Georgetown Law and MIT Offer Joint Privacy Practicum Course

January 12, 2015 — During the spring 2015 semester, Georgetown University Law Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will offer a practicum course that pairs Georgetown Law students and MIT students to study the legal and technical aspects of current privacy problems, and then apply that expertise to drafting model state privacy legislation.

During the spring 2015 semester, Georgetown University Law Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will offer a practicum course that pairs Georgetown Law students and MIT students to study the legal and technical aspects of current privacy problems, and then apply that expertise to drafting model state privacy legislation.

“There are too few lawyers who are comfortable working with technologists, and vice versa.  We hope that this one-of-a-kind course will bridge that gap, training a new generation of attorneys and engineers to approach privacy problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective,” said Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor. “We are pleased to partner with MIT on this exciting opportunity for our students.”

“We are thrilled to be working with Georgetown Law to explore the challenge of training students to tackle new technology-policy issues,” said Daniel J. Weitzner, principal research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and director of the new MIT Cybersecurity Policy Initiative. “We know that there is an urgent demand from government, industry, civil society, and academia for students who can apply engineering expertise to leading-edge information policy questions.”

At Georgetown Law, the course will be taught by Professor David Vladeck, a faculty director at the law school’s new Center on Privacy and Technology and Adjunct Professor Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center. At MIT, the course will be taught by Weitzner and Hal Abelson, professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

In the course, Georgetown Law students and MIT engineering and computer science students will explore current issues in privacy policy and draft model legislation that could be adopted by state governments.  The first class will be held at MIT in January. Subsequent classes will be held jointly at Georgetown Law and MIT, with students and faculty interacting via videoconference.  The final class session will be held at Georgetown Law in April; there, students will present their proposals to a panel of experts drawn from Congress, state legislatures, and regulatory agencies.

The course will assign students from each school to form interdisciplinary teams. Each team will be given a specific public policy question and will be required to prepare a detailed legal assessment, to outline the technological frameworks and challenges associated with the policy question and then formulate policy and technical recommendations in the form of draft state legislation. 

The current list of policy issues includes: the commercial and government use of biometrics, including facial recognition technology, fingerprint readers, retinal scans and other biological markers; the privacy of health data generated by wearable devices and health and fitness applications; the implications of commercial geolocation privacy, with a particular emphasis on mapping, ridesharing and other geolocation applications; and whether some variant on the “right to be forgotten” can be implemented consistent with technological constraints and the demands of the First Amendment.