Innovating Privacy Protection: Tools and Strategies for California Cities (807S)

Ensuring the privacy rights of residents and technology users in California remains a core responsibility of legislators and regulators in the state. Recent state legislation such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), coupled with the state Attorney General’s Office implementing regulations, have aimed to provide an expanded range of privacy and consumer protections, and an upcoming, follow-on ballot initiative may further alter the state regulatory landscape. But these efforts are imperfect and incomplete and have been subject to vigorous debate and criticism over both the details of their approach and their ultimate efficacy.

Privacy risks can arise from the collection, aggregation, sharing, and use of data by both governments and private businesses and other private actors, and from lack of transparency of and accountability for such actions. This policy lab will explore the role that cities such as Berkeley can play in furthering efforts to protect privacy against government and private actions, including government acquisition and use of data that is initially collected and aggregated by private entities. We will work with the Office of the Vice-Mayor of Berkeley to engage questions surrounding the nature and scope of the authority held by California Charter Cities like Berkeley to exercise local control and enact legislation to address municipal affairs that include the privacy of their local residents and businesses. The lab will examine the range of powers and regulatory tools available to city governments that might be utilized for privacy protection as part of overall municipal responsibility to protect the health and safety of residents.

Part of our focus will be to research and assess approaches from government entities around California and the rest of the country. Students will work with the vice-mayor and may also interview and consult other relevant stakeholders in Berkeley city government and other government entities, relevant privacy experts, community and consumer groups, businesses, and other interested stakeholders as appropriate. Ultimately, we will evaluate best practices and develop recommendations for possible local privacy and related consumer-protection legislation and regulation that is appropriately tailored to safeguard innovation and competition while ensuring that the best interests of local residents and businesses are served, particularly in situations where a city may be particularly well-positioned or have particularly appropriate tools to address privacy concerns.

We encourage students who are interested in complex issues of privacy and consumer protection, and in helping identify and develop novel, alternative avenues for enhancing such protection, such as using the the authority of local governments, to join us, including upper-division and graduate students from law, MS&E, Public Policy, and the social sciences.

Course Catalog


Clients & Deliverables

Client: Office of the Vice-Mayor of the City of Berkeley, CA

Deliverables: Policy memos, client presentation

How to Apply

Student applications are by consent of the instructor. Please apply at