James Waldo Photo

James Waldo

Professor of the Practice of Public Policy, HKS; Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science, SEAS


Advances in technology have led to worries about “the reasonable expectation of privacy” since Warren and Brandeis wrote their seminal article on the subject at the end of the 19th century. These worries have continued and evolved as the technology of communication has been seen as a technology of surveillance. The modern world of computers, cell phones, CCTV-camera, and the emerging Internet of Things offer unprecedented opportunities for tracking everything everyone does.  At the same time, policy around the right to privacy and indeed the definition of what privacy means have evolved in different ways in different countries. European laws attempt to protect the privacy of the individual from corporations, while U.S. law tries to protect the privacy of the individual from the government. Corporations doing business in multiple jurisdictions find themselves subject to conflicting and sometimes contradictory rules and regulations, while users find it difficult to know what rights they have with respect to their interactions.  This course will look at the state of both policy and technology surrounding privacy. Is the technology capable of the kinds of panopticon-style surveillance that critics worry about? What laws cover the use and abuse of such technology, both in the United States and abroad? What is meant by privacy, and how can it be preserved in the face of ongoing technology? And how can nation-states regulate the gathering, access, and use of the information we generate with our technology to preserve some sense of privacy and autonomy?  How does an individual’s right to privacy balance against the requirements of security or public health? Most of all, what problems have a technological solution, and what problems require oversight and policy changes?

For additional information about technology courses at HKS please visit https://medium.com/digitalhks/roadmap/home.