New MARA Course Explores Privacy Issues in Records


Students enrolled in the Master of Archives and Records Administration program at the San José State University School of Information will see a new elective on the spring 2022 course schedule. The three-unit course will introduce students to managing privacy in records. They will explore how technology impacts the privacy of digital records and learn about privacy rights and the laws and regulations that govern privacy in records management.

MARA students who have completed MARA 200 and MARA 204 are eligible to enroll in the new MARA 284-10 Technology, Privacy and the Law course. The pre-requisites are waived for non-MARA students. 

Dr. Darra Hofman, who was recently appointed MARA program coordinator, developed the course at the suggestion of her predecessor, Dr. Patricia Franks. Hofman’s research often focuses on privacy and she predicts, “Privacy is one of those issues that’s going to just keep getting bigger.”

Hofman cites the 2018 Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal as prompting both growing awareness of digital privacy issues and new regulations to protect privacy online. She notes that marginalized communities often have greater privacy risks because their information can be “weaponized” against them. The course will also examine cultural protocols around privacy, for example in managing Indigenous records and artifacts.

Dr. Adam Jansen, state archivist of Hawaii, will teach the course. Jansen has a Master of Science from Eastern Washington University in Business Administration and Computer Science, graduate certificates in Intellectual Property Management and Information Assurance/Cybersecurity from the University of Washington, and a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia School of Library, Archival and Information Studies.

Jansen’s deep expertise in archives and records management coupled with a strong understanding of technology made him the ideal instructor for the course “because the technology has such a huge impact on how privacy gets done,” says Hofman.

Students will learn how to determine their legal obligations when it comes to safeguarding personal information in the records they may someday manage. “California has probably the most extensive privacy regulation in the United States right now,” says Hofman, observing that laws depend on jurisdiction and can change from state to state. Federal laws, as well as regulations specific to different business sectors, further complicate records management. “If you’re in healthcare, your privacy obligations are going to be different than if you’re in the airline industry,” Hofman points out.

The course will be of particular interest for MARA students considering a career as a freedom of information or privacy officer, says Hofman, adding that MARA 284-10 is one of those rare courses that is applicable to all MARA pathways. “Privacy skills and expertise will be very valuable, because that’s one of the areas that employers are really struggling with,” she says. “If you’re working in records management, then you’re absolutely going to be expected to be able to handle privacy questions and access restrictions.”

Registration information for the spring 2022 semester is on the Registration and Enrollment web page.