CS 858 / SOC 701: Surveillance and Privacy — Fall 2020

Instructors Ian Goldberg Jennifer Whitson
E-mail iang@uwaterloo.ca jwhitson@uwaterloo.ca
Seminar times MW 10:00–11:50 am
Virtual Drop-In Hours Thursdays, 10:00–11:00 am, or by appointment

Suggested Reading List

Students only:

Course LEARN site

Schedule for paper and project presentations

Discussion Forum

Paper selection preferences

Paper reviews


This interfaculty graduate seminar explores how surveillance technologies contribute to social inequality, both in Canada and globally. It examines current research into technologies that help users maintain their privacy, both online and in the physical world. Seminar readings, discussions, and projects demonstrate how successful interventions into privacy violations, censorship, and digital discrimination are interdisciplinary, and rely on the intersection of technology, policy, law, and critical theory.

Course Description

This synchronous seminar will take place within the BigBlueButton (BBB) web conferencing server [a link to the online seminar room can be found on LEARN]. The seminar will primarily consist of reading, reviewing, and presenting research papers. There will be two papers assigned to each class period, selected from the following topics:

All students are to have read both of the papers before the class, and to have submitted a review for one of them (of the student's choice) by 9:00 am on the day of the lecture. Each paper will be presented to the class by one student, in a 25-minute conference-style presentation. The student presenting the paper will then lead the class in a discussion of the paper, taking 55 minutes for the presentation and discussion in total for each paper. Students should follow the presentation checklist when creating their presentations.

Students may choose to present live in the BBB room, or they may pre-record their presentations to be played back in the BBB room during their allotted time. To accommodate those students who may not be able to participate synchronously, all seminar presentations will be recorded and made available via LEARN for the following 14 days.

There are discussion forums for each of the five modules with student presentations. The forums are moderated by the instructors and are sites where you are encouraged to continue course discussions, link to current events, and discuss exemplar interdisciplinary projects, as well as find collaborators for your own terms project. As part of their participation mark, all students are expected to make meaningful contributions to each of the five forums.

Note that all times for this course are specified in Eastern Time (the timezone of Waterloo and Toronto).


Students will work in interfaculty groups of 2–4 on an original research project on a topic related to surveillance and privacy. Each group will submit a proposal and the optional team charter to the instructor no later than 19 Oct at noon. Students are strongly encouraged to produce and submit an artifact in the form of software, video submission, website or other media, generating inspiration from the projects linked to in the course readings. Near the end of term, groups will present their work to the class in a 30-minute (including five minutes for questions) conference-style presentation. In addition, by 7 Dec at 11:59 pm they will produce a workshop-quality paper, 10–15 pages in length (approximately 8,000–12,000 words), describing their artifact and project. A completed submission checklist should be submitted with the final project.


Grades for this seminar will be calculated as follows:

15%Paper presentations
15%Reviews of papers
15%Class participation
5%Forum participation

To provide some workload flexibility, only your top 15 paper reviews and 15 class contributions will count towards your final grade.

Grades will be available after the end of term through LEARN.

The instructors reserve the right to alter your final project grade to reflect your contributions, as per your submitted group contracts.

Asynchronous Accommodations

If you cannot attend synchronous class sessions, please let us know in advance and we will provide an opportunity for you to shift the weighting of your class participation mark towards forum participation. All seminar sessions will be recorded and linked on LEARN for a period of 14 days. All other grade components will remain unchanged.

Academic Integrity

Note that students are not generally permitted to submit the same work for credit in multiple classes. For example, if a student has reviewed or presented one of the papers in another seminar class, he or she should avoid reviewing or presenting it again for this class.

The general university policy:

Note for Students with Disabilities

AccessAbility Services, located in Needles Hall, Room 1401, collaborates with all academic departments to arrange appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities without compromising the academic integrity of the curriculum. If you require academic accommodations to lessen the impact of your disability, please register with AccessAbility at the beginning of each academic term.

Coronavirus Information and Resources

Mental Health Support

All of us need a support system. We encourage you to seek out mental health supports when they are needed. Please reach out to Campus Wellness and Counselling Services.

We understand that these circumstances can be troubling, and you may need to speak with someone for emotional support. Good2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline based in Ontario, Canada that is available to all students.

Territorial Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that we live and work on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron (Neutral), Anishinaabeg, and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes ten kilometres on each side of the Grand River.