Privacy Policy, Law, and Technology

Location: Pittsburgh

Semester Offered: Fall

Cross listed Courses:

Course Number Department Units
17-333 Institute for Software Research 9
17-733 Institute for Software Research 12
19-608 Engineering and Public Policy 12
95-818 Heinz College 12

This course focuses on policy issues related to privacy from the perspectives of governments, organizations, and individuals. We will begin with a historical and philosophical study of privacy and then explore recent public policy issues. We will examine the privacy protections provided by laws and regulations, as well as the way technology can be used to protect privacy. We will emphasize technology-related privacy concerns and mitigation, for example: social networks, smartphones, behavioral advertising (and tools to prevent targeted advertising and tracking), anonymous communication systems, big data, and drones.


Class format

Lecture and project-based

Home department


Target audience

  • 17-733, 19-608, and 95-818 are 12-unit courses for PhD students. Students enrolled under these course numbers will have extra assignments and will be expected to do a project suitable for publication.
  • 17-533 is a 9-unit course for undergraduate students. Masters students may register for any of the course numbers permitted by their program.

Background required

Minimal technical background. Programming skills are not required.

Learning objectives

By the end of this course, students should:

  • Be able to discuss why privacy is important to society
  • Be familiar with the fair information practice principles as well as the privacy law and policy landscape in the United States
  • Understand the differences between privacy regulation in the US and EU, and be able to discuss different regulatory approaches to privacy
  • Be able to read, understand, and evaluate privacy policies
  • Understand the mechanics of online tracking and other technologies with privacy implications
  • Be able to communicate the privacy implications of a technology with policy-makers, lawyers, and engineers
  • Be prepared to pass the IAPP Certified Information Privacy Professional exams (These exams will be given on campus this spring. They will be offered free of charge to students who are IAPP student members. See

Faculty and instructors who have taught this course in the past

Alessandro Acquisti, Lujo Bauer, Travis Breaux, Lorrie Cranor, Tim Libert