This Collection Teaches Engineers How to Protect Data

Learn the strategies, policies, and techniques on data privacy

3 min read
Typing on a laptop with a web of locks over it.

Apple in April introduced App Tracking Transparency as a privacy measure for its iOS 14.5 update. The feature requires iOS device owners to choose whether or not they want their data to be tracked by third-party applications they download.

What does that mean for developers? They must comply with Apple's opt-in requirement and get users' consent to collect and share user data across applications. If the developers do not do so, they risk being suspended or removed from the App Store.

Privacy advocates consider the feature, which restricts only iOS app makers from personalizing ads using third-party data, a step in the right direction.


Consumer trust is fostered by giving end users a transparent method when granting permission for apps to monitor and share their data. According to a Pew Research report, 79 percent of U.S. consumers are concerned about how organizations use their information, and they are not confident that organizations will take responsibility for misusing or compromising their personal data.

The collection of consumer data and its use have been the topic of controversy as well as legislation globally. Therefore, organizations must consider data privacy and security when developing products that make use of personal data.

Data privacy starts in product development, and one of the best practices is to involve the entire product department. For effective results, security should be thoughtfully layered during product development. This proactive strategy, commonly known as the privacy by design approach, helps develop a strong foundation for a secure product that will protect consumer data.

Physical tampering and cybersecurity are two prevalent vulnerabilities, especially with the Internet of Things and cloud technologies. By accounting for each layer—device hardware, device software, communications, cloud platform, and cloud applications—security can stay consistent.

Developers can create fair-value exchanges with users by disclosing privacy policies with understandable language and abiding by the General Data Protection Regulation, among other regional privacy guidelines. Centralizing privacy in design and development processes can allow organizations and users to thrive in the long run.


The investment in data protection and privacy concurrently fosters innovation and consumer loyalty and trust in products. Equip your team with practical knowledge and insights to address corporate challenges, implement policies and processes to manage cybersecurity risks, and establish organizational privacy practices for data security and control.

To help, IEEE Educational Activities has partnered with the International Association of Privacy Professionals to provide a comprehensive guide to data-privacy engineering. The IEEE IAPP Data Privacy Engineering Collection includes critical training, resources, and content for engineers and technology professionals tasked with understanding, maintaining, and protecting data privacy.

The collection features:

  • Seven online courses based on the IAPP Certified Information Privacy Technologist (CIPT) training and certification body of knowledge. The three hours of instruction cover the ethics and standards that govern the use of data in several technical applications, such as during data collection, use, and dissemination. The courses also prepare learners to take the CIPT certification exam.
  • Fifteen hours of instruction from IEEE on artificial intelligence, data privacy, data protection, and related topics. Students can earn IEEE continuing education units and professional development hours upon successful completion.
  • The option to take the CIPT certification exam. By passing the exam, you receive the ANSI-accredited CIPT credential, which confirms that you have the practical knowledge to apply privacy and data protection practices in the development, engineering, deployment, or auditing of products and services within your organization.
  • Twenty-five draft IEEE standards that cover technologies such as artificial intelligence, biometric security, facial recognition, and machine learning.

Contact an IEEE representative today to get access to the IEEE IAPP Data Privacy Engineering Collection.


On 30 September, IEEE Educational Activities is also hosting the virtual event, The Growing Role and Effects of Data Privacy Engineering on Technology. The IAPP presenter is Chief Information Officer Cathleen Scerbo. This event, featuring a live Q&A session, will discuss the current pace of change in data privacy laws and the critical role tech professionals need to play in addressing corporate privacy challenges. It will be available on-demand after the live event concludes.

Britney Do is a digital marketing intern for IEEE Educational Activities.

This article has been updated from an earlier version.

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The Inner Beauty of Basic Electronics

Open Circuits showcases the surprising complexity of passive components

5 min read
A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.
All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay

Eric Schlaepfer was trying to fix a broken piece of test equipment when he came across the cause of the problem—a troubled tantalum capacitor. The component had somehow shorted out, and he wanted to know why. So he polished it down for a look inside. He never found the source of the short, but he and his collaborator, Windell H. Oskay, discovered something even better: a breathtaking hidden world inside electronics. What followed were hours and hours of polishing, cleaning, and photography that resulted in Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components (No Starch Press, 2022), an excerpt of which follows. As the authors write, everything about these components is deliberately designed to meet specific technical needs, but that design leads to “accidental beauty: the emergent aesthetics of things you were never expected to see.”

From a book that spans the wide world of electronics, what we at IEEE Spectrum found surprisingly compelling were the insides of things we don’t spend much time thinking about, passive components. Transistors, LEDs, and other semiconductors may be where the action is, but the simple physics of resistors, capacitors, and inductors have their own sort of splendor.

High-Stability Film Resistor

A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.

