Technology is eroding individual privacy more rapidly than either the judiciary or the general population realize. Our project, through a series of hypothetical situations, seeks to (1) provide a clearer look at how today’s technologies put individual privacy at risk, and (2) draw attention to the judiciary’s current understanding of certain issues these developments have created.
Today’s judges do not entirely understand the ubiquity of new technologies in modern America, or the staggering amount of data these technologies (such as smartphones or laptops) contain. Scalia’s public embarrassment at the hands of a Fordham Law class indicates that he does not quite grasp the nature of privacy in today’s Internet age, and judicial opinions in a variety of cases (People v. Diaz, US v. Moreno) reveal that judges do not comprehend the scope with which new technologies affect personal privacy or control. Our Legal Background section describes these matters in more depth, and the Memorandum to the Judiciary enumerates specific proposals to improve judges’ understanding of these issues.
To gauge the public’s opinion, we surveyed Yale students. The survey enforced the notion of a gap in understanding modern privacy: it showed that information or data students hold “somewhat” to “very” private is often data they do not have control over. Students held the content of emails and text messages more private than almost every other piece of data, yet these data are archived by corporations in full. Internet searches and web browsing were considered rather confidential, but Google has no qualms about gathering and using these data. The survey also highlighted areas where law lags behind contemporary expectations. Every piece of data considered substantially private on the survey is collected by web-based corporations, but most Internet users do not realize. Income / Financial Aid Status was considered as private as Medical History, yet nothing like HIPPA exists to protect financial information. What students deem most private is not necessarily well-protected; these students should be aware of that fact, and the judiciary ought to take into account these new societal expectations in determining privacy law.
The privacy hyoptheticals deserve attention from both the judiciary and the broader public. We aim to educate both parties about the countless new ways an individual can lose their right to privacy in today’s world.
To see the project in its entirety please visit our website
Frances Douglas TC ’11 / Bobby Dresser PC ’14 / Stephanie Rivkin PC ’13 / Emily Rosenberg PC ’11 / Joel Sircus TC ’14