

CSAD’s choice of keynote speaker is also particularly salient to its choice of topic. As FBI director, Comey has argued for new federal policy considerations in response to increasing encryption on smartphones by tech companies such as Apple and Google.

“We’re delighted to welcome Director Comey to kick off the conference, and to give his perspective on the intersection of security, domestic rule of law, and technological challenges like encryption,” Karako wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Statements by Comey to the United States Senate last July detail how data encryption has become so effective that the FBI has been prevented from accessing information for which they have already been granted a warrant, according to an article published by NPR. The director has said repeatedly that access by investigators to encrypted data is becoming less a matter of privacy and more one of national safety and security, and therefore that limitations on encryption are necessary.

In addition to Comey, a wide range of other guests will be in attendance. While the full list of guests has not yet been released, the Center expects to welcome, as in years past, journalists, policy experts and even artists to weigh in on the topic over the course of a number of talks and panel events.

For the past eight years, CSAD has organized the biennial conference. Conducted over the course of three days, it covers some broad topics related to American democracy; in the past, these topics have included “The Politics of Economic Inequality,” “Should America Promote Democracy Abroad?” and “The Future of Political Parties.”

The conference is one highlight of CSAD’s role at Kenyon; the Center also hosts a regular speaking series, which this semester will include lectures by Ambassador James Pardew on Feb. 2 and Dr. Alice Dreger on Feb. 9. Additionally, CSAD sponsors a competitive summer scholars program, during which students conduct research with a faculty member on a topic related to American democracy.

–By Rachel Mitchell

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