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The List - One year, hundreds of stories. 2014-15 Progress Report.

Campus News

Examining challenges of the 'Digital Age'

By CORY NEALON

Published September 25, 2014

“‘Digital Challenges’ will allow us to open a dialogue, build awareness and further discussion on these very important matters.”
Austin Booth, vice provost
University Libraries

The usernames and passwords of nearly 5 million Google Gmail accounts were leaked online on Sept. 9.

A day before that, Home Depot revealed that hackers potentially gained access to customers’ credit and debit cards at nearly 2,200 of its stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Even more ominous, domestic violence shelters are reporting that most victims say they’re being cyberstalked.

The rise of digital communication has connected the world to an endless stream of information, but it also has left people, businesses, government agencies and critical infrastructure vulnerable to data theft and Internet-based threats.

This evolving new reality prompted the University Libraries and UB Information Technology, along with several other campus organizations, to launch “Digital Challenges,” a new lecture series that examines the promise and pitfalls of the “Digital Age.”

“The number of people connecting to the Internet, especially with mobile devices and apps that monitor location, activities and habits, is increasing every day,” says H. Austin Booth, vice provost for the UB Libraries. “These relatively new phenomena are altering the fabric of society and challenging our daily routines. As a result, they need to be explored in greater detail. ‘Digital Challenges’ will allow us to open a dialogue, build awareness and further discussion on these very important matters.”

J. Brice Bible, vice president and chief information officer, says the lecture series will expose students, as well as the UB and broader Western New York communities, to issues that greatly affect their daily lives.

“Given what’s happening in the world, from Edward Snowden and the NSA to security breaches at some of the nation’s biggest corporations, there is a need to think critically about how digital communication is affecting our lives,” Bible says. “Because of its commitment to education and public service, UB is an ideal venue to consider the implications of the ‘Digital Age.’”

The first event, titled “Your Digital Footprint,” runs from noon to 6:20 p.m. Oct. 1 in the Student Union Theater. It features five guest speakers:

  • Brian Boetig, special agent in charge of the Buffalo office of the FBI. He will speak from 12:15-12:45 p.m.
  • Tracy Mitrano, director of IT policy and the Institute for Computer Policy and Law at Cornell University. Her lecture, titled “Laws Disturbed by the Internet and What to Do About Them,” will take place from 1-1:45 p.m.
  • Marcus Ranum, chief security officer at Maryland-based Tenable Network Security. He will discuss “Privacy in the Connected Age” from 2-3:15 p.m.
  • Kirsten Martin, assistant professor of strategic management and public policy at George Washington University. Her lecture, titled “How Companies Track Individuals Online,” will run from 3:30-4:30 p.m.
  • Christina Peters, chief privacy officer at IBM. Her lecture, “Privacy and Innovations in Age of Big Data,” will take place from 5-6:20 p.m.

A live video feed of the event will be available online.

In addition to University Libraries and Information Technology, Digital Challenges is sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Educational Innovation and Assessment, and the Center of Excellence in Information Systems Assurance Research and Education (CEISARE).

Two more events, “The Classroom: Teaching and Learning in the Future” and “What Am I Doing in Your Class?: A Student Panel,” are planned for the spring semester.