All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay

This high-stability film resistor, about 4 millimeters in diameter, is made in much the same way as its inexpensive carbon-film cousin, but with exacting precision. A ceramic rod is coated with a fine layer of resistive film (thin metal, metal oxide, or carbon) and then a perfectly uniform helical groove is machined into the film.

Instead of coating the resistor with an epoxy, it’s hermetically sealed in a lustrous little glass envelope. This makes the resistor more robust, ideal for specialized cases such as precision reference instrumentation, where long-term stability of the resistor is critical. The glass envelope provides better isolation against moisture and other environmental changes than standard coatings like epoxy.

15-Turn Trimmer Potentiometer

A photo of a blue chip
A photo of a blue chip on a circuit board.

It takes 15 rotations of an adjustment screw to move a 15-turn trimmer potentiometer from one end of its resistive range to the other. Circuits that need to be adjusted with fine resolution control use this type of trimmer pot instead of the single-turn variety.

The resistive element in this trimmer is a strip of cermet—a composite of ceramic and metal—silk-screened on a white ceramic substrate. Screen-printed metal links each end of the strip to the connecting wires. It’s a flattened, linear version of the horseshoe-shaped resistive element in single-turn trimmers.

Turning the adjustment screw moves a plastic slider along a track. The wiper is a spring finger, a spring-loaded metal contact, attached to the slider. It makes contact between a metal strip and the selected point on the strip of resistive film.

Ceramic Disc Capacitor

A cutaway of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor
A photo of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor

Capacitors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of static electricity. They’re used in countless ways, including for bulk energy storage, to smooth out electronic signals, and as computer memory cells. The simplest capacitor consists of two parallel metal plates with a gap between them, but capacitors can take many forms so long as there are two conductive surfaces, called electrodes, separated by an insulator.

A ceramic disc capacitor is a low-cost capacitor that is frequently found in appliances and toys. Its insulator is a ceramic disc, and its two parallel plates are extremely thin metal coatings that are evaporated or sputtered onto the disc’s outer surfaces. Connecting wires are attached using solder, and the whole assembly is dipped into a porous coating material that dries hard and protects the capacitor from damage.

Film Capacitor

An image of a cut away of a capacitor
A photo of a green capacitor.

Film capacitors are frequently found in high-quality audio equipment, such as headphone amplifiers, record players, graphic equalizers, and radio tuners. Their key feature is that the dielectric material is a plastic film, such as polyester or polypropylene.

The metal electrodes of this film capacitor are vacuum-deposited on the surfaces of long strips of plastic film. After the leads are attached, the films are rolled up and dipped into an epoxy that binds the assembly together. Then the completed assembly is dipped in a tough outer coating and marked with its value.

Other types of film capacitors are made by stacking flat layers of metallized plastic film, rather than rolling up layers of film.

Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

A photo of a cutaway of a Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

At the core of this capacitor is a porous pellet of tantalum metal. The pellet is made from tantalum powder and sintered, or compressed at a high temperature, into a dense, spongelike solid.

Just like a kitchen sponge, the resulting pellet has a high surface area per unit volume. The pellet is then anodized, creating an insulating oxide layer with an equally high surface area. This process packs a lot of capacitance into a compact device, using spongelike geometry rather than the stacked or rolled layers that most other capacitors use.

The device’s positive terminal, or anode, is connected directly to the tantalum metal. The negative terminal, or cathode, is formed by a thin layer of conductive manganese dioxide coating the pellet.

Axial Inductor

An image of a cutaway of a Axial Inductor
A photo of a collection of cut wires

Inductors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of a magnetic field. They’re used, for example, in some types of power supplies to convert between voltages by alternately storing and releasing energy. This energy-efficient design helps maximize the battery life of cellphones and other portable electronics.

Inductors typically consist of a coil of insulated wire wrapped around a core of magnetic material like iron or ferrite, a ceramic filled with iron oxide. Current flowing around the core produces a magnetic field that acts as a sort of flywheel for current, smoothing out changes in the current as it flows through the inductor.

This axial inductor has a number of turns of varnished copper wire wrapped around a ferrite form and soldered to copper leads on its two ends. It has several layers of protection: a clear varnish over the windings, a light-green coating around the solder joints, and a striking green outer coating to protect the whole component and provide a surface for the colorful stripes that indicate its inductance value.

Power Supply Transformer

A photo of a collection of cut wires
A photo of a yellow element on a circuit board.

This transformer has multiple sets of windings and is used in a power supply to create multiple output AC voltages from a single AC input such as a wall outlet.

The small wires nearer the center are “high impedance” turns of magnet wire. These windings carry a higher voltage but a lower current. They’re protected by several layers of tape, a copper-foil electrostatic shield, and more tape.

The outer “low impedance” windings are made with thicker insulated wire and fewer turns. They handle a lower voltage but a higher current.

All of the windings are wrapped around a black plastic bobbin. Two pieces of ferrite ceramic are bonded together to form the magnetic core at the heart of the transformer.

This article appears in the February 2023 print issue.