Aw, crap, this was last year
Stanford is offering a free online course by computer scientist/law professor Jonathan Mayer that surveys the baroque, interleaved world of US surveillance law through the Coursera MOOC platform.
No legal or computer science knowledge is required, though the course will teach you some of both.
We will begin with a brief overview of how surveillance fits into the American legal system. We will also discuss how surveillance issues can be litigated.
II. The Basics of Surveillance Law
Next, we will review established police surveillance procedures. Using telephone technology as a simple starting point, we will work through various sorts of data that investigators might seek to access—and the constitutional and statutory safeguards on that data.
III. Applying Surveillance Law to Information Technology
Having learned the basics, we will turn to more modern technologies. We will discuss snooping on email, web browsing, and mobile phone location, as well as hacking into devices.
IV. Compelled Assistance to Law Enforcement
What happens when data is technically protected? In this section, we will talk about the government's (limited) ability to mandate backdoors and to require decryption.
V. The Structure of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Law
The law that applies to foreign intelligence activities runs parallel to the law that applies to police activities. We will compare the two systems of law and review key distinctions. The section places particular emphasis on Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, and Executive Order 12333.
VI. Controversial NSA Programs
In the final section, we will review the conduct and legality of controversial National Security Agency programs. We will discuss in detail the domestic phone metadata program, PRISM, and "upstream" Internet monitoring.
(Image: UncleSamListensIn, Jeff Schuler, CC-BY)