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E59.1034.001.FA05: Impacts of Technology: Information Technology and Privacy

Tuesdays and Thursdays 11-12:15

Instructor: Professor Helen Nissenbaum; Course Assistant: Michael Zimmer

Department of Culture and Communication


Technology has profoundly affected the human condition, individually as well as socially. Although in large part, its study belongs in the province of science and engineering, its increasing presence in society, its influence on economics, social and interpersonal interaction, individual aspiration and achievement, and even cultural content and transmission has excited the interest of social scientists and humanists. Concerned not only with material impacts but with the implications of technology for social, political and moral life their investigations have generated a new multidisciplinary inquiry into human and social dimensions of technology. This inquiry forms the backdrop for the course, except instead of covering the entire range of technologies, it approaches the study of “impacts of technology” through the case of information and digital communications technologies (ICT), further focusing on privacy. The final goal, however, is not limited to understanding ICT and privacy better, but, through them, to achieve a deeper appreciation of technology’s place in society and the complex ways each shapes the other in iterative cycles of cause and effect.

Few values have been as unalterably disturbed as privacy by developments in new media and other information technologies. Social commentary attending these developments have been persistent and 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. Whether any of these conclusions holds up to close scrutiny, a few observations about ICT seem both evident and noteworthy: 1) it has generated an unprecedented capacity to track and monitor people; 2) it facilitates the aggregation, storage, and analysis of massive amounts of information about people; and 3) it enables wide-ranging forms of access to, communication of, and publication of this information. Our investigation in this course will be guided by a number of leading questions including the following:

+ What are the key technologies at issue (e.g. CCTV, databases, cookies, biometrics, Webcams)?
+ What key factors are responsible for driving the development of these technologies?
+ What purposes are these technologies serving; whose purposes?
+ What are some of the current and projected social, political, and moral consequences?
+ How do we evaluate them?
+ Does privacy conflict with other important values, e.g. speech, efficiency, security, and accountability?
+ How should we resolve these conflicts; what tradeoffs should we make?
+ What steps should we, as individuals, and we, in society, take to protect privacy – through technology, defensive action and policy?

The study of technology and social values can be – indeed, must be -- approached through a variety of disciplinary perspectives. This course will emphasize the philosophical, which will involve grappling with conceptual underpinnings of technology and privacy – their meaning and value. Philosophical analysis will, however, be balanced with significant contributions by legal scholars, computer scientists, social scientists, and popular social critics.

Readings :

Weston, A, A Rulebook for Arguments. 3rd. edition ( Indianapolis : Hackett Publishing Company, 2000)
Other readings are available through the Course Homepage.

Course Homepage:

The most up-to-date syllabus will be maintained on the course homepage through Blackboard. In addition, the homepage contains useful external links and a discussion board.

Requirements and Grading Policy:

Students are expected to attend all classes and complete assigned readings prior to class meetings. Grades will be assessed according to four criteria: participation (in-class, online, and written responses to readings), a mid-term examination, two papers, and a collaborative poster presentation in the following proportions:
20% Participation (attendance, contribution to class discussion, responses to readings)
20% Midterm Examination (based on readings)
40% Two papers
20% A collaborative poster presentation
**To pass the class, students must earn passing grades in all four elements.**


September 5 Introduction to the course
September 7 Technology and privacy in society
Readings : Lester; J. Weinberg; A.M. Weinberg

September 13 Technology and privacy in society, contin.
Readings : Warren & Brandeis; Chandler
September 15 Discussion (Formation of Groups)

September 20 Surveillance of space and people
Readings : Farmer & Mann; Nieto, Johnson-Dodds & Simmons; Rosen; Norris (249-68)
September 22 The Panopticon
Readings : Bentham; Yesil; Norris (268-81); Mumford

September 27 Identification and verification through biometrics
Readings : Ashborn; Agre; Brey
September 29 Discussion

October 4 Paper I due
October 6 Surveillance online
Readings : M. Smith (1-12); Kang; How Things Work (HTW)--cookies; EPIC (online profiling); Bennett

October 11 Database technologies
Readings : Westin; Froomkin; Summary & Recs; Solove; “Think before you dig”
October 13 Discussion

