Second year Programme

Module 6 The Privacy Paradox

The Privacy Paradox (201700002)
This module aims to enable students to gain a thorough understanding of the psychological, social, ethical, legal, and technical aspects of online information privacy. Students will also acquire useful skills for analysing the structured and unstructured data that is accessible in the online world. The theories and skills that students acquire from the sessions, workshops, individual readings, and group discussions will then be used to produce a video-based intervention. 

This module includes four components:

  1. 2.2 Project: Promoting Privacy Protection Behaviour
  2. 2.2 Theory: Online Communication and Privacy
  3. 2.2 Research Methodology: Big Data Analytics
  4. 2.2 Academic and Professional Skills: Audio-Visual Design 

2.2 P: Promoting Privacy Protection Behaviour
This module will provide students with the opportunity to design a video-based intervention to either increase people’s awareness of the risks of online information disclosure (either voluntarily or involuntarily) or to inform them of ways to safeguard their information privacy online. For the intervention design process, students will focus on a very specific risky online transaction (e.g. internet banking, online social networking, downloading mobile apps) and clearly identify a privacy-related issue or problem to be addressed. 

Specifically, students are expected to (a) identify the target audience for the invention (e.g. minors, professionals, senior citizens), (b) determine their level of awareness of information-privacy violations online and their knowledge of relevant privacy protection strategies, and (c) produce a video-based intervention using results of a small-scale study with the target audience coupled with relevant points on online privacy behaviour from the literature. Within this project, students are also expected to perform a test of the preliminary version of their video-based intervention and to modify the video for actual use with the target audience. 

Given the final product for the module project, students will be provided with opportunities (in the form of workshops) to acquire skills in writing scripts for video productions and in producing short videos of professional quality. 

2.2 T: Online Communication and Privacy
This module component will address the topic of online communication and privacy from three different perspectives:

  • A: Online trust and information privacy concerns.
  • B: Legal and ethical foundations of online information privacy.
  • C: Technological aspects of information privacy violation and protection. 
  • A: Online Trust and Information Privacy Concerns

Many risks are inherent in various forms of computer-mediated communication and exchanges. For instance, in an online commercial exchange context, customers are not only susceptible to product-related risks but also to potential threats to their information privacy. The massive popularity of online social networking, for example, also means that various types of information are constantly shared online, which further implies that the probability of information privacy violation is also real and significant. 

Trust literature has clearly demonstrated that the risks inherent in exchanges and transactions amplify the relevance of trust. Within this part of the module, the focus will be on (a) the interaction between trust and privacy concerns in the online environment, (b) the relevant factors that people take into account when making decisions with significant information privacy implications, and (c) the dynamics behind the tension between the urge to disclose various forms of personal data online and the need to protect one’s information privacy. 

B: Legal and Ethical Foundations of Online Information Privacy
Privacy experts and researchers assert that every human being has a fundamental right to privacy. This is enshrined in national or supranational laws that aim primarily to protect citizens' privacy. For instance, countries within the European Union follow clear regulations on the use and protection of citizens’ personal data. However, certain countries do not have overarching national legislation for the protection of citizens’ privacy. Such variations in the existence of legislation prompts the question of how far the personal data of EU citizens are legally protected when shared with an organization located in a country where privacy legislation is not comparable to EU legislation. 

Within this part of the module, students will have the opportunity to fully understand the major points of EU legislation on information privacy protection (e.g., EU Directive 95/46, EU Directive 2016/680) and to discuss the legal aspects of privacy protection. More importantly, this module segment will also take an in-depth look at the ethical and moral bases of the fundamental right to privacy and focus on the tension between an individual’s claim to privacy and the communitarian need for transparency and openness. 

C: Technological Aspects of Information Privacy Violation and Protection
Even before the internet became widespread, various forms of technology (e.g., cameras,) and approaches (e.g., wiretapping) have been used to assault people’s privacy. As new forms of technology are constantly embedding themselves in people’s daily lives, their exposure to various forms of privacy violations is also intensifying. With people’s increasing dependence on computer-mediated services and the increase in diverse online activities, their personal data are frequently collected and their online activities are constantly monitored. The declining cost of the tools used to track online behaviour and collect massive amounts of personal data have also substantially amplified the risks to people’s online information privacy. Nonetheless, various forms of technology have also been introduced to ensure this privacy. 

In this module, the focus will be on the technological aspects of information privacy violation in the digital environment. Technologies used to violate privacy and those employed to protect it will be explored. 

2.2 R: Big Data Analytics
A wealth of information is available from websites, forums, and social media. Big data analytics are increasingly being applied to combine data from various sources, to represent the outcomes graphically, and to generate new knowledge about individuals based on information that is publically available. Knowledge about the practice and potential of big data analytics will enable the students to develop a video-based intervention about people’s awareness of the risks of online information disclosure (voluntary or involuntary) or to inform them of ways to safeguard their information privacy online. In this module component, students will be introduced to the field of big data analytics. They will study the methods and the software that is available for analysing online information. Examples of the use of big data analytics will be studied and the strengths and weaknesses of the methods used will be discussed. 

2.2 S: Audio-Visual Design
To support the final project for this module, workshops on scriptwriting for video documentaries and on producing video documentaries will be scheduled. During the workshops, students will be introduced to the three phases of video production, namely (a) pre-production which involves research, case analysis, and goal specification, (b) production which involves scriptwriting, storyboarding, and shooting, and (c) post-production which involves video editing.