Privacy in the Digital Age


Units: 6


Privacy is a complex and multi-faceted concept. This course combines technical, economic, legal, and policy perspectives to present a holistic view of its role and value in the digital age.  The reduction of the cost of storing and manipulating information has led organizations to capture increasing amounts of information about individual behavior. New trade-offs have emerged for parties involved with privacy-enhancing or intrusive technologies: individuals want to avoid the misuse of the information they pass along to others, but they also want to share enough information to achieve satisfactory interactions; organizations want to know more about the parties with whom they interact, but they do not want to alienate them with policies deemed as intrusive. Is there a ¿sweet¿ spot that satisfies the interests of all parties? Is there a combination of technological solutions, economic incentives, and legal safeguards that is acceptable for the individual and beneficial to society?  This course tries to address the above questions. In particular, the course begins by comparing early definitions of privacy to the current information-focused debate. It then focuses on:  - technological aspects of privacy (privacy concerns raised by new IT such as the Internet, wireless communications, and computer matching; tracking techniques and data mining; privacy enhancing technologies and anonymous protocols,), - economic aspects (economic models of the market for privacy, financial risks caused by privacy violations, the value of customer information, - legal aspects (laissez-faire versus regulated approaches, US versus EU legal safeguards,)   - managerial implications (the emerging role of Chief Privacy Officers, compulsory directives and self-regulative efforts, and - policy aspects (trade-offs between individual privacy rights and societal needs,)

Learning Outcomes:

The main objective of this course is to provide an informed and critical view of the role and value of privacy in the digital age, and understand how policy is made in the areas of technology, both within the U.S. and elsewhere, and to understand how to approach the capabilities of the technologies that policies are trying to govern. We will also look at different models of governance, some of which are very different from those that are traditionally thought of, including the role of code in the governing of technology. Because privacy is a complex and multifaceted concept, the course aims to present and combine technical, economic, legal, and policy perspectives.

Each unit in the course will examine an aspect of the interaction of technology and policy around the topic of
privacy. The classroom sessions will be a combination of lecture and discussion; much of the grade will depend
on class participation. On occasion, speakers from industry or government will be brought in to share their
experience. There may also be lab sessions as part of the regular classroom meetings in which we will look at
and manipulate the technology under discussion