Course Syllabus

17-333 / 17-733 / 19-608 / 95-818

Fall 2020

Monday and Wednesday 9:50–11:10 AM ET (3:50–5:10 PM CAT before Nov 1; 4:50–6:10 CAT after Nov 1)

Lectures will take place over Zoom at this link. Students are expected to attend synchronously.


Prof. Lujo Bauer
Office hours by appointment

Prof. Timothy Libert; email hours 9 AM - 4:30 PM ET, M-F 
Office hours: Mondays 3-4 PM ET

Zoom link for office hours may be found at this link.

Teaching Assistants:

  • Morgan Evans ( Office hours: Fridays 11AM - 12PM ET
  • Samukeliso Mabarani ( Office hours: Wednesday 5:30PM - 6:30PM CAT, Friday 3PM - 4PM CAT

Course Description

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.

This course is intended primarily for graduate students and advanced undergraduate students (juniors and seniors) with some technical background. Programming skills are not required. 17-733, 19-608, and 95-818 are 12-unit courses for Masters and PhD students. Students enrolled under these course numbers will have extra assignments and will be expected to do a project suitable for publication. 17-333 is a 9-unit course for undergraduate students. Masters students may register for any of the course numbers permitted by their program. This course will include a lot of reading, writing, and class discussion. Students will be able to tailor their assignments to their skills and interests, focusing more on programming or writing papers as they see fit. However, all students will be expected to do some writing and some technical work. A large emphasis will be placed on research and communication skills, which will be taught throughout the course.

MSIT - Privacy Engineering

This course is part of a three-course series of privacy courses offered as part of the MSIT-Privacy Engineering masters program. These courses may be taken in any order or simultaneously. Foundations of Privacy (offered in the Fall semester) offers more indepth coverage of technologies and algorithms used to reason about and protect privacy. Engineering Privacy in Software (offered in the Spring semester) focuses on the methods and tools needed to design systems for privacy.

Undergraduate concentration in security and privacy

This course is part of the undergraduate concentration in security and privacy in both Computer Science and in Electrical & Computer Engineering. In particular, this courses satisfies the "Context Course Area" requirement of the concentration. The security and privacy concentrations are designed to expose students to the key facets of and concerns about computer security and privacy that drive practice, research, and legislation. On completing the curriculum, students will be prepared to continue developing their interests in security or privacy through graduate study; to take jobs in security or privacy that will provide further training in applicable areas; and to be informed participants in public and other processes that shape how organizations and society develop to meet new challenges related to computer security or privacy.

Note on the IAPP certification exam:

You may be interested in signing up for an IAPP certification exam. Many students in past editions of the course took the Certified Information Privacy Technologist version.

The IAPP has historically offered CMU students a Student Certification Package that includes 1 year IAPP membership + textbooks + online training materials +practice exam + 1 Computer Based Test Exam for $140 per student.

Normally you would have to pay $50 for student membership, $550 to take the exam, over $100 for the books, and over $1000 for access to the online training materials and practice tests. So this is a good deal. 

To sign up, please fill out this form by September 21. 

Optional texts

Dave Eggers. The Circle. Knopf, 2013.


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

Course Requirements and Grading

Your final grade in this course will be based on:

  • 10% class participation (class attendance, participation in class and online discussions)
  • 15% quizzes (three lowest scores dropped)
  • 25% homework assignments (lowest score dropped)
  • 25% project
  • 25% midterms

You are expected to complete the reading assignments before the class session for which they were assigned. Class discussions will often be based on these assignments and you will not be able to participate fully if you have not done the reading. It is suggested that you write up summaries and highlights as you read each chapter or paper and bring them with you to class.

Quizzes (via Canvas) at the beginning of each class will be based mostly on the readings for that day; one question may require you to show an understanding of the readings in light of previously covered content.

Class participation will be based on contributions during lecture and participation in group discussions and activities (taking place in Zoom break-out rooms).  Note that while we do not require cameras to be on during lecture, we do require students to share cameras during break-out rooms and we will be joining rooms to join your discussions as well.

All homework assignments must be typed and submitted electronically on Canvas by class on the day it is due. Every homework submission must include a properly formatted bibliography that includes all works you referred to as you prepared your homework. These works should be cited as appropriate in the text of your answers.

All homework is due at the beginning of class on the due date. You will lose 10% for turning in homework late (5 minutes or more after class has started) on the due date. You will lose an additional 10% for each late day after that. We reserve the right to take off additional points or refuse to accept late homework submitted after the answers have been discussed extensively in class. Reasonable extensions will be granted to students with excused absences or extenuating circumstances. Please contact the instructors as soon as possible to arrange for an extension.

Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students caught cheating or plagiarizing will receive no credit for the assignment on which cheating occurred. Additional actions -- including assigning the student a failing grade in the class or referring the case for disciplinary action -- may be taken at the discretion of the instructor. Please familiarize yourself with the CMU Policy on Academic Integrity.

Take care of yourself

Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

We must treat every individual with respect 

We are diverse in many ways, including race, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. At CMU in general and in this course in particular we want to foster a learning environment that is respectful of diversity, and we welcome your help in doing so. If you have suggestions or observe bias and discrimination, please let the instructors know. You can also share any negative experiences using the following resources:


Course Summary:

Date Details Due