Privacy Initiative

The Privacy Initiative at the Center for Digital Humanities hosted its inaugural events in spring 2021. With a slate of guest speakers and hands-on training sessions, the Initiative aims to address both the theoretical and practical dimensions of digital privacy. What are the meaning and value of privacy in the digital era? What issues arise from the corporate ownership of public technological infrastructures? How does the interaction of government and big data affect populations and individuals? And what do our daily tools know about us? Are there alternatives and habits for mitigating the scale of digital surveillance? As the Initiative gathers a community of interest around these questions, it will advocate for a culture of digital privacy and responsibility both on campus and at large.


Our first event, Exploring Privacy Apps, took place on January 28, International Data Privacy Day, from 1:05–1:50 pm. At this event, David Sherry (Chief Information Security Officer, Princeton University) and Tara Schaufler (Awareness and Training Program Manager, Princeton Information Security Office) discussed several software applications that were developed with privacy in mind. Some applications explored included DuckDuckGo privacy services, Tor browser, Mailvelope encrypted email, and Signal messaging (encrypted instant messenger, voice, and video calling). This event was a collaboration with the Princeton Information Security Office. Read more on the Office of Information Technology website.

On February 9, at 4:30 pm, Princeton alumna Sarah Brayne (University of Texas-Austin) spoke about her new book, Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing (OUP 2020).

In Predict and Surveil, Sarah Brayne offers an unprecedented, inside look at how police use big data and new surveillance technologies, leveraging on-the-ground fieldwork with one of the most technologically advanced law enforcement agencies in the world—the Los Angeles Police Department. Drawing on original interviews and ethnographic observations, Brayne examines the causes and consequences of algorithmic control. She reveals how the police use predictive analytics to deploy resources, identify suspects, and conduct investigations; how the adoption of big data analytics transforms police organizational practices; and how the police themselves respond to these new data-intensive practices. Although big data analytics holds potential to reduce bias and increase efficiency, Brayne argues that it also reproduces and deepens existing patterns of social inequality, threatens privacy, and challenges civil liberties.

On March 24, at 4:30 pm, Alison Macrina talked about her work with the Library Freedom Project.