University of Maryland

Privacy Education

As part of two grants (IMLS award on privacy resources for low-income families and NSF award on privacy and security curriculum for elementary school students), Vitak and her Co-PIs have been developing educational resources for children and families.

See the Safe Data | Safe Families project website to access:

  • Password Mania, a card game that teaches children about building strong passwords
  • Password worksheets for children (in English and Spanish)
  • A virtual escape room for elementary school children
  • A choose-you-own-adventure story for middle school children
  • Coloring pages for young children with tips for parents on how to talk to their children and social and mobile media.

Vitak has developed several classes that cover technology innovations and the privacy, security, surveillance, and ethical challenges the raise. Below are syllabi and course descriptions.

INST366 Privacy, Security, and Ethics for Big Data (3 credits / undergraduate)

Course Description:The increasing number of networked information technologies— including internet of things (IoT), wearables, ubiquitous sensing, social sharing platforms, and other AI-driven systems—are generating a tremendous amount of data about individuals, companies, and societies. These technologies offer enormous benefits but also create enormous risks to individual privacy and national security. Further, the ease with which data can be collected from online sources, analyzed, and inferences drawn about individual users raises a wide range of ethical questions about these technologies, their creators, and their users. In this course, students will evaluate major privacy and security questions raised by big data and related technologies. Students will learn about the history of research ethics and consider how ethical frameworks can and should be applied to digital data. They will work through case studies from real world scenarios to understand the complex interactions between data security, privacy, and ethics in modern businesses.

Additional Details: I created this course in 2018 to be one of the core courses in our Cybersecurity & Privacy specialization in the InfoSci bachelor’s degree. The course is driven by case studies, so in addition to the syllabus, I’m also linking to a Google Drive with the course assignments.  FA21 syllabus [pdf]  |  Google Drive for Assignments [link]

INST611//INST878M: Privacy and Security for a Networked World (3 credits / graduate)

Course Description:Technological innovations in how individuals, organizations, and governments collect and share personal information have raised myriad concerns regarding how that information can be best protected. In today’s highly networked world, individuals must acquire the knowledge and skills to engage with technologies in a safe and secure manner. This course provides an interdisciplinary exploration of the social, legal, ethical, and design challenges that arise when it comes to securing personal information and helping individuals maintain desired levels of privacy at home, work, and everywhere in between.

FA21 syllabus [pdf]

SURV699A: Ethical Considerations for Data Science Research (1 credit/graduate)

Course Description: Networked technologies—including the internet of things (IoT), wearables, ubiquitous sensing, social sharing platforms, and other AI-driven systems—are generating a tremendous amount of data about individuals, companies, and societies. These technologies provide a range of new opportunities for data scientists and researchers to understand human behavior and develop new tools that benefit society.  At the same time, the ease with which data can be collected and analyzed raises a wide range of ethical questions about these technologies, their creators, and their users. In recent years, we have seen numerous examples of research and technologies that are ethically problematic. Therefore, it is critical that data scientists and others who will be working with big data can critically assess the potential risks and benefits of any end products, whether they are developing a search engine or a tool for detecting terrorists. This course will provide an overview of key ethical issues that arise when working with big data, and it will provide opportunities to review and reflect on past mistakes in this space.

FA21 syllabus [pdf]

  • News

    July 2021: Vitak (along with Sarah Gilbert and Katie Shilton) published “Measuring Americans’ Comfort With Research Uses of Their Social Media Data” in the journal Social Media + Society.

    June 2021: Vitak and Zimmer had an extended abstract summarizing their workplace surveillance & COVID-19 work accepted to AoIR 2021.

    October 2020: Vitak and Zimmer published a study in First Monday on privacy concerns associated with the adoption of contact tracing apps.

    August 2020: Vitak & Zimmer were awarded a Rapid Response grant from SSRC to study how workplace surveillance is evolving due to COVID-19.

    January 2020: Vitak, Clegg, and Chetty were awarded a NSF Small grant for their work on developing privacy & security curriculum for elementary school children.

    May 2019: PhD student Kumar presented research from our kids’ safety project at CHI. The paper discusses how educators consider privacy and security when using digital technologies in the classroom. More info is here.

    March 2019: We won the Lee Dirks Award for Best Full Paper at the iConference! PhD student Liao was the lead author on the paper presenting survey results from our IPA study.