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Watching and Being Watched: The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

The course will consider privacy in the digital age. Students will work through puzzles that push them to consider how laws should govern privacy and how privacy relates to their own development.

At least since George Orwell's 1984, it has been clear that privacy is impacted by technological innovation. In this course, we'll consider in detail how technology changes what it means to have privacy and how rights to privacy ought to be protected. To do so, we'll work through the following puzzles: Should the government have the power to use information about their citizens or others to ensure the security of its citizens? Should Facebook and Google be able to compile and sell dossiers on their customers? Should citizens be able to "erase" their online histories and social networking profiles? Should parents and administrators have access to student social networking profiles?

In short, we'll use cases to develop answers to the following organizing question: When do free and equal citizens have the right to keep information about themselves from the view of government and other citizens and how does our answer to this question affect a person's ability to develop a unique identity? Students will be encouraged to debate these issues, consider what political theory and case law have to say about them, and, most importantly, develop their own views on the subject. We will begin with cases in American politics and law, but given the uniqueness of the American approach to informational privacy, we'll use policies in other countries to interrogate the American conception. The course will provide a foundation for further work in political theory and constitutional law.

By the end of the course, students will achieve three goals. First, students will be able to write clear analytical papers. Second, students will have a foundational understanding of political theory and privacy jurisprudence. Third, students will be accustomed to the practice of developing their own normative arguments and expressing them both verbally and in writing.

There are no prerequisites for this course.

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