April 13, 2021

History of surveillance in the spotlight for Lecture of a Lifetime 2021

Learn about the role of communications intelligence in our modern lives from John Ferris at May 4 event
John Ferris stands in front of a display case full of historic artifacts.
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Seeking answers that others said couldn’t be found is what led John Ferris deep into the murky world of espionage, communications intelligence and national security.

After years of deep-diving into library records about once-secret codes and government intelligence gathering, Ferris — a Canadian — found himself as the foremost expert in his field, even being asked to write the only official history of British Intelligence commissioned by the British government.

Now the UCalgary professor, author, and celebrated historian will lead a thought-provoking discussion about the history of surveillance and its impact on privacy in our modern world during the Lecture of a Lifetime 2021.

On May 4, Dr. Ferris, PhD, will deliver a lecture that may make viewers rethink the online world as they know it.

“There are millions of entities around the world that have the technical capabilities to monitor important portions of your life,” says Ferris.

Any time we are online we are surrendering our data to private corporations (and cyber-criminals) that they can use for their own purposes.

As a specialist in inter-war strategy and diplomacy, signals intelligence, and the role of intelligence in war and peace, Ferris has authored 120 academic articles and chapters and five books.

His latest publication, Behind the Enigma: The Authorized History of the GCHQ (The Government Communications Headquarters), is a 100-year history of British intelligence that not only outlines an account of the past but starts conversations about intelligence and how it will continue to affect our lives in the future.

“I think that people are at the moment hopelessly naïve and confused about the issues we’re in front of … (in my book) I hope to encourage debates in western countries about exactly what we are and are not willing to do (about surveillance online),” says Ferris.

The Lecture of a Lifetime is open to all and registration is now open.

Lecture of a Lifetime is dynamic demonstration of academic talent and achievement, and a unique opportunity to share with the community how research and learning at the University of Calgary contributes to the vibrancy of our city and addresses society’s greatest challenges. This is the 13th annual Lecture of a Lifetime presented by the Chancellor and Senate at the University of Calgary.