Center for Information, Society and Policy

IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law's Center for Information, Society and Policy (CISP) is a collaboration among public policy scholars at Chicago-Kent and technology experts at Chicago-Kent's parent institution, Illinois Institute of Technology. The center promotes interdisciplinary research about privacy and information security issues raised by developing information technologies.

CISP combines the expertise of computer scientists, psychologists, lawyers, business experts, and theorists in systems design and human/system interfaces. As an engineering-oriented university with top-rated academic units in the relevant areas, IIT brings considerable technical expertise to this initiative, with more than 40 scholars who undertake research on the Internet, social networks, and online privacy.

CISP places an emphasis on forging a shared understanding of the problems at hand and a common language with which to move forward with proposed solutions. Interdisciplinary task forces focus on critical, unsolved policy problems that threaten to stymie the full economic and social potential of the technologies involved, ranging from risk assessment in the design of information security to governmental and private surveillance of internet users' data.

Is Privacy Dead?

Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy said about the Internet, "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." And it may seem that with the intimate details that people post online-as well as the private information that data aggregators and governments collect about people without their knowledge or consent-that privacy is indeed an antiquated notion. But that is not the case.

CISP's current projects analyze the role that privacy plays in the law as well as in society more generally. The historical analysis undertaken by CISP shows that with virtually every new technology in the past 125 years, including the portable camera, wiretapping, and genetic testing, privacy was initially declared dead. Yet, because of the important value of privacy to society, courts and legislatures ultimately protected privacy over technology. What are the contours of privacy in today's world? CISP explores the role of privacy and its legal underpinnings.

CISP undertakes interdisciplinary research about privacy in the age of technology. In addition to their academic research, CISP professors and fellows work with state and federal lawmakers, engage in community outreach and public education, teach classes and seminars, and hold free conferences for the public, lawyers, engineers, journalists, computer scientists, reporters, policymakers, and students.

Social Networks, Data Aggregation, and Privacy. CISP analyzes how data aggregation may advantage and disadvantage individuals and assesses the applicable laws. It assesses the impact of information from social networks in criminal cases, divorce cases, school cases, employment cases, and other settings.

Social Networks and Health Information. Funded by the Greenwall Foundation, CISP analyzed the types of health information that are collected by social networks and related data aggregators and how that information is disseminated to third parties and social institutions. It pointed out the paucity of protections for health information on social networks and described how policies might be developed to protect health information on social networks in a manner that is more in line with the protections for health care information in other settings.

A Social Network Constitution. Professor Lori Andrews has proposed a Social Network Constitution to deal with the right to privacy, freedom of association, right to a fair trial, right to connect and other rights online.

Children and Internet Privacy. Even though Facebook is not open to children under age 13, 7.5 million children under age 13 use the service. FourSquare, Instagram, and other platforms are also used by children. CISP assesses the social, psychological, and legal implications of children's use of the social networks and the internet. It also analyzes proposed policies affecting children's use of the internet.

Law School Seminar on Social Networks. Law students interested in the implications of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other new means of communicating can take a course about the technologies, the impact, and the laws that govern them. They can also take a seminar on Network Security and Privacy or courses on the application of technology law or intellectual property law to this emerging field.

Liaison with Other Researchers. Within the university, more than 40 faculty members work on issues related to social networks. These faculty members who are from a wide range of fields, including engineering, psychology, computer science, biomedical engineering, and law, meet regularly under the leadership of Ellen Mitchell. The faculty and research fellows at CISP also engage in research with researchers at other universities and in the private sector. 

Conferences. CISP has held conferences on internet privacy and mobile health apps, including one conference in 2014, "Health on the Go: Mobile Apps, Privacy and Liability," and two conferences in 2012, "Under Watchful Eyes: The Technologies That Track" and "Internet Privacy, Social Networks and Data Aggregation."