In 2002, a group of Stanford students taking an interdisciplinary course titled “Information Technology in Society: Legal and Policy Perspectives,” taught by Dr. Barbara Simons, created the Stanford Computer and Network Privacy Project. Motivated by the fact that most students knew little about privacy at Stanford, they undertook an ambitious study titled, “Computer and Network Policy at Stanford University: a Preliminary Study of Student Privacy Issues.”
The study was undertaken shortly after 9/11 when balancing privacy and security was a hot national issue. Around this time, the San Jose Mercury News reported that universities were providing the FBI with student educational records in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks. As increased security came at the expense of privacy, there was a national resurgence of interest in individual privacy rights. There is evidence of this mentality shift in the pre and post 9/11 surveys conducted by the Stanford Student Computer Network and Privacy Project. Their surveys asking users to rate the importance of privacy before and after 9/11 saw about a 20% increase in the value of privacy following 9/11. In addition, despite this increased emphasis of privacy, over 70% of Stanford students surveyed admitted to not knowing Stanford privacy policies either because Stanford provided insufficient information about their rights or because they did not bother to seek that information.
Observing this disparity between student interest in Stanford privacy's policy and the lack of knowledge of said privacy, the Stanford Student Computer Network and Privacy Project served to fill a real need. Nine years have passed since the Project's report and it is time for an update based on emerging technologies and updates of federal law.