Consider the essay by Daniel Solove called "I've got nothing to hide" and other misunderstandings of privacy. This essay should frame our semester assignment, which is to consider the question "what do you have to hide?" in specific policy areas.
Some more discussion about topic selection: We'd like something focused - big enough to let you get seriously into some research over the course of the semester but not so big that your treatment must become superficial just to define the space. Privacy interests versus national security - way too big, you might reasonably use that as the backdrop to frame your specific topic, but otherwise you should select some particular angle inside of it. Privacy of students living in Ellicott Hall - way too small (and why would you want that??) unless you use that as the lead in to your deeper research and illustration of some broader topic or technology. We'd like non-overlapping topics too, so that at the end we can share these materials with each other and gain that much more insight on privacy topics. We're open to topics involving technology or policy. A serious case study on a focused question could be grand. Original research into technology areas is grand. (Data point in comparison: the card swipe project of which we've previously given you links was grand!) Do please feel free to focus on topic selection that could complement your major or leverage some area in which you have strong interests!
While not a hard requirement of the research, we anticipate that the research you do would reasonably involve a FOIA or MPIA request. (A well-crafted and specific request to some commercial entity could be considered as well.) More than likely, you will want to do some initial investigation on your own in order to craft a sharp and effective request for public information. Still, be mindful of the potential lag time associated with an agency's response. If you hope to factor that material into your research effort, then plan ahead on the timing of your submission. You should strongly consider proposing a draft of your request to us in advance of submitting it to the agency; we are happy to work with you and tailor an effective and individual request.
Also as a related but separately-graded component: Create a 'new media' work that will illustrate some point about your research topic. This can be a humorous animated cartoon to present an advocacy position of interest to you, a game or mobile app to illustrate or teach some point about the area, or a short video, but the intent here is to challenge you to distill a large bit of research into a short synopsis to make a point. (Proposals for use of other media to make your points will be cheerfully considered.) At the semester start we considered the ACLU "pizza ad" which was both funny and thought provoking. With that animation as inspiration (and other animations mentioned as we go through the semester), what can you say that illustrates points specific to your domain?
We would be surprised if you came up with a focused topic selection right at the start, and in any event we look forward to this being a collaborative process, so to get the ball rolling we anticipate a one page proposal of your intended direction will be due 'real soon now' in order to initiate a dialog. Define the interest and state how you would proceed in conducting research. Anticipate that we will have you iterate on this deliverable in the coming weeks (showing refinement and elaboration of details as this comes into focus.)