Surveillance and Privacy in the Digital Age: An innovative approach to learning about privacy

La Trobe Law School offers a cutting edge masters degree in Cybersecurity Law, with some subjects from this degree also being made available as electives to other masters students or our JD program. One of these subjects, “Surveillance and Privacy in the Digital Age”, is about to commence this week. A student recently wrote to us asking for more information about this mode of study, how is this unique online offering actually delivered? In this post, we spoke to Subject Co-ordinator Dr Andre Oboler, about why this is a unique and important offering for students at La Trobe Law School.


What led you to establish this elective?

Privacy and surveillance regulation features prominently in contemporary public debate in Australia. The subject explores key legal and policy issues arising in various dimensions of privacy including invasion of personal privacy, data protection and retention, and surveillance. It will explore how the current legal frameworks address surveillance in the digital world and how laws and policies should regulate threats to privacy posed by the use of technology. It will introduce students to comparative perspectives relating to the protection of privacy against intrusions and unauthorised disclosures, and relating to data privacy. Case studies will be drawn from Australia, the UK, the European Union and the US.  It will call for students to engage with a range of relevant perspectives, views and interests. Understanding of key issues is deepened by examining theoretical, constitutional, ethical and international contexts. The subject also exposes students to ethical dilemmas associated with privacy and surveillance, and enhances their capacity to develop strategies to address such issues.”


How is the Course delivered and assessed?

The subject runs over 7 weeks – it is an intensive subject, meaning each week is equivalent to two weeks of  a normal term. There is an extensive website with online content (text, videos, links to readings). There are also questions and activities to help students study. These questions are not assessed, but help students focus on key ideas and issues in the material and encourage more in-depth thinking and reflection.  The readings are available online, including a limited number of concurrent licenses to view the textbook online or borrow it as an e-book from the La Trobe University Library.

We have a varied assessment scheme which reflects and draws upon the distinctive nature of the online learning environment. One assessment (the smallest) relates to participation in the online forums. Students will contribute to these each week allowing discussion on themes of the current module. Near the end of the study period each student will select two discussion topics for assessment.

The other three assessments relate to an evolving scenario. Background information is given on a campus working with the latest technology and students are asked help the company consider their privacy obligations. In the next assessment students receive an update on the same company which is now growing and innovating, and a new task. In the final assessment a third update is provided along with a new task that takes the situation beyond Australian shores.

The middle assessment is a group task. Student will use Zoom for meeting via teleconferencing. In the meeting each student will represent a stakeholder with a particular. The group as a whole will prepare a written report noting what compromises could be reached, and where the differences could not be resolved. The video of the zoom meeting and the written report are submitted. The first and last of the three scenario assessments are individual written tasks.


How have you approached the challenge of delivering the subject online?

The subject has been produced with the support of a wide range of experts in both the subject matter and the learning experience over a period of almost 12 months. We’ve interviewed external experts creating unique video content, our readings included leading scholarship from around the world and including material from our own experts, and we’ve incorporated media articles discussing new and breaking developments. The extended scenario approach brings an in-depth understanding of the considerations companies are grappling with today, and issues many companies will need to learn to address in the near future. The online learning environment we have created, including the nature of the learning activities, bring innovation into both the content we examine and experience of our students.

Further information on this course is available here