Technology and Delegation, Fall 2011

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Note: See Technology and Delegation, Spring 2013 for an updated version of this syllabus

This is the syllabus for the Fall 2011 Technology and Delegation Seminar, taught by Deirdre K. Mulligan (dkm@ischool). (See also the Fall 2010 and Fall 2009 versions.)

Meeting time 
Mon 3:30-5:30pm; 205 South Hall
Office hours 
Wed 2-4pm; 212 South Hall

Course description

Information technology has been integrated into an array of complex interactions between individuals and the state. Often these technological changes are put forth as inevitable progress toward modernization and as value-neutral means for acting upon policies established through the political branch of government. However, the adoption or introduction of specific technology can obscure profound policy choices and options. Obscurity can arise due to barriers to transparency created by law, such as intellectual property rights asserted to prevent the analysis of software code used in electronic voting systems, due to a lack of necessary expertise to understand the ramifications of a technological shift within the public and private sector entities focused on the relevant policy issues, or, more fundamentally, due to shifts in technology that remove or shift the assumptions on which earlier policies were developed. As a result, the agency, the public, and the political branch of government may overlook the policy-implications in the choice of a new technology. Through case studies this class will explore existing examples where discretion has been delegated to, or embedded in technology, mechanisms that have or could be used to limit and manage this delegation, and techniques for early identification of inappropriate delegations.


Class schedule

Date Topic Readings
August 29th Technology as policy

Read or Refresh:


September 12th The problem of looking at law alone
  • Surden, Harry, Structural Rights in Privacy. SMU Law Review, Vol. 60, pp. 1605-1629, 2007.
  • H. Nissenbaum, Privacy In Context: Technology, Policy and the Integrity of Social Life, pp 127-47; 158-169
September 19th Mechanisms, Policy and Accountability Read:
  • Froomkin, A. Michael, Toward a Critical Theory of Cyberspace. Harvard Law Review, Vol. 116, No. 3, January 2003. pp. 782-795
  • Radin, Margaret Jane. Regulation by Contract, Regulation by Machine. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, Vol. 160, pp. 1-15, 2004.
September 26th Roles, Boundaries and Tools
October 3rd Context: Ethics in Design
  • Colin Allen, Wendell Wallach, Iva Smith, "Why Machine Ethics" IEEE Intelligent Systems July/August 2006
  • Matteo Turilli, "Ethical Protocols Design," Ethics and Information Technology (2007) 9:49-62
  • Margaret McGaley and J. Paul Gibson, "A Critical Analysis of the Council of Europe Recommendations on e-voting". Available in email. Read Section 4 to the end.
October 10th From Law to Code (Requirements)
  • Adam Barth, Anupam Datta, John C. Mitchell and Helen Nissenbaum, "Privacy and Contextual Integrity: Framework and Applications"
  • T.D. Breaux, M. Vail and A.I. Ant'on, "Towards Regulatory Compliance: Extracting Rights and Obligations to Align Requirements with Regulations," 14th IEEE International Requirements Engineering Conference (RE'06), Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota, pp. 46-35, 11-15 September 2006. Available in email.
  • Margaret McGaley and J. Paul Gibson, "A Critical Analysis of the Council of Europe Recommendations on e-voting". Available in email. Read Section 4 to the end.
October 17th Legal Barriers to Oversight
October 24th Public Policies, Privatization and Accountability
October 31st TBA
November 7th Algorithms
November 14th Case Study Privacy
  • DHS Privacy Threshold Analysis. Familiarize.
  • DHS Privacy Impact Assessment Template. Familiarize.
  • M. Meingast, J. King, D. Mulligan. “Embedded RFID and Everyday Things: A Case Study of the Security and Privacy Risks of the U.S. e-Passport.” In Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on RFID, March 2007.
  • Spiekermann, Sarah and Cranor, Lorrie Faith, Engineering Privacy (September 4, 2008). IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
November 21st Case Study Court Records
November 28th Do Not Track (with Nick Doty and Aleecia McDonald) If you have time, read:


December 5th Wrap-up discussion of final projects  

Assignments and Grading