Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Serena Zheng ’17

Rockville, Maryland • Computer Science View Profile

Liberty, Technology and Spring Break in Berlin

The Princeton-Fung Global Forum: Can liberty survive the digital age?

Over spring break, I traveled to Berlin, Germany, to attend my first conference, ever: The Princeton-Fung Global Forum!

The view from the conference center.

The view from the conference center.

The Fung Forum is a conference hosted by Princeton University, which is held in a different city with a new theme each year. This year, the conference was held in Berlin and the theme was "Can Liberty Survive the Digital Age?"

Over the course of the two-day conference, the speakers discussed many topics relating to liberty and technology.  Some of the topics included regulating the internet, personal data and microtargeting, the Internet of Things, communication silos and filter bubbles, fake news and information access, privacy, security and policy.

Rodger Dingledine keynote talk

Taking notes during a keynote talk by Roger Dingledine, founder of the Tor Project.

I found the conference suprisingly exciting and engaging. I loved hearing the talks by the keynote speakers, and the panels on mass surveillance and the Internet of Things were particularly thought provoking for me. I've been thinking about these topics all year for my thesis research. It was interesting to hear the opinions of academics, policymakers and industry professionals.

Panel discussion on the Internet of Things

Shout out to my thesis adviser, Nick Feamster (center)!

Given its past history with privacy and liberty and its current presence as a tech hub of Europe, Berlin was a fantastic place to hold this conference on cybersecurity and to meditate the issues discussed in the forum. Berlin is also such a cool, young city; I had a great time exploring after the conference was over.

Brandeburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate was right around the corner from our hotel.

After attending the conference, do I think that liberty can survive the digital age? I believe so! As many speakers mentioned throughout the conference, issues like encryption, surveillance and privacy have been problems throughout history; technology simply presents them in new forms. There are plenty of smart people fighting the good fight for privacy, security and liberty, as evidenced by the conference speakers and attendees.

I had a great time attending the Fung Forum and exploring Berlin afterwards. Many thanks to Princeton CITP for taking me!