Social Impact

Susan Landau

2008 Winner of the Social Impact ABIE Award

Susan Landau is a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, Inc. Susan’s focus is on the interplay between security and public policy. She has profound impact in at least three areas of computer science: as an extensive commentator and advisor on U.S. wiretapping and encryption policy; as a world renowned expert in computational algebra and number theory (mathematics intimately related to cryptography), and in developing numerous programs to benefit women in computer science.

Susan is a leading scholar in all three areas and publishes widely. Her book, co-authored with Whitfield Diffie, “Privacy on the Line: the Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption,” attracted immediate international attention and played a significant role in the 2000 loosening of U.S. cryptographic export-control regulations, stimulating the global technology economy and offering protection to consumers in all non-embargoed countries. Her unusual blend of technical expertise, policy insight, industry connections and drive, along with her dedication to the advancement of Women in Computing, make Susan a true Woman of Vision.

Before joining Sun, Susan was a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts and Wesleyan University, and held visiting positions at Yale, Cornell, and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at Berkeley. She and Whitfield Diffie have written “Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption,” which won the 1998 Donald McGannon Communication Policy Research Award, and the 1999 IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding of the Profession (original edition: 1998; updated and expanded edition: 2007).

Susan participated in the ITAA study on the security risks of applying the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to Voice over IP, and is also primary author of the 1994 Association for Computing Machinery report  “Codes, Keys, and Conflicts: Issues in US Crypto Policy.” Prior to her work in policy, Susan did research in symbolic computation and algebraic algorithms, discovering several polynomial-time algorithms for problems that previously only had exponential-time solutions.

Susan is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Distinguished Engineer of the Association for Computing Machinery. She served for six years on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board, and is currently on the editorial board of IEEE Security and Privacy and the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), as well as on the Computing Research Association Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research. She has been a member of ACM’s Advisory Committee on Privacy and Security and ACM’s Committee on Law and Computing Technology as well as an associate editor of the Notices of American Mathematical Society. She has appeared on NPR several times, and has had articles published in the “Washington Post,” “Boston Globe,” “Chicago Tribune,” “Christian Science Monitor,” “Scientific American,” as well as numerous scientific journals.

Susan received her Ph.D. from MIT (1983), her MS from Cornell (1979), and her BA from Princeton (1976).