IMPACTS OF TECHNOLOGY: Information Technology and Privacy
Professor: Helen Nissenbaum
Department of Culture and Communication
Fall '02 (E38.1034001SP02)
The course examines social impacts of technology through the case of information technologies and their impacts on privacy. Few social values have been as dramatically affected as privacy by developments in the huge array of technologies of information, from photography to video, from databases to biometrics, from wire-taps to polygraphs. Social commentary attending these developments have been equally diverse, predicting the death of privacy, proclaiming its insignificance, and suggesting that technology itself has brought privacy into existence as an inchoate set of disparate values and interests. We will study some of these technologies and their impacts. We will note the people, institutions, and interests that are affected. And we will learn how to think about some of the challenges and evaluate them from the perspective of social, ethical, and political values.
The subject of technology and privacy can be approached from many different vantage points. In the course, we adopt a philosophical perspective. This means that we seek to appreciate the effects of technology on privacy through an understanding of the meaning and value of privacy. The course is structured around several issues:
- The technology. We will study a variety of technologies that have raised questions and protest, including photography, video-recording, biometrics, computer databases, computer and online monitoring, information processing techniques, and polygraphs. We also will examine some of the proposed technical solutions to privacy threats.
- The contexts. We study some of the contexts in which these various technologies operate, especially those that have aroused public controversy, such as the workplace, marketplace, home, World Wide Web, doctor¹s office, public squares, mind, body, and on the road.
- The law. We study the extent and limits of privacy protection provided through law.
- The value of privacy. We study the meaning and value of privacy through philosophical analysis and ethical, political and legal theory.
- Privacy in conflict. Claims have been made about several important values that appear to conflict with privacy, including free speech, profit, efficiency, security, and accountability. How do we choose? Can we make sensible tradeoffs?
- Technology and values. Should we blame technology for the loss of privacy? Or, is technology merely the tool that assists legitimate social forces?
- Web Resources. Many readings have been made available through the Course homepage either via External
or Course Documents. Those available online are marked
Reader: All other readings (except if noted otherwise) can be found in
Course Reader. Available from: MacDougal Copy Center, 127 MacDougal
(betw. W3 & W4). Call before going:
A, A Rulebook for Arguments
(Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company)
COURSE REQUIREMENTS & GRADING POLICY
Students are expected to attend all classes and
complete assigned readings prior to class meetings. Grades for the course will
be assessed according to three criteria: in-class participation, examinations,
and short essays as follows.
30% Participation (Attendance, classroom, and online participation)
40% Examinations (Midterm and Final)
30% Essays (Two short essays)
To pass the class, students muse attain passing grades in all three.
The homepage will serve as the hub of the class.
The following important elements will be found there: syllabus, which will be
updated as we go along; discussion group where students can post questions,
ideas, and observations; useful external links; essay questions; readings.
Students should check frequently.
September 4: Introduction to the course
September 9: Overview of Impacts of Technology on Privacy
For at least a century, technological innovations that have stirred cries of “privacy invasion”. We review some of the significant cases, focusing on some current examples.
Penenberg, Adam L. “The Surveillance
Society.” Wired. (December 2001).
Greenhouse, Linda “Justices Say Warrant is Required In High-Tech Searches,” The New York Times, June 12, A.1
Marx, Gary “Technology and Gender: Thomas I.
Voire and the Case of the Peeping Tom,” Sociological
Quarterly, (forthcoming). CD
Barlow, John P. “Private Life in Cyberspace.” Computers, Ethics, and Social
Values. Eds. D. Johnson and H. Nissenbaum. (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall,
Various readings from popular media about
surveillance on the Roads
September 11: Anonymity
Being anonymous is, strictly speaking, to be
unnamed. Anonymity is sometimes considered an important aspect of privacy but
it can also be dangerous. Anonymity may be increasingly difficult to achieve
an information age.