Design-X Project: "We are not violating your privacy if we are the owners of all your data" - Privacy Theories vs. Practice

Project advisors: 
A/P Adrian Kwek, email:, tel: +65 6248 0148
Mr Nicholas Netto, email:, tel +65 6240 8872

Many people are concerned about their privacy. They are sensitive to whom they divulge their personal information and how their personal information is stored and used. Many people also believe that their privacy interest can be outweighed by non-privacy considerations, for example, reducing the incidences of serious crimes or blunting the mortality rate of a pandemic. One can consent to giving up their privacy in favour of these or other more idiosyncratic considerations.


While such deliberations are quotidian, there is no uncontroversial account of what privacy is, what actions infringe privacy and why privacy is important to us. There are theories of privacy, laws that seek to protect privacy interests and the actual practice of ethics boards regarding privacy. How do these work together to shape our understanding of privacy? 

In this project, you will investigate how the theories and practice of privacy diverge from one another in a circumscribed domain, and draw a tentative and limited conclusion about the nature of privacy from your investigation. Covering both theories and practice requires a critical literature review of theories of privacy, the application of its results to either an ethics code or legislation, and in-depth qualitative interviews with professionals who work in the area to document their opinions.

The learning outcomes of this course are as follow.

  1. Examine theories of privacy and their implementations in law or ethics codes.
  2. Apply theories of privacy to actual cases.
  3. Collect practitioners’ opinions regarding privacy.
  4. Distinguish between types of privacy theories.
  5. Evaluate privacy theories and the extent to which practice satisfies a theory.
  6. Conclude tentatively about the nature of privacy in a limited domain.

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