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BOLD Series: CyberPrivacy, Fall 2003

with Professor John Nockleby, Loyola Law School

This series took place in late fall, 2003. You may view the series.

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 course 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 course will examine the utility (or not) of current schemes to regulate these invasions in the name of privacy.

Specific topics covered in the Series will include:

  • Module I – Introduction to Online Data Collection: Does it Matter?
  • Module II – Online Data Collection by Private Organizations
  • Module III – Monitoring Online activities of Employees
  • Module IV – Governmental Collection of Data – Part I
  • Module V – Governmental Collection of Data – Part II
  • Module VI- Comparative approaches to Privacy—The European Union
  • Module VII –Self-Help Mechanisms, Cryptography, and the Open Code Movement