Today's Privacy Challenges

INFO-I 400 / 590
Tuesday Thursday 4:00pm - 5:15pm
Info East 122

Course Description

In this class students will learn about how privacy infringing technologies work and how to design solutions that empower people to manage their privacy. In our interconnected world we are continuously leaking data to anyone who knows how to listen for it. Malls now track the movement of patrons through the WIFI signals on their phones. Online advertisers track people's movements across the web to provide more meaningful advertisements.

In this class students will gain an understanding of how privacy infringing technologies work, what they can do, and what the cannot do. Students will spend part of the course doing hands-on experimentation with privacy infringing technologies to better understand how they work. We will then shift to discussing how to design solutions that address these types of issues through technological, policy, and educational means.


Prof. Kami Vaniea
Info West 301
Office Hours: Tuesday 2-3pm

Class Calendar

Aug. 26Defining Privacy  
Aug. 28User studies, an overview
Sept. 2 Targeted Advertising
Sept. 4 Targeting advertising and consumers
Homework 1 due
Sept. 9 The Internet: an overview
Sept. 11 Cookies
Homework 2 due
Sept. 16 NSA Surveillance
Sept. 18 NSA phone tracking
Homework 3 due
Sept. 23 Guest speaker Uri Rosenthal
Sept. 25 Affinity Diagrams
Homework 4 due
  • Required
    • Affinity Diagrams page in Universal Methods of Design by Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington (available on Canvas)
    • Affinity Diagrams chapter in Contextual Design by Hugh Beyer and Karen Hltzblatt (available on Canvas)
Sept. 30 Educating about Security
Oct. 2 Do not track
Homework 5 due
Oct. 7 Social Networking
Guest speaker: Emilio Ferrara
Oct. 9 Ethics
Guest speaker: Matt Francisco
  • Required:
    • Ethics for the New Surveillance by Gary T. Marx (Find on Canvas), only pages 1-5 required and your choice of one paragraph from the "Overview of the Special Issue" section.
    • Surveillance and Inequality by Torin Monahan (Find on Canvas)
    • The Information Panopticon, Chapter 9 from In the age of the Smart Machine (Find on Canvas), pick your favourite 5 pages and read and summarize those, skim the rest.
  • News:
Oct. 14 Privacy controls in social media
Oct. 16 Android permissions
Oct. 21 Prototyping and design
  • Required:
    • Chapter 17 in Contextual Design by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt (Find on Canvas)
    • Chapter 19 in Contextual Design by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt (Find on Canvas)
Oct. 23 In-Class Focus Groups
Oct. 28 SSL and User Opinions
Oct. 30 Heuristics and Priming
  • Required:
    • Tools for Evaluating Usability: Heuristics and Think-Aloud Testing (Find on Canvas)
    • The Associative Machine in Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Find on Canvas)
Nov. 4 Think Aloud
Nov. 6 Human in the Loop
Nov. 11 Is ignoring security rational?
Nov. 13 Usable and invisible privacy protections
Nov. 18 Privacy in the cloud
Nov. 20 Mobile Privacy
Nov. 25 Thanksgiving Break  
Nov. 27 Thanksgiving Break  
Dec. 2 Network meta data
Dec. 4 How to do a presentation
Dec. 9 Final Presentation
Dec. 11 Final Presentations


News Presentation10%
Final Project40%


Homework assignments for this class will include reading summaries and hands-on assignments. All homework is due at the beginning of class Thursday. Late homework is not accepted and the lowest homework grade will be dropped. Students are expected to do reading assignments prior to class so they can participate fully in class assignments. Students must submit a short summary of each reading (3-7 sentences) and at least one observation. The observation can be anything you found interesting about the article, something it made you think about, or a question that it raised.

News Presentations

Each student will do a short presentation on a current privacy related news story and lead a 5-10 minute discussion on the topic. The presentation should be short and answer the following questions: Good places to find news stories:


Students will work on semester projects in groups of two. Project ideas will be class topic in early October, so students should be thinking about what projects would be interesting to them. Students will be required to do a 10-15 minute presentation the last week of classes. They must also create a paper or create a poster which gives an overview of their project (done as a group) and what they learned while working on the project (done as an individual).