The Surveillance State: Big Data, Freedom, and You

Course No. 9363
Professor Paul Rosenzweig, JD
The George Washington University Law School
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Course No. 9363
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What Will You Learn?

  • Review three types of surveillance-physical, electronic and data-and see how each type works.
  • Review some of the many public and private uses of drones, and then consider policy issues such as what factors constitute permissible use of drone footage.
  • Investigate the techniques by which foreign governments infiltrate each other, ponder the ethics of these actions, and think through the appropriate responses.
  • Dive into privacy issues and security issues using the Fifth Amendment perspective.
  • Trace the history of the news media from the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks.
  • Explore legal issues surrounding metadata gathering in the years after 9/11, and whether it violates the 4th Amendment protection.

Course Overview

A police officer places a GPS device on a suspected drug dealer’s car to trace his whereabouts and build a case against him. A popular retail store uses predictive analytics to send pregnancy-related advertising to a teenager who has yet to tell her parents about her condition. A Kentucky man shoots down a neighbor’s drone that is flying over his private property.

The news is full of stories like these, in which new technologies lead to dilemmas that could not have been imagined just a few decades ago. The 21st century has seen remarkable technological advances, with many wonderful benefits. But with these advances come new questions about privacy, security, civil liberties, and more. Big Data is here, which means that government and private industries are collecting massive amounts of information about each of us—information that may be used in marketing, to help solve criminal investigations, and to promote the interests of national security. Pandora’s Box has been opened, but in many ways the government is behind the times, relying on legislation from the 1970s to inform its stance on regulating the collection and use of this information. Our society now faces a host of critical questions, including:

  • Where is the line between promoting national security and defending personal liberty?
  • What information may the government collect about you from your Internet service provider?
  • When it comes to search and seizure, is a cell phone any different from a diary?
  • How will we respond to future technologies such as quantum computers and artificial intelligence?

Explore these questions and more in The Surveillance State: Big Data, Freedom, and You. Taught by Paul Rosenzweig, J.D., esteemed legal expert and professorial lecturer at The George Washington University School of Law, these 24 revealing lectures tackle the tough questions about surveillance and data in the 21st century. Get an insider’s look at how technology from search engines to your car’s toll road transponder gathers information about American citizens. With Professor Rosenzweig’s guidance, you’ll scrutinize our system of oversight for intelligence agencies, and you’ll consider the ways in which the information that is collected impacts (or potentially impacts) our civil liberties. He presents the facts objectively, giving you the information you need to draw your own conclusions.

Covering everything from the legal framework for surveillance to the structure of the U.S. intelligence community to the myriad technologies that capture and analyze data, The Surveillance State offers a window into crucial events that are happening around us right now—and shows the challenging balance we all confront between personal privacy and national security.

Examine the Legal Framework for Surveillance

Technology has made our lives easier in recent years so that now, via a computer in our pockets, we can search nearly the entire corpus of human knowledge, connect with friends around the world, monitor our health, and much more. One theme running through this course is the way technology often outpaces the law. As predicted by Moore’s Law, our processing power is doubling every couple of years while the cost of data storage is dropping rapidly. This has ushered in the era of “Big Data,” enabling tech companies and intelligence agencies to collect and analyze countless points of information about everyone—our habits, our preferences, our interests.

Big Data represents a significant challenge to our concepts of privacy, and it threatens the possibility of preserving any kind of anonymity. But the laws that might protect us were written in the 1970s, before the invention of cell phones, the Internet, and even the personal computer. Mr. Rosenzweig gives you the history of laws from FISA legislation in the 1970s to the Patriot Act after 9/11, and he brings in relevant Supreme Court cases and executive actions to paint a picture of the laws and policies around surveillance today—and the questions for law- and policy-makers tomorrow.

Related to law, the structure of the intelligence community itself—and its oversight—plays a major role in how surveillance works. You’ll take a detailed look at what the intelligence community does and how it operates in practice, looking at such things as:

  • physical surveillance (eavesdroppers, satellite imagery, wiretapping)
  • electronic or signals intelligence (code-breaking, intercepting emails, metadata)
  • “dataveillance” (the collection and analysis of data)
  • security classifications
  • special operations
  • oversight committees

Who Watches the Watchers?

The questions of oversight and restraint are key challenges for the surveillance state. For instance, there was, beginning in the 1970s, a legislative wall between surveillance for national security and for criminal investigation. While this wall was designed to protect our constitutional rights, it makes it difficult for agencies to “connect the dots” when terrorists orchestrate plots such as 9/11.

So who watches the watchers? And what is the psychological effect of surveillance, both on the watcher and the watched? To help frame the discussion, Mr. Rosenzweig examines Jeremy Benthem’s Panopticon, a theoretical prison with an all-seeing eye, which has become a metaphor for a state of total (and anonymous) surveillance. A riveting lecture on the East German Stasi state shows just how terrifying such a state could be.

The opposite situation, however, can be just as dangerous. If our government offers too little transparency, it risks abuses of power. But too much transparency presents a general security risk. Imagine if the details of the Osama Bin Laden raid had been leaked ahead of time—it would have compromised the entire operation.

To help frame this debate, you’ll examine challenges to the law and the efforts journalists and other whistleblowers have made to ensure greater transparency, including issues around:

  • the Pentagon Papers
  • WikiLeaks
  • Bradley (Chelsea) Manning
  • Edward Snowden

What right do we have to access the information these leakers released? Are there times when journalists should show restraint? And in an age of citizen-journalism, what responsibilities does each of us have in this ethical dilemma?

Make Your Own Decisions about Policy and Ethics

The debate over surveillance and privacy is hardly limited to the government. In fact, private industries likely have even more information about us on file—and with less oversight and regulation. The “Internet of Things” holds great promise for the future, where “smart” thermostats can maintain an optimal temperature in our home and self-regulating insulin machines can free diabetics from routine shots. But these technologies leave intimately revealing data trails, so private companies know what we are searching for and how we spend our days—as well as some of our deepest, darkest secrets.

Who owns this data? Should private industries be allowed to sell this information to third parties? Does the government need a warrant to access it in the name of national security? How transparent do private companies need to be when gathering data about us? And is it possible to go completely off the grid via methods such as the TOR network or Bitcoin?

These are difficult questions, and our society will continue to face even more challenges as technology continues to advance. While this course offers you a framework for answering these questions, as well as the tools and examples to fully understand the issues, Mr. Rosenzweig leaves it to you to reach your own conclusions. When you complete The Surveillance State: Big Data, Freedom, and You, you will have all the facts you need to make your own reasonable choices—and take a first step toward an empowered future.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Security, Liberty, or Neither?
    Start by considering the tension between surveillance and the rule of law. While the pace of technological change is extremely rapid, laws are slow to keep up. Worse, the institutions responsible for creating laws often have internal conflicts about the role of privacy and security-as illustrated by a dramatic face-off over John Ashcroft's hospital bed. x
  • 2
    The Charlie Hebdo Tragedy
    In the wake of the attacks in France, citizens wondered whether their state was taking enough security measures to protect them or doing too much of the wrong thing. In considering this question, review three types of surveillance-physical, electronic and data-and see how each type works. Case studies of the Osama Bin Laden raid and U.S. airport screening show the tension between security and transparency. x
  • 3
    East Germany's Stasi State
    Go inside what is likely the most extreme surveillance state in the history of civilization. It is estimated that, when you count casual informants, as many as one in six East Germans was a spy-keeping tabs on neighbors, friends and family. Survey the history of this insidious surveillance state and think about the lessons it can teach us today. x
  • 4
    Surveillance in America
    See what measures the American government took during the Cold War to prevent our devolution into a Stasi-like state. While the CIA and the FBI had several unauthorized surveillance programs in the 1950s and 1960s, Congress and the Supreme Court stepped in to oversee the intelligence world with several powerful measures in the 1970s. x
  • 5
    Failing to Connect the Dots on 9/11
    After 9/11, the CIA and the FBI were faulted for not sharing intelligence in advance of the attacks. But the two agencies faced stringent legal restrictions on sharing information, going back to the 1978 FISA legislation, which erected a wall" between intelligence gathering and criminal investigations. Review the reasons for and the history of this legislation and the changes that happened after 9/11." x
  • 6
    The U.S. Spy Network in Action
    Survey the U.S. intelligence community as a whole. Find out how it is structured, how it functions, and how it relates to the rest of the government. Review its methods of gathering and analyzing intelligence, including some of the key challenges in the process. x
  • 7
    Big Data's Shadow
    The government and private industries are using a vast cache of information about each of us: our travel patterns, our web browsing habits, our purchasing preferences, and more. Efforts to decide upon and enact laws and policies trail behind new developments in technology, and this lecture examines the potential inherent in such deep and widespread data-as well as the threat it poses to privacy and anonymity. x
  • 8
    Some Problems with Privacy
    Because our privacy laws are so far behind today's technology, we need a modern conception of privacy that offers enough flexibility for national security, but that also protects against abuse. Here, reflect on the nature of privacy and consider the two extremes: a Panopticon world of total surveillance on the one hand, and complete invisibility on the other. x
  • 9
    Under Observation: The Panopticon Effect
    What happens when we know we are under observation? Or when we know we are anonymous? The observer effect" has a significant psychological impact on someone being watched, whether it is a corporation under public scrutiny or someone chastised on social media. Consider the psychological implications of observation-on both the observed and the observer. " x
  • 10
    Drones, Drones Everywhere
    Drones-unmanned aerial vehicles-are flooding our skies, bringing with them a variety of concerns about safety and privacy. Review some of the many public and private uses of drones, and then consider policy issues such as: what constitutes permissible use of drone video footage? What safety regulations are appropriate? How can we reconcile civil liberties with the right to privacy? x
  • 11
    Biometrics: Eyes, Fingers, Everything
    Eye scans and facial recognition software were once the purview of science fiction, but now biometric identification is becoming commonplace. Here, examine the different forms of biometric screening, from fingerprinting to DNA analysis. While there are many benefits to this technology, you'll also see the darker side of this data unleashed in the world. x
  • 12
    Hacking, Espionage, and Surveillance
    Spycraft used to be limited to physical surveillance and electronic communications, but now, thanks to the Internet, hacking and digital espionage are the wave of the future. Investigate the techniques by which governments infiltrate each other, ponder the ethics of these actions, and think through the appropriate responses. x
  • 13
    Local Police on the Cyber Beat
    For all the talk about national intelligence programs, local police probably gather more surveillance data than any other governmental entity. Find out what techniques cops use to solve crimes, from closed-circuit cameras to license plate readers, and explore how the NYPD has put all the pieces together. x
  • 14
    Geolocation: Tracking You and Your Data
    You are where you go-at least according to advertisers, divorce attorneys, and criminal investigators. Take a look at how geolocation data is gathered, ranging from the voluntarily given (such as a social media check-in) to the improperly acquired (such as cell phone spying). Then see what investigators can do with such data. x
  • 15
    Internet Surveillance
    Shift your attention to electronic surveillance, and see how the monitoring of web searches and emails allows the government to gain insights into potential security risks from abroad. But even though the surveillance program has oversight, some people fear the potential for abuse is high. Look at both sides of the issue. x
  • 16
    Metadata: Legal or Not
    Dig deeper into the government's electronic surveillance programs. Here, you'll learn about metadata"-or data about data. After reviewing what metadata is and how it works, you'll examine the thorny legal issues surrounding metadata gathering in the years after 9/11, and whether collecting it violates the 4th Amendment protection against search and seizure." x
  • 17
    Technology Outruns the Law
    Continue your study of surveillance and the law with a look at constitutional law. After exploring cases from the 1960s and 1970s about privacy and police informants, you'll turn to the computer era. Find out what expectations of privacy we have regarding email and phone metadata, airport travel, and our smart phones. x
  • 18
    Your Personal Data Is the Product
    Surveillance dilemmas also play a significant role in the commercial world, where private companies have amassed incredible amounts of data about us. Step into the intriguing world of commercial data aggregation and predictive analytics, and explore the complicated legal and ethical questions surrounding the commercial collection and use of data. x
  • 19
    The Internet of Things
    Technology is quickly transforming our lives with marvelous tools: smart thermostats that automatically adjust the temperature of our homes, self-regulating insulin dispensers, medication management systems, and more. But these technologies come with a cost in terms of the data they aggregate. Who owns the data? How can it be used? What are the responsibilities of the data collectors? x
  • 20
    Anonymity: Going off the Grid
    With the pervasiveness of government and corporate surveillance, some people feel the urge to go off the grid. This lecture explores the benefits and challenges of anonymity for individuals and for society, delving into issues such as the freedom of political speech and the privacy of personal searches and communication. Take a look at two tools people use in pursuit of Internet anonymity: TOR networks and Bitcoin currency. x
  • 21
    Code Breaking versus Code Making
    As privacy has become more of a concern, many technology service providers are instituting more and stronger encryption-including biometric finger scans to unlock phones and access data. But without a back door" for government access, the intelligence community argues, national security is at risk. Unpack the tension from a Fifth Amendment perspective." x
  • 22
    Europe's Right to Be Forgotten
    Google search results in Europe are different from those in the United States. In Europe, some results are omitted thanks to a right to be forgotten" principle. Although Europe and America's approach toward privacy is generally similar, here you'll compare the legal state of data collection in both the public and private realms to find out where the differences lie." x
  • 23
    National Security and the First Amendment
    The democratization of newsgathering and the expansion of the surveillance state have amplified tensions over the transparency of government operations. Trace the recent history of the news media from the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks, and draw your own conclusions about what information should be published and who should be allowed to publish it. x
  • 24
    The Privacy Debate Needs You
    Look toward the future and examine the possibilities of quantum computing, human-computer interface, and artificial intelligence. These technological changes are going to require each of us to make decisions about privacy and security-for ourselves and for future generations. Recap what you've learned to determine your vision of the best way forward from here. x

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  • 192-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Paul Rosenzweig

About Your Professor

Paul Rosenzweig, JD
The George Washington University Law School
Paul Rosenzweig is a Professorial Lecturer in Law at The George Washington University Law School. He earned his JD from the University of Chicago Law School and then served as a law clerk to the Honorable R. Lanier Anderson III of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He was chosen as the 15th annual Sommerfeld Lecturer at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School and was awarded a Carnegie...
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Reviews

The Surveillance State: Big Data, Freedom, and You is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 30.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from one of the best excellent teacher; terrific topic; absolutely one of the best courses; timely & sometimes frightening; was truly upset it's only 24 sessions.
Date published: 2019-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Interesting and Thought-Provoking Course Prof. Rosenzweig offers a lawyer's perspective on the increasing tension between modern society's ever-expanding technological capabilities to collect and observe and each individual's legitimate expectations of privacy and desire to be left alone. He does an admirable job of describing this tension and the various ways that the three branches of government and the private sector have attempted to accommodate these competing interests. The Professor is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about his subject matter, and each topic he has selected is interesting and relevant to the theme of the course. The result is a very engaging and thought-provoking experience. Although I watched the video version of this course, I think the audio version would be entirely satisfactory. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2019-05-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good legal presentation, not-so-good technical The author's explanations of legal issues are very good. His descriptions of technical subjects are rather ducky-horsy. This would be a better course if Rosenzweig discussed the legal and governmental issues and got a technical expert to explain big data and the Internet. Also, the course is several years old now and needs to be updated.
Date published: 2018-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Info but I question the Professor's Judgment One has to wonder about Professor Paul Rosenzweig - he clearly knows his stuff and does a good job of getting his knowledge across to the student but I glean from reading between the lines in his courses that Rosenzweig is a liberal and seems to look to the political left more than the right to protect free people from the heavy hand of a snooping government. I think it's pretty clear from whom we have more to fear - What President was caught spying on his friends in Europe? Under what President was it discovered that the government was storing the phone records of every American? People of what political persuasion were listening to, and leaking the content of, the calls of a recently seated President? People of what political persuasion illegally unmasked the names of Americans engaged in legal conversations of foreign nationals? Of course, one may ask, What does all this have to do with this course? What I am suggesting is this - much of this course is preoccupied with the question, raised by Rosenzweig, of Who can we trust in government, and how much can we trust them when it comes to surveillance? I think events of the recent past have shown it is most definitely not the same people Rosenzweig seems to place his greatest faith in.
Date published: 2017-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well described A very good course - My only negative is that it was recorded in 2013 which made the content a bit out of date. I just purchased The Surveillance State, by Paul Rosenzweig, the same instructor, and hope that it is more current.
Date published: 2017-10-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A course that provokes a lot of thought I seem to take types of Great Courses: subjects that I already know fairly well and feel passionately about, or subjects that I know virtually nothing about but find interesting. This course falls into the latter category for me, as I had almost no prior knowledge of any of this course material. I took this course via my public library, and streamed the lectures on my phone over an eight-week time period. I found Paul Rosenzweig to be a good lecturer, easy to follow and skillful at explaining complex technical topics related to the course. With each lecture, I found myself thinking about all of the ways in which I leave digital footprints in the course of normal daily life, and how that data is turned into information that might enhance my quality of life or threaten my personal freedom. I'm glad that I took this course because I learned a lot.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great course! I really enjoyed this course. I also listened to Prof. Rosenzweig other course. I found the course to be very enlightening. I thoroughly enjoy the instructors presentation style. I like the balance view that he presents (describing the benefits and drawbacks to the various sides of the arguments that take place). It has made me more aware of the discussions that are taking place and will affect our immediate future. I listened to this course in the video format
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative It's not nearly as bad as I imagined. I don't think we will get to the point of "1984". This instructor presents a lot of checks and balances to the abuses of the survelances and data collection by the state and the industries. I'm glad tat I watched it. It was releasing.
Date published: 2017-06-28
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