Professor Claudia Roda

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This course was developed in collaboration with Professor Susan Perry Director of the Master program in International Affairs. Our curriculum is designed as an interdisciplinary study of the rich intersection between human rights and digital technology. Each of Cavoukian’s seven principles is addressed through the lens of a case study, with issues selected on the basis of their cross-cutting impact.

1. Full Functionality — Positive-Sum, not Zero-Sum

Our curriculum begins with an overview of the histories of human rights law and digital technology from 1945 to the present. The promulgation of binding treaty law for the implementation of human rights has accelerated since the end of the Cold War, alongside the proliferation of multiple channels of communication offered by the growth of information technology. This dual paradigm has created new tensions between individual citizens and their States, one that reinforces shifting political patterns. We encourage our students to reflect on how the human rights framework, on a national and international level, interacts with digitally-driven networks to provide citizens with leverage to safe guard their rights. And yet, as digital technology users learn to intervene in governance in a myriad of innovative ways, governments and companies are using the same technology to interfere with human lives on a brand new scale, both for better and for worse. It is the dense, contested nature of this interaction that creates the potential for greater democracy or more abject tyranny.

COURSE MATERIAL (access restricted): Slides History of digita technology, Slides History of human rights

2. Proactive not Reactive; Preventative not Remedial

In addressing the issue of proactive measures, we examine a pervasive element of the digital revolution that suffers from a lack of proactive, or even remedial regulation: the hardware that makes the digital revolution possible. This curricular unit is designed to provide students with a lay-person’s understanding of EMF science, the controversies over EMF measurement and its impact on living organisms, and the human rights paradigm that requires proactive application of the precautionary principle. By applying Cavoukian’s first principle to an often-ignored aspect of the digital revolution, we enrich the argument for proactive regulation and extend the case to protection of human health and the environment.

COURSE MATERIAL (access restricted): Slides EMF technology, Slides EMF human rights

3. Privacy as a default setting

This curricular unit provides students with an understanding of the potential ethical controversies surrounding software design. We invited David Wright into our classroom to discuss with students his evaluation of both the privacy enhancing technologies we use, as well as the application of binding human rights treaty law in the very design of every IT product. As his work makes clear, privacy would be a default setting if a privacy impact assessment were properly applied in all circumstances.

COURSE MATERIAL (access restricted): Slides David Wright: An integrated privacy and ethical impact assessment

4. Visibility and Transparency — Keep it Open

Policy transparency, whether it be focused on spying or on censorship, is another lens through which to examine the idea of a free and open Internet. We use China as an example of the tensions between users determined to pursue online freedom of expression and a government bent on forestalling the possibility of organized street demonstrations facilitated through social media. Our curriculum encourages students to examine the reasons for government control of the Internet, and to weigh the importance of a series of violations ranging from freedom of expression to private property to privacy. Students are encouraged to think about the impact of censorship on privacy by design; privacy as a default setting is a weak concept unless bolstered by a visible and transparent privacy protection policy within a strong legal framework, such as the recently proposed Data Protection Regulation.

COURSE MATERIAL (access restricted): Slides technological scaffolding for online censorship in China, Slides: Challenging the Party/State: circumventing Internet censorship in China

5. Privacy Embedded into Design

We have structured this curricular unit to focus on the potential ubiquity of privacy violations in a world where things are more connected than people. Starting from a list of six European Union concerns regarding the IoT, we examine issues such as trust, agency and autonomy in the context of privacy and the Internet of Things. Both hardware and software violations come to the fore, as students analyse the advantages and disadvantages of a fully digitized world.

COURSE MATERIAL (access restricted): Slides Introduction to the Internet of Things, Slides: Human rights violation in daily life

6. End-to-End Security — Full Lifecycle Protection

This course unit asks the students to consider the different stages of design, implementation, deployment, maintenance, upgrading and disposal of both simple and complex systems. We draw on the example of privacy protection in the charging procedure for electronic vehicles. We invited scholar and protocol team member Frank Kargl to illustrate the privacy issues addressed by the protocol and explain, to our non-technical audience, the privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) supporting the system.

COURSE MATERIAL (access restricted): Slides Professor Frank Kargl: Privacy protection in Intelligent Transport Systems

7. Respect for User Privacy — Keep it User-Centric

We encouraged our students to reflect on users and their needs by asking them to design educational materials on privacy for a variety of stakeholder communities: the general public; the digitally reluctant; children; EU regulators not working on privacy; national regulators not working on privacy; and human rights advocates. None of these audiences can be considered specialists on privacy issues. Within three months, our students demonstrated, through their production of rich, yet streamlined educational material, a mature understanding of the theoretical convergence of human rights and digital technology as manifested in online privacy issues.

COURSE MATERIAL (access restricted): Students guidelines and assignments, examples, etc.

Lecture: Digital tightrope: Use and abuse of perceptual technologies - Scientific meeting on Perceptual technologies: from laboratory to real life at the Laboratorio di Azione, Percezione e Cognizione, San Raffaele 1.6.2017


Interview: Le design de l'attention (digitalsocietyforum) 26.11.2015


Seminar: Attention automatisée et design d’interface : Eyes tracking, GoogleGlass et Quantified Self – Le design de l’attention: Création et Automatisation - Institut de recherche et d’innovation Centre Pompidou and Biennale internationale de design de Saint-Etienne 24 March 2014


Panelist: Privacy in Computer Science Education – Computer, Privacy & Data Protection (CPDP) Conference 2015


On BBC-World The Forum: about interruptions - 12.1.2015


AUP's Principal Scientist for the PRIPARE project (PReparing Industry to Privacy-by-design by supporting its Application in REsearch) launched October 1st 2013.


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(c) 2013-2015 Claudia Roda