Oct 242002
Authors: Kyle Endres

Three privacy experts participated in a panel discussion Thursday to examine communication privacy in the United States, in the Anatomy/Zoology Building.

Stephen Keating, executive director for the Privacy Foundation, Jeffrey Rosen, associate professor of law at George Washington University, and Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for Electronic Frontier Foundation, spoke with about 60 people in the discussion, entitled “Communication Privacy after 9-11-01.”

“The virtue of privacy is a value, (but) the flip side to that is privacy is a way to conceal behaviors such as terrorism or crime,” Keating said. “The value of privacy went down on (9-11-01).”

Several issues were raised at the discussion, including the Patriot Act, e-mail security, camera monitoring and the role of the media in society.

The Patriot Act was a 2001 bill that allowed governments to access records from libraries, bookstores and Internet service providers.

Tien believes that the public needs to have more awareness of what the government is doing.

“Let’s pay attention to the man behind the curtain and what’s going on back there,” he said. “You have to think about exposing the beast so we can see what’s going on.”

Rosen thinks increased governmental monitoring could change U.S. society.

“It will be a much more homogeneous society, with less individuality and less creativity,” Rosen said. “If you face the prospect of cameras just proliferating all over Washington, D.C., I would say that’s really a terrible bargain.”

Peter Seel, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication, said privacy will become an increasingly bigger deal for current students in their professional lives.

“In their future working lives, they’re going to have different issues that I’ve never experienced,” said Seel, who co-organized the event. “I think it changes the workplace.”

The problems with privacy do not begin and end with the government, all three experts said. Organizations and corporations with influence can play a part in decreasing people’s privacy.

“We’ll have all sorts of problems in terms of a loss of privacy and in terms of abuse of data, without the government having done more than say some nice words and standardize on a data form,” Keating said. “When you hear someone like me talk about not trusting the government, it ain’t just the government.”

The panel discussion was part of the Communication Privacy in the 21st Century Conference, hosted by the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication. It was also part of CSU and the University of Denver’s Bridges to the Future program.

“The danger is that once you put up a surveillance camera system or a database system, that’s going to transform and change society in ways we can only barely imagine and will linger for years,” Rosen said. “If we’re going to give up liberty, we have to insist that there’s some increase in security in return.”

-Edited by Shandra Jordan and Becky Waddingham

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