Anonymity and Identity at Cardozo

Anonymity and Identity in the Information Age
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
55 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1052
New York, NY 10003

9:00 am – 6:30 pm

Technology has in some ways made it easier to hide and shape one’s identity. (“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”) But in other ways, the information age has made anonymity, particularly the anonymity of the crowd, much more difficult to attain. The law has only begun to grapple with these technologies of anonymity and identity. There are important interests at stake on both sides. Control over identity is an important aspect of personal privacy, and of making it possible for people to speak and act freely.

But identification is necessary for accountability, and identity information has important social uses, for example, for public health or social science research. Recognizing the opposing interests is only a start; the hard questions lie in framing the ways in which to balance these interests. And whatever balance might have existed under earlier technologies must be re-crafted as those technologies evolve.

These are questions that will require the expertise of both technologists and lawyers. The technology constrains and influences the legal possibilities. The architecture of the Internet affects the extent to which anonymous communication is possible. State-of-the-art data mining techniques affect the extent to which databases can be anonymized. At the same time, there are fundamental values questions about the relationship between citizens and the state, between individual and social utility, among others, that are key components of the debate.

This conference brings together participants from a variety of disciplines, across computer science and law, to analyze questions of anonymity and identity. The focus is on three areas in particular: anonymity and online speech, government access to identity information, and identifiability in databases. In all three areas, the goal is to survey the existing technological and legal landscape, to develop principles for the future, and to formulate next steps, for both researchers and policy makers.

Conference organized by Professor Felix Wu, Cardozo School of Law

CLE credits will be available for attendees and participants. This conference is free and open to the public, but RSVP to is required.

Anonymity and Identity in the Information Age

FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2012
Jacob Burns Moot Court Room

9 – 10 a.m. Breakfast

10 – 10:15 a.m. Welcome

10:15 a.m. – Noon
PANEL ONE: Anonymity, Identity and Online Speech

This panel will address the relationships among identifiability, the construction of identity, and speech on the Internet. How do different conditions of relative anonymity or other choices about the design of online spaces affect the quality of online speech? What should be the legal standard under which private litigants have access to identity information? Should the law try to encourage or discourage particular identity models?

JUDITH DONATH, Faculty Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University

A. MICHAEL FROOMKIN, Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Miami

HELEN NORTON, Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado

JEFF JARVIS, Professor & Director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, City University of New York

MODERATOR: JAMES GRIMMELMANN, Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School

Noon – 1:30 p.m. Lunch

1:30 – 3:15 p.m.
PANEL TWO: Government Access to Identity Information

This panel will address the standards by which the government should have access to identity information. Given the current architecture of the Internet, in what ways can the government acquire identity information, and in what ways can individuals try to hide their identities? Does current law provide sufficient protection for the First Amendment interests in anonymous speech? How should the Fourth Amendment treat different types of identity information?

STEVEN BELLOVIN, Professor of Computer Science, Columbia University

ADEN FINE, Senior Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union

JASON WEINSTEIN, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice

ADAM CANDEUB, Professor of Law, Michigan State University

MODERATOR: KATHERINE STRANDBURG, Professor of Law, New York University

3:30 – 5:15 p.m.
PANEL THREE: Identifiability and Databases

This panel will address the problem of control over identity information in databases. Information about individuals is increasingly being collected and aggregated, from medical records and court records to consumer transaction databases. To what extent can such information be released in an “anonymized” form that sufficiently protects individual privacy and also makes socially beneficial uses of the data possible? How can we balance the interest in beneficial uses of information against the potential for harm in releasing information that might be linked to identity?

VITALY SHMATIKOV, Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin

BRADLEY MALIN, Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics & Computer Science, Vanderbilt University

PETER P. SWIRE, C. William O’Neill Professor in Law and Judicial Administration, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University

BARBARA EVANS, Professor of Law, University of Houston

HARLAN YU, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University

MODERATOR: FELIX WU, Assistant Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
THE HONORABLE ALEX KOZINSKI, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit