Privacy is protection from unwanted interference or intrusion, including boundaries against unwanted access to our bodies and possessions as well as against surveillance of our communications and information. It is recognized as an important, fundamental right in many countries, enshrined in the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Information privacy issues have become especially prominent in recent decades, as the internet has made it possible - and, in many cases, very profitable - for businesses, governments, and other actors to harness the enormous amounts of personal data we generate every day through our activities online and on our smartphones. While the algorithms and data science of the big data era have produced incredibly valuable applications that enrich our lives in many ways, there are also growing concerns surrounding the challenges of preventing our data from being used by companies in unauthorized or unethical ways.
For tech companies, privacy and information ethics isn’t just an abstract discussion. As privacy law has caught up with the digital age, companies now face serious regulatory compliance requirements in this area, as well as potential civil and even criminal liabilities from the misuse of personal data. As importantly, breaches of privacy and the trust of your users can turn a data management failure into a brand management catastrophe, as companies perceived to have untrustworthy privacy practices can suffer enormous damage to their public reputation.
An understanding of the issues surrounding information and data privacy is essential to many types of careers in the tech industry. Data engineers, data scientists, and software developers must be careful about how they utilize user data when building applications; cybersecurity experts are responsible for ensuring that personal information is protected from hackers and other malicious actors; and tech CEOs must guide their companies to adopt the right information ethics practices or else face major reputational risks.
Lawyers working in the tech industry must have a particularly sharp background in privacy law, and a growing number of lawyers are specializing in privacy issues given rising demand in tech and other sectors for expertise in this area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earned a median annual salary of $122,960 in 2019.
Certainly. As the world’s leading online learning platform, Coursera has a wide variety of popular courses on computer science as well as the law, as well as courses on privacy that sit at the intersection of both. You can learn about privacy from top-ranked universities like University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University, or from institutions like EIT Digital, a leading European digital innovation and education organization. And, since you can view course materials and complete assignments on a flexible schedule, you can learn about privacy issues alongside your current studies or career.
If you know what a digital footprint is and have left and tried to manage tracks and traces of your activity through social media accounts, tagged images, professional presences, and other online artifacts, you may have some of the basic skills needed to study privacy. If you have a basic understanding of what cryptography means and what it’s used to achieve, you have another bit of the skills needed to learn privacy.
The kind of people best suited for roles in privacy understands the impact that information sharing and dissemination have on today’s society. This type of person will want to develop a way of thinking that is security-oriented, a better understanding of how to think about adversaries, and how to build systems that defend against them. People well suited for roles in privacy will be able to understand the fine print of terms and services that often are found on software, app, and other data-gathering products.
Someone who has studied privacy can choose the path of information systems auditing to manage an organization’s systems that oversee data privacy, information security, and governmental regulations. People who have studied privacy can choose a career path with a software company that mines user data. Other common career paths for someone who has studied privacy could be in law or in government where a privacy specialist can protect and secure important intellectual property and personal and financial information.
The many topics you can study that are related to privacy include big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to understand how privacy and ethical issues affect how businesses implement algorithms and how they affect a user’s privacy and transparency. You can also study social psychology to understand human behavior and decision-making strategies.
The types of places that may hire someone who has studied privacy include health care and insurance companies that need to create secure and private health care data for patients and health care professionals. Corporations and organizations with sensitive information, such as financial, banking, and credit card companies need to hire people with a background in privacy to implement and maintain information systems (IS) technologies for data security for not only brick-and-mortar institutions but also for virtual banking.
This FAQ content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.