Accessibility statement

Data Privacy Problem Based Learning 2: Surveillance Capitalism - PHI00104M

« Back to module search

  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Tom Stoneham
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Students on this module will work in groups of up to 8. They will form a Data Governance Committee, setting their own Terms of Reference and working practices. They will then be given 2 cases to decide upon as a Committee. Teamwork will be assessed by the minutes of the Committee. Students will also write an individual report on each case study.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

By working collaboratively as a formally constituted governance committee, you will learn to research, evaluate and make recommendations about real cases of data privacy in a way that this would be handled in a working environment.

Case studies are chosen which will require you to understand ethical, political, regulatory and technical issues of data privacy. You will need to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses in these different areas and how to work as an effective team with people who have different strengths.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should be able to …

  1. Work in a team drawing upon other team members’ skills and knowledge to produce a collective decision

  2. Meet the professional standards of formal governance committees

  3. Demonstrate an appreciation of, and a sensitivity to, the complexity of real world examples of data privacy

  4. Research the technical, regulatory, ethical, social and political context of real world data privacy issues

  5. Come to a considered and practical recommendation in the light of all available information

Module content

Students will form Ethics & Governance Committees (up to 8 per Committee). At the start of term the Committee must elect a Chair and Vice-Chair and write its own Terms of Reference (examples will be given), including term of office for Chair. Each Committee will be assigned an academic tutor to act as professional advisor and a staff member as secretary for taking minutes (the approved minutes will form part of the assessment). ToR may be reviewed mid-term.

The Committee will be set two ‘cases’ (real case studies) over the term. They will have to decide what reports they need, who produces those and what process to follow. They can determine their own pattern of meetings, so long as a decision on each case is reached by the end of the term.

An example case for might be:

  • Write Terms of Service and a Privacy Policy for a social media provider (e.g. a Mastodon instance)

  • You must look at the policies of at least two existing services and do an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses for respecting user privacy.

  • You should identify all the different types of user generated content on the service and how these might be treated differently.

  • You must consider the principles of ‘privacy by design and default’, user expectations and relevant legislation such as the Online Safety Bill.

Assessment will consist of the minutes of the meetings (group assessment) and an individual report (2000 words) on each case.


Task Length % of module mark
Report on case study 1
N/A 30
Report on case study 2
N/A 30
Agreed minutes of Commitee Case Study 1
N/A 20
Agreed minutes of Committee Case Study 2
N/A 20

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Report on case study 1
N/A 30
Report on case study 2
N/A 30
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Oral examination
N/A 40

Module feedback

  • Tutors observing meetings will give formative feedback at the end of each meeting orally.

  • Written group feedback will be provided at the end of each case study (Weeks 6 and 11). Individual feedback will be provided with the release of summative marks.

Indicative reading

Cathy O’Neill, Weapons of Math Destruction, (Penguin, 2017)

Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (Profile, 2019)

Carissa Veliz, Privacy is Power (Penguin, 2020)

Students may also enjoy watching the documentary film:

The Social Dilemma (2020)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.