Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 11 2013

Edward Snowden’s Impact on the Convention Industry

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

Edward Snowden has made plenty of headlines over the past few weeks. After leaking confidential information about the National Security Agency’s data collection and surveillance techniques, news outlets have been tracking his moves. Leaders from Latin American countries have offered the international fugitive asylum. Now, his actions are causing a stir in an unexpected area: the convention industry.

The Snowden effect is creating an impact on a massive conference of more than 13,000 attendees. It’s DEF CON, a four-day gathering of hackers, researchers and cyber security experts scheduled to begin on August 1st at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. However, one group of attendees that typically participates isn’t welcome this year: the government.

“When it comes to sharing and socializing with feds, recent revelations have made many in the community uncomfortable about this relationship,” Def Con founder Jeff Moss aka The Dark Tangent, wrote on the official conference website this week.

It’s no secret those “revelations” point directly toward the NSA’s PRISM program.

“I think it would be best for everyone involved if the feds call a ‘time-out’ and not attend DEF CON this year,” Moss added.

SEE ALSO: Federal Budget Cuts Cancel More Meetings

This is the 20th year of the conference. As cyber threats continue to challenge governments, banks and a long list of corporate organizations, the DEF CON community represents an opportunity for a massive idea exchange. While hackers may be criminals, many of them are very smart criminals who can help educate authorities and corporate officials on new trends in cyber crimes and how to safeguard against them. In fact, Moss is an advisor on cyber security to the Department of Homeland Security.

The un-invitation raises an interesting question for meeting planners who may have audience segments that don’t see eye-to-eye on issues. In some cases, this can represent a tremendous opportunity to bring conflicting viewpoints together. It’s a chance to promote the ability to have “candid and honest discussions about the real issues.” In DEF CON’s case, organizers aren’t seeing that value quite yet. Rather than risk the potential for upsetting their core group of attendees, they’re more than happy to tell those who work for the government to keep their $180 worth of registration fees and stay home.

Recent history shows that DEF CON may not need to worry too much about federal officials showing up in Las Vegas, though. Click here to learn why federal agencies are sending fewer employees to conferences and meetings.

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