Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Berkman Online Lectures & Discussions

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Online Profiling
Employees Privacy on the Net
Governmental Collection of Data - Part I
Governmental Collection of Data - Part II
Cryptography and other Self-Help Mechanisms

Welcome to the archived Berkman Center for Internet & Society BOLD site for "Privacy in Cyberspace" which was offered in the Spring of 2002.


Special Feature

A videotaped lecture at Harvard Law School by Professor Jeffrey Rosen, author of The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America, is NOW AVAILABLE. RealPlayer is required.

Details and Description of Rosen's Work

Discussion of Rosen's Lecture



Syllabus/Course Info

Informational Privacy concerns the claim to control the collection, use or distribution of information about oneself. This series is designed to address potential threats to individuals' informational privacy on the Web posed by collection, use and distribution of that information by other individuals, corporate or institutional interests, or by the government. We have designed the series so that it will be possible for a participant to gain an awareness of some of the legal and policy issues affecting privacy that arise online. The series launched March 11, 2002, and the live portion of the series ran for six weeks.

We have organized our study of privacy in cyberspace into six weeklong modules. Each module is designed to explore various technologies and to ask whether their use raises privacy questions.

Please note that participation in this series was asynchronous.

Students actively participated in the series in three ways:

(1) Studied the materials and contemplate the questions and hypotheticals in the Modules as they were launched.

(2) Participated actively by sending in a comment in response to each week's readings.

(3) Participated in the threaded discussions as they were launched, and throughout the course.

Site Description

Contemporary technology has created numerous means of collecting and storing data about individuals. Information as mundane as what brand of potato chips or ointment a person buys, to the types of food, entertainment, magazines, books, or trips a person likes can easily be digitally stored and linked to the individual's name, income and address. Credit and loan history, employment history, medical information disclosed to insurance companies, and academic records are all stored on computer databases, and can be accessed to varying degrees by marketers seeking to profit through targeted advertising, or investigators seeking to learn all they can about a person.

The rise of the Internet, too, has led to numerous concerns about the prospects of web or email snooping by employers, web hosts, or the government. It is possible, for example, for an Internet Service Provider to track the sites a person surfs on the web. It is possible for an employer to track an individual's emails --inbound as well as outbound--and to keep a log of every website the employee visits. The FBI's "Carnivore" program can track all mouseclicks an individual makes on the Web. Web businesses drop "cookies" onto an individuals computer, and can thereafter track the individual's behavior on that site to create an online "profile" of the individual's interests, shopping and reading habits. Do these developments raise concerns about informational privacy? If so, what can, or should, be done about them?

What, if any, information should be shielded from snoopy marketers, government agencies or database-keepers? Do individuals have a right of informational privacy that should be protected? If so, how? What sorts of information do we think should be shielded from others' view, and why? Should the government be asked to create privacy rules that protect privacy interests? Or, should consumers be left to negotiate their own privacy protections? These are the sorts of questions the course will address.

The series will look at many contemporary instances in which new online technologies have increased the risk that intimate or private information about individuals can be collected, stored, sorted, manipulated, and disclosed. In addition, the series will examine the utility (or not) of current schemes to regulate these putative invasions in the name of privacy.

Professor John T. Nockleby
Professor of Law
Loyola Law School
Los Angeles, California

Teaching Fellows:
Cory Bragar (HLS '02)
Wendy Netter (HLS '03)

Research Assistants:
Teddy Kang (HLS '01)
Cory Bragar (HLS '02)
Wendy Netter (HLS '03)
Emily Terrell (LLS '04)



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