Modern field guide to security and privacy
Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor

Passcode at SXSW: Ad blockers, spies, hackers, and Hollywood

From biometric tracking to smart cities to hackers on film, bookmark our four panels on digital security and privacy at this year's South by Southwest festival in Austin. 

For a third straight year, Passcode is bringing a crew of digital security and privacy all-stars to the Austin festival, to chat about the future of biometric tracking, the security risks of smart streets, and so much more. 

Stay tuned for more information about Passcode events. In the meantime, bookmark our four panels. And if you can’t make it to Austin, follow our trip on Twitter.

Friday, March 10: Are Biometrics the New Face of Surveillance?

Illustration by Erick Montes

Advanced biometric technology is starting to track us everywhere we go. Airports are experimenting with using iris scans as boarding passes. Credit card companies want your selfie or heartbeat to authorize digital payments. And the FBI wants to create the world’s largest and most efficient electronic repository of biometric information to help track criminals, replete with iris scans and palm prints. What are the privacy implications of technology that, quite literally, never forgets a face? Will increasingly sophisticated biometric tracking make society safer and daily life more convenient – or will it usher in a new era of surveillance?

Featuring: James Baker, FBI; Brian Brackeen, Kairos; Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing. Moderated by Sara Sorcher, Passcode. Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon G. 5 - 6 p.m.

Saturday, March 11: Ending the Ad Blocker Wars

Illustration by Erick Montes

The rise of ad blocking has sparked a fierce battle that’s pitting privacy groups against publishers. Ad-blocking advocates hail the technology as helping rid the web of annoying and slow-loading ads, pervasive tracking and malware. But publishers say the technology is taking money out of their pockets and crippling their ability to produce journalism. Now, media outlets are appealing to readers to disable their blockers. Critics even suggest the software is unethical. Yet, ad blockers are proliferating. But is there a middle ground? Can publishers improve the ad experience to persuade readers to turn off blockers? Or will ad blockers bring about the end of the free web?

Featuring: Brendan Eich, Brave Software; Jason Kint, Digital Content Next; Meredith Kopit Levien, The New York Times. Moderated by David Grant, The Christian Science Monitor. Hyatt Regency Austin, Ballroom 1-3. 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Tuesday, March 14: Connected Cities, Hackable Streets

Illustration by Erick Montes

In cities around the world, street lights, public transit systems, and electric meters are already connected to the internet. Soon, smartphone controlled, self-driving cars will roam cities and every part of the urban fabric could be Wi-Fi enabled. While tomorrow’s smart cities will usher in efficiencies and convenience, they’ll also bring about security threats and vulnerabilities. Hackers have already demonstrated they can remotely take over cars and switch off traffic lights. So, how can urban planners and engineers build cities of the future that are resilient enough to guard against cunning criminal hackers who may want to bring Singapore or San Francisco to a grinding halt?

Featuring: Tom Cross, Drawbridge Networks; Robert Hansen, founder of OutsideIntel. Moderated by Nadya Bliss, Global Security Initiative, Arizona State University. JW Marriott Salon 6. 12:30 - 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 14: Narratives for the Digital Age

Illustration by Erick Montes

From “WarGames” to “Mr. Robot,” Hollywood is fascinated with technology’s impact on society. The 1983 film “WarGames” had such an impression on President Reagan that it influenced national policy on cyberweapons. Technology continues to provide endless sources of inspiration for writers, directors, and producers. Join producer Walter Parkes, who cowrote “WarGames,” Brian Knappenberger, director of “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz,” and Julie Bush, screenwriter on Universal’s “The Sigma Protocol” and host of the podcast Threat Surface, for a discussion on how film affects policies and public opinion when it comes to digital surveillance, privacy, and cybersecurity.

Featuring: Brian Knappenberger, Luminant Media; Walter Parkes, Parkes Macdonald Productions; Julie Bush, screenwriter. Moderated by Michael Farrell, Passcode. Austin Convention Center, Room 16AB. 2 - 3 p.m.

Want to see something else from Passcode at SXSW? Send us an e-mail and let us know!