Questions and Books
- How much should government regulate cryptography? In
particular, how much should they regulate academic research in forming
codes and doing cryptanalysis? How about publication of that
research, in both academic and more public settings? Also, how
much should government regulate the use of cryptosystems to communicate
via mail, email, telephones, etc.?
There are two books related to this: Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the
Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age by Stephen Levy and
Chatter: Dispatches from the
World of Global Eavesdropping by Patrick Keefe.
- How much personal information can citizens keep private from the
government? Another way of asking this question is what kinds and how
much information about citizens should various governmental agencies be
able to access? What should be the rights of individual citizens
to know about governmental access of their information?
Three books relate to both this question and the next one: The Transparent Society: Will Technology
Force Us to Choose between Privacy and Freedom?, by David Brin, The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy
in the Information Age by Daniel Solove, and No Place to Hide: Behind the Scenes of Our
Emerging Surveillance Society, by Robert O'Harrow.
- How much personal information should businesses have? Who
owns the information about individual people? Who controls
it? Who should?
- How much privacy should we be willing to give up in exchange for
Any of the books above are relevant to this question as is Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier.
Each week, you should read a reasonable part of your book so that
you will be done reading it by the end of October. You should keep
a journal on your reading. Each entry should describe what
you think are the most important points that the author made, why you
think they're important, and how they relate to any of the four
questions above. Journal entries should be between one and three
pages long and will be collected every week.
Starting in late October you will form a group of four students
whose job is to research information relevant to your question,
come up two or more different positions on the topic, and write
argue for each of these positions. One way to do
this is to imagine that you are one of the players in the
question. For example, in the first question, you could take the
side of the government or NSA or you could take the side of the
cryptography researchers. In the third, you could be on the side
of businesses such as Acxiom or ChoicePoint or on the side of the
Each group should turn in at least two papers, one for each
position. All the members of the group should participate in the
writing of each of the papers and the project will get just one grade.
When you finish your projects (papers and presentations) each of you
will be asked to evaluate how well the members of your group shared the
work. This evaluation will help determine what grade the
individual students get. In my experience most students
share the work equally and they each get the same grade, the one for
the whole project.
Your papers should be polished and edited for both content and
style. Papers should be well organized and coherently argued.
In your introduction, you should state what you are going to
argue in a clearly articulated thesis sentence. Each of the
paragraphs following from there should support your thesis by providing
evidence and argument to support your claims. Each substantive
point should follow clearly and logically from the previous
point. Also, you should be careful to avoid
introducing extraneous information that serves only to
confuse. (Thanks to Alisa Rosenthal for letting me
copy from her essay assignments.)
Papers should be typed, with the pages numbered and stapled
They should be between 3-5 pages long and must include a signed copy of
the Gustavus Honor Code on a separate piece of paper.
You should cite textual evidence
where appropriate and provide proper citations for your quotes and
Any standardized citation format is is
acceptable. If you do not have a preferred citation method, two
good ones to become familiar with are the MLA style and the APA style
(see your writing handbook).
Presentation/ Class Discussion
After Thanksgiving, each group will present
their research to the class and lead discussion on their topic.
One way to do this is to have one person in the group present
background information and expand on the question. Two or more
people should do a panel discussion (or debate) that presents the
separate positions the group decided to take. Then the fourth
person could then lead the discussion on the topic.
Some suggestions on working in groups
Working in groups like this can be more work than you might
expect. Your group should be sure to meet early and often.
You should clearly articulate what the individual members of the group
are expected to do in order to prepare for each meeting and what they
should do at each meeting. If you have questions or problems, be
sure to ask me for help.