Course Details

Course Number: 94-806

Privacy in the Digital Age

Units: 6

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 which 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?

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. It 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;
> policy aspects (trade-offs between individual privacy rights and societal needs;

The course will consist of a combination of readings, assignments, and class discussions. Assignments will include essays and technical projects.


Alessandro Acquisti
Sonam Samat