With Personal Information ‘the New Oil’ of the Digital Economy, Chicago-Kent to Offer New Certificate Program in Privacy Law



By Tad Vezner
A student in a Chicago-Kent College of Law listens in class while taking notes on a lapton

As laws governing privacy get more complex and sophisticated, working professionals—including those working in information technology—can often feel behind the ever-heightening curve.

That’s why Chicago-Kent College of Law is offering a new online certification in privacy law for those working in jobs that involve the collection, management, or use of personal information—what has been called, “the new oil” of the digital economy. 

As consumers increasingly adopt digital technology and devices into their lives, the data they generate creates enormous opportunity—and risk—for companies, governments, and society as a whole, notes Chicago-Kent professor Peter Hanna, who will oversee the program.

“In the modern world, personal information is becoming increasingly important across a vast array of business and legal fields, and it is often misused or mismanaged, sometimes with costly results,” says Hanna.

The program is designed to provide professionals with the fundamental knowledge and foundation needed to analyze and understand the evolving privacy landscape, Hanna says, noting how both the United States Congress and state legislatures are responding to how businesses use personal information with an increasingly wide net of regulations. At the same time, the European Union and other countries are adopting disparate, often more demanding privacy laws that global organizations must satisfy—or face massive fines and more severe consequences.

Hanna emphasizes that studying and gaining an understanding of privacy law tends to give people across a wide array of careers and professions a competitive advantage. For example, “those in information technology careers are often intimately familiar with the tech issues of a project, but sometimes fail to appreciate privacy implications of their work, which can often change how an informational database, program, or even consumer product is designed.

“This program is for them,” Hanna adds, “and for anyone who wants to greatly enhance their professional capabilities operating in the digital economy.”

The program isn’t just geared toward technical professionals. It is also designed for those in “tech-adjacent” fields, such as marketing professionals and administrators who need a foundational understanding of privacy in order to efficiently, lawfully, and ethically manage personal data.

Violating such regulations, or even the perception of violating them, could not only result in lawsuits, but in significant—and irreparable—reputational damage to companies, Hanna notes.

“If you’re responsible for personal data, you need to be aware of your responsibilities,” Hanna says. “You need to know what you can or can’t do, and should or shouldn’t do, both legally and ethically.”

Students in the certificate program will explore privacy frameworks in the United States and abroad; develop a strong understanding of the different dimensions of privacy law (constitutional privacy, consumer privacy, and so on); and, become familiar with leading industry guidelines and best practices. The program will also highlight the practical problems of risk management in privacy decisions that routinely impact other areas of law and will enable students to successfully compete for roles in the constantly evolving field of privacy.

The program, which takes one year to complete full-time, will be offered beginning in August 2022. Those wanting to know more, including how to register for the limited-space online program, can visit Chicago-Kent’s website.