Privacy Plan Assignment


Privacy Plan

COM 473: Privacy and Surveillance in the Digital Era

You will have two major projects due over the course of the last half of the semester, the mock congressional hearing (which will be your final, more on this later) and a Privacy Plan. The Privacy Plan will be a substantial document, written in steps, containing three separate parts each outlined below. Note the Timeline at the end of this document. You do not want to hand in anything late as each piece builds on the subsequent ones and falling behind will make it impossible for you to pass the class.

Privacy Philosophy

The first step is to articulate your own privacy philosophy. Importantly though this should be done with reference to the readings from the first few weeks of class, i.e. it is not just your opinion on philosophy, but an informed position, one which reflects engagement with the multiple and complicated definitions of privacy. In this philosophy you should articulate which arguments about privacy you find most persuasive and what makes them so. For instance you might want to consider whether you thing privacy is an individual right (the right to be left alone), or a social good (necessary for a community). You will want to articulate which aspects of privacy you find to be most valuable (for example space, information, decision, choices, etc). Importantly you will want to articulate which privacy “threat” you find the most concerning, for example government intrusion (Big Brother), the intrusion of others (Little Brother), the obfuscation of surveillance and intrusion (think the Kafka argument), intrusion and data collection by corporations (data collection), etc.. Note these aren’t mutually exclusive but you will want to focus on which ones are most important to you along with the reasons and motivations for this (again this will require reference to the class readings). Ultimately you want to explain what parts of privacy most concern you and why. You might want to use one or two specific examples to illustrate your position (do not however use lots of examples, one or two focused examples=good, thirty two examples=bad). (1200 words)

Privacy Experiment

This is a month long, sustained effort to reclaim one aspect of your privacy. You should base this off of your philosophy. That is, you will want to connect the two. If for example you decide that the biggest privacy threat is corporate tracking you want to come up with a plan that will reduce as much as possible corporate tracking of you. Or, if you are considered about cameras, come up with a plan that seeks to evade cameras as much as possible. After you submit this to me, and I review it I will give it back to you and you will need to do this for most of April. So, make this something you can do, but also make it radical/substantial/challenging. I am happy to talk with you about these, and help you develop your experiment. To get started here, you want to think about what type of Privacy you would like to reclaim and then build an experiment around it.

Plan of Action

As you start to experiment with the above, you want to develop what your long term privacy plan is. After class is over what are you going to do different going forward to reclaim some of your privacy, what practical daily things are you going to do? These don’t necessarily need to be linked to your experiment, but should be informed by philosophy (i.e. reclaiming aspects that are most important to you). These should be all the things you want to do different from now on. These can be small things like avoiding Google search (use DuckDuckGo), managing Facebook privacy settings (regularly checking these, not using apps), or larger more ambitious ones such as getting off Google entirely, or not using Facebook. In this section you will need to detail all the steps, as well as the cost and benefits of each step. Make this list both thorough and reasonable (what you will actually do).

Final Report

The final report will have four sections:

  • Your Privacy Philosophy (1200 words)
  • A write up of your privacy experiment, what you did, what you learned (1200 words)
  • Your Privacy Plan of Action (400-600 words)
  • Conclusion (300-400 words)


  • March 21st: Privacy Philosophy (1200 Words)
  • March 28th: Privacy Experiment (Due in class)
  • April 1st-April 22nd: Conduct Privacy Experiment
  • April 18th: Privacy Plan of Action
  • May 5th: Final Report Due