October 18 Technology and efficiency
Readings : Marcuse; Dreyfuss; Singleton; J. Cohen
October 20 Discussion

October 25 Midterm
October 27 The concept and value of privacy
Readings : Berlin ; Gavison; Reimann

November 1 The concept and value of privacy, contin.
Readings : Allen (1999); Regan (222-231); Gotlieb
November 3 Discussion

November 8 Privacy in communication
Readings : Regan (ch. 3); EPIC and HTW on Carnivore; Bill of Rights
November 10 Privacy, publicity, accountability
Readings : Brin; Volokh; Smolla; Allen (2000); Nissenbaum

November 15 Discussion
November 17 Politics in technology
Readings : Winner, Brey (1997), Heikkero

November 22 Discussion
November 24 Thanksgiving Recess

November 29 “Privacy preserving” technology
Readings : Levy, Chaum, Marx, “Pretty poor privacy”
December 1 Spillover

December 6-8 Poster sessions

* Please refer to Course Bibliography for full citation details

Course Bibliography

Agre, P. 2001. Your face is Not a Bar Code: Arguments Against Automatic Face Recognition in Public Places. Whole Earth 106: 74-77.
Allen-Castellitto, A. 1999. Coercing Privacy. William and Mary Law Review 40: 723-757.
Allen-Castellitto, A. 2000. Privacy versus the Public’s Right to Know. In The Encyclopedia of Ethical Issues in Politics and the Media, edited by R. Chadwick. 251-262. San Diego : Academic Press.
Ashborn, J. 1999. The Biometric White Paper. Springer Professional Computing.
Bennett, Colin J. 2001. Cookies, Web Bugs, Webcams, and Cue Cats: Patterns of Surveillance on the World Wide Web. Ethics and Information Technology. 3(3): 197-210.
Bentham, J. 1995. The Panopticon Writings. Edited by M. Bozovic. 31-37. London : Verso.
Berlin , I. 1969. Two Concepts of Liberty . In Four Essays on Liberty . Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Brey, P. Ethical Aspects of Facial Recognition Systems in Public Places (unpublished manuscript).
Brey, P. 1997. Philosophy of Technology Meets Social Constructivism. Techne: Journal for the Society for Philosophy and Technology, 2: 3-4.
Brin, D. 1998. Privacy Under Siege. The Transparent Society. 3-26.
Chandler , D. What is Technology? Aberystwyth: University of Wales .
Chaum, D.1992. Achieving Electronic Privacy. Scientific American. 267(2): 96-10.
Cohen, J. 2003. DRM and Privacy. Communications of the ACM. 46(4): 47-49.
Dreyfus, H. 2004. Heidegger on Gaining a Free Relation to Technology. In Readings in The Philosophy of Technology . Edited by D. Kaplan. Oxford : Rowman & Littlefield.
EPIC Online Profiling, Read through the content on profiling provided by EPIC at this link and throughout the site.
EPIC Carnivore Page , Read through the content & links on Carnivore provided by EPIC.
Farmer, D. and C. Mann. 2003. Surveillance Nation. Technology Review. 46-53.
Froomkin, A. The Death of Privacy? Stanford Law Review. 52:1461-1543. http://personal.law.miami.edu/~froomkin/articles/privacy-deathof.pdf (Read only 1461-1476)
Gavison, R. 1980. Privacy and the Limits of Law. The Yale Law Journal. 89(3): 421-471.
Gotlieb, C. 1996. Privacy: A Concept Whose Time Has Come and Gone. In Computers, Surveillance, and Privacy. Edited by D. Lyon and E. Zureik. 156-171. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press.
Heikkerö, T. 2005. The Good Life in a Technological World: Focal Things and Practices in the West and in Japan . Technology in Society. 27: 251-259.
How Things Work - Carnivore. From the "How Things Work" website...
How Things Work - Cookies. From the "How Things Work" website...
Kang, J. 1998. Information Privacy in Cyberspace Transactions. 50(4): 1193-1294. Stanford Law Review.
Lester, T. 2001. The Reinvention of Privacy. The Atlantic Monthly, 31-39
Levy, S. 1996. Crypto Rebels. In High Noon on the Electronic Frontier. Edited by P. Ludlow . 185-205. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Marcuse, H. 2003. The New Forms of Control. In Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition. Edited by Scharff, R. and V. Dusek. 405-412. Blackwell: Oxford.
