Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s popular political satire news show “The Colbert Report,” has agreed to be the keynote speaker at the annual conference of computer security company RSA, which accepted millions from the National Security Agency for secret access to user software.
The best-selling author and comedian will be the latest in a line of popular political figures that have headlined RSA Conference in the past, including former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Colbert took the job just days before it was revealed that RSA accepted a $10 million payoff from the signals intelligence agency for secret backdoor access to the cryptographic security software it knowingly sells to consumers.
In the weeks following the revelation back in December, numerous well-known digital privacy advocates and computer security research and development experts have dropped out of their scheduled speaking events at the conference, with some even calling for a public boycott of the company’s products.
Many allege the company has violated consumers’ trust by selling a product intended to mask activity on the Internet, while giving the NSA a virtual telescope through which it can monitor any such activity it chooses.
The only defense RSA has since offered is that it never denied it cooperated with the NSA.
The conference will be held at Moscone Center in San Francisco on February 28 and cater to more than 20,000 people. Speaking spots are “highly competitive” according to program committee chairman Hugh Thompson, who said 2,000 speakers apply for 300-400 scheduled speaking spots annually.
Colbert is scheduled to give the ending keynote address at the conference, which was announced on an RSA Conference blog, and has not dropped out of the gig despite the growing number of speakers skipping out in protest.