Computer science professor Ed Felten will direct the new Center for Information and Technology Policy (CITP), which will bring faculty and students from the Engineering and Wilson schools together with experts from outside the University to study the integration of technology and public policy.
"I'm really excited to be working in this new center, and I'm honored to be chosen as director," Felten said. "The center will help to provide a center of mass in ... this important area, and it will recognize and bring together people on campus already working in this area."
The center will be housed on the top floor of the new ORFE department building that will open in 2008. It will focus on topics including spyware, electronic voting, medical privacy and Internet governance, Felten said.
One of the main issues the center will address is cybersecurity.
"I think it's really clear that there's a really huge need for work in this area just because information technology has changed so much of what's going on in the world in all aspects of society, and many of the laws that were created before the digital age simply don't make sense at this point," Maria Klawe, dean of the engineering school, said.
Ruby Lee, a professor in the electrical engineering department who led a task force on the issues the center will address, agreed.
"The idea is that in cybersecurity these days, technology alone won't solve the problems," she said. "Anybody proposing solutions to breaches of security in cyberspace should be concerned with policy, economic and societal issues in addition to technology issues."
Lee works on building more trustworthy computers and also teaches a course on cyberspace, in which she integrates issues of policy, society and economics.
"A simple analogy is that if I have a lock in the physical world, it's hard to build a lock that no one can break," she said. "Lots of the times we must depend on policy and law to deter potential thieves rather than just the technology."
A long awaited outcome
According to Felten, plans for the center came out of discussions during the engineering school's strategic planning process in 2004. The center is part of the engineering school's goal to have more interdisciplinary interaction.
"At [other schools], people from the law side will be very interested in technology, and while they're knowledgeable, there's no real deep interaction with the people actually creating the software and hardware," Klawe said. "Felten talks to both sides and he's computer science by training, so he's this bridge."
The center will give undergraduates the unique opportunity to take part in this new interdisciplinary field, she added.
"Teams of faculty will collaborate and offer courses that bridge and bring together students who are interested in law, policy, electrical engineering and computer science," Klawe said. "It's yet another example of the unique education that Princeton undergraduates have access to. Everybody needs to understand information technology and policy and how they interact, no matter what they do in the future."
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