Marx, G. 2003. A Tack in the Shoe: Neutralizing and Resisting the New Surveillance. Journal of Social Issues. 59(2): 369-390.
Mumford, L. 1964. Authoritarian and democratic technics. Technology and Culture, 5(1): 1-8.
NASCIO. Sept 2004. Think Before You Dig: The Privacy Implications of Data Mining & Aggregation.
Nieto, M., K. Johnston-Dodds, and C. Simmons. 2002. Public and Private Applications of Video Surveillance and Biometric Technologies. California Research Bureau.
Nissenbaum, H. 1998. Protecting Privacy in an Information Age: The Problem of Privacy in Public. Law and Philosophy 17: 559-596.
Norris, C. 2003. From Personal to Digital: CCTV, the panopticon, and the technological mediation of suspicion and control. In Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk and Digital Discrimination. Edited by D. Lyon . 249-268; 268- 281. London : Routledge.
Pretty Poor Privacy: An Assessment of P3P and Internet Privacy. Electronic Privacy Information Center , June 2000.
Regan, P. 1995. Communication Privacy: Transmitting Our Message. Legislating Privacy. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press.
Regan, P. 1995. The Social Importance of Privacy. Legislating Privacy. 222-231. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press.
Reiman, J. 1995. Driving to the Panopticon: A Philosophical Exploration of the Risks to Privacy Posed by the Highway Technology of the Future. Santa Clara Computer and High Technology Law Journal . 11(1): 27-44.
Rosen, J. 2001. A Watchful State. The New York Times Magazine. 38-43, 85,92,93.
Singleton, S. 1998. Privacy as Censorship: A Skeptical View of Proposals to Regulate Privacy in the Private Sector. Cato Policy Analysis No. 295.
Smith, M. 2000. Internet Privacy: An Analysis of Technology and Policy Issues. Report of the Congressional Research Service.
Smolla, R. 1999. Privacy and the First Amendment Right to Gather News. George Washington Law Review1097.
Solove, D. 2004. The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age. 13-26; 127-139. New York : NYU Press.
Summary and Recommendations from Records, Computers, and the Rights of Citizens. Report of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems. 1973. U. S. Department of Health, Education & Welfare .
U.S. Bill of Rights, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/help/constRedir.html.
Volokh, E. 2000. Personalization and Privacy. Communications of the ACM. 43(8).
Warren, S. and L. Brandeis. 1890. The Right to Privacy [The Implicit Made Explicit]. In Philosophical Dimensions of Privacy: An Anthology. (4): 193-220. Edited by Ferdinand. Harvard: Harvard Law Review.
Westin, A. 1967. Privacy and Freedom. New York : Atheneum. Excerpts.
Weinberg, A. 1991. Can Technology Replace Social Engineering. In Controlling Technology: Contemporary Issues. Edited by W. B. Thompson. 41-48. Buffalo , NY : Prometheus Books.
Weinberg, J. 2004. RFID and Privacy. http://ssrn.com/abstract=611625
Winner, L. 1986. Do Artifacts have Politics? In The whale and the reactor. Edited by L. Winner. 19-39. Chicago : The University of Chicago Press.

Supplemental Readings

Cohen, J. 1996. A Right to Read Anonymously: A Closer Look at "Copyright Management" In Cyberspace. 28 Conn. L. Rev 981.
Data Mining. Wikipedia entry on data mining...
DeCew, J. 1997. In Pursuit of Privacy. 125-144. Ithaca : Cornell University Press.
Latour, B. 1992. Where are the Missing Masses? Sociology of a Door.
MacKenzie D., and J. Wajcman. 1985. Introduction: The Social Shaping of Technology. In The Social Shaping of Technology. edited by MacKenzie, D., and J. Wajcman. Milton Keynes : Open University Press.
Reagle, J. and Cranor, L. 1999. The Platform for Privacy Preferences. Communications of the ACM. 42(2): 48-55.

Paper-Related Articles

Cohen, J. 2003. DRM and Privacy. Communications of the ACM. 46 (4): 47-49.
DeCew, J. 1997. In Pursuit of Privacy. 125-144. Ithaca : Cornell University Press.


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