Category: Privacy

2

Teaching Information Privacy Law

privacy1a.jpgThis post was originally posted on PrawfsBlawg on May 10, 2005. I have made a few small edits to this post.

For the law professor readers of this blog, especially newer professors (or professors-to-be) who are still figuring out the courses they want to teach, I thought I’d recommend information privacy law as a course you might consider teaching. (I have a casebook in the field, so this is really a thinly-disguised self-plug.)

Information privacy law remains a fairly young field, and it has yet to take hold as a course taught consistently in most law schools. I’m hoping to change all that. So if you’re interested in exploring issues involving information technology, criminal procedure, or free speech, here are a few reasons why you should consider adding information privacy law to your course mix:

1. It’s new and fresh. Lots of media attention on privacy law issues these days. Students are very interested in the topic.

2. Lively cases and fascinating issues abound. There’s barely a dull moment in the course. Every topic is interesting; there is no rule against perpetuities to cover!

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2

Beware of the Big Bad Bloggers

forbes.jpgIt’s Halloween, and who is the biggest scariest monster on the block? Me. That’s because I’m one of them “bloggers” according to a sensationalistic article published in Forbes Magazine.

The article, written by Daniel Lyons and entitled “Attack of the Blogs,” has been drawing the ire of the blogosphere. A stew of fear and vitriol, the article begins with the sentence:

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective.

He also writes:

Blogs started a few years ago as a simple way for people to keep online diaries. Suddenly they are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns. It’s not easy to fight back: Often a bashing victim can’t even figure out who his attacker is. No target is too mighty, or too obscure, for this new and virulent strain of oratory.

Bloggers should certainly be responsible and law-abiding, and bloggers shouldn’t (and don’t) have an immunity from lawsuits for defamation or invasion of privacy.

What is most ironic, however, is that after attacking bloggers for being lawless brigands, Lyons proceeds to offer some tips for “fighting back” against the bloggers that are equally as unethical and lawless as the bloggers in his caricature:

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11

Free Credit Reports: My Exciting Adventure

Under the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, the credit reporting agencies must provide a yearly free credit report to individuals who request it. This was one of the benefits given to consumers by the law in return for extending the federal preemption of certain state law regulations.

There are three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You may have heard that there’s a new website where you can conveniently get your credit report from all three agencies. Since I pay attention to this field of law, I knew the name of the website, but many people I’ve spoken to don’t know what it is called.

But we live in the age of Google, so most people would just do a Google search for “free credit report.” Here’s what you pull up in your search:

annualcreditscore3a.jpg

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0

Debate on Privacy and Security Regulation

cnet1.jpgThere is an interesting set of debates going on this week over at CNET about information privacy and security regulation.

Participants include: Orson Swindle (former FTC commissioner); Jim Harper (director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute; member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee); Chris Hoofnagle (Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center West Coast Office); James Van Dyke (Founder and Principal of Javelin Strategy & Research); and California Senator Joe Simitian.

There are new topics each day. Today’s topic is state versus federal regulation of privacy and security, and the debate has also addressed the issue of whether common law tort regulation is preferable to legislative statutory regulation.

5

Genetic Testing: Further Debate with Richard Epstein

dna7.jpgRichard Epstein has posted a reply continuing our debate over whether employers should be able to use genetic testing information to make employment decisions regarding employees. Here are the posts in our debate so far:

1. Solove, IBM vs. NBA: Using Employee Genetic Information

2. Epstein, Two Cheers for Genetic Testing

3. Solove, A Reply to Richard Epstein on Genetic Testing

4. Epstein, A Third Cheer for Genetic Testing

Epstein’s latest reply, A Third Cheer for Genetic Testing, slips in another cheer for genetic testing. He asserts that my argument that genetic information only reveals propensities, not the presence of certain conditions, actually cuts in favor of employers using genetic information:

That information should not make the employer instantly hand out a pink slip. It is one factor among many to be taken into the overall assessment. The insurance could be supplied, but in exchange for an additional premium that reflects that additional risk. Or the health insurance could be supplied subject to an exclusion for the risky condition. Judgments like that are made all the time in the insurance business, and there is no reason why they cannot be made with the processing of genetic information.

Epstein is certainly correct that genetic information is helpful in assessing risk, and he is right that employers need not just fire or refuse to hire people with genetic predispositions. But there are larger normative issue at stake: What risks ought people to bear? Who ought to bear these risks? How ought these risk to be distributed throughout society?

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2

FBI Intelligence Violations

fbi2a.jpgThe Washington Post is reporting on documents obtained by Marcia Hofmann at the Electronic Privacy Information Center that demonstrate a number of FBI intelligence surveillance violations:

The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents to be released today.

Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view.

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2

Making Universities Pay for Government Surveillance

computer-surveillance.jpg.gifIn 1994, Congress passed a law called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which requires telecommunication providers to build wiretapping and surveillance capabilities for law enforcement officials into their new technologies.

A recent rulemaking by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) significanty expands the reach of CALEA beyond telephone companies and ISPs:

The federal government, vastly extending the reach of an 11-year-old law, is requiring hundreds of universities, online communications companies and cities to overhaul their Internet computer networks to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to monitor e-mail and other online communications.

The action, which the government says is intended to help catch terrorists and other criminals, has unleashed protests and the threat of lawsuits from universities, which argue that it will cost them at least $7 billion while doing little to apprehend lawbreakers. . . .

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0

Good Media, Bad Media

media1.jpgA 4-year old girl’s mother was murdered, and the girl was left abandoned. She was put on TV, and people’s calls helped her and lead to her mother’s killer. But now it is hard to get the media to leave the girl alone. From the New York Times:

But now, those caring for the girl . . . say coverage by the news media has become a curse. She is trapped inside her relatives’ home on Long Island, they say, unable to play outside or ride the new bicycle she received as a gift.

Eighteen days have passed since [the girl] talked about pizza, pickles and her cat on television, after child welfare officials made her available to the cameras in an extraordinary effort to find out who she was. Reporters have followed every step of her story and, until last night, had been camping outside the home of [the girl’s] temporary guardians, hoping for a new photograph or a word from them. . . .

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4

Why Orwell’s 1984 Is So Bleak

orwell3a.jpgAccording to this article, the drab and dismal world portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984 was in part influenced by his bouts with illness:

The new study, by John Ross of Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, recounts Orwell’s sickly life. . . .

Orwell was born in India in 1903 as Eric Blair. He suffered multiple bouts of bronchitis and other respiratory ailments, Ross writes. As a young man, Orwell had several episodes of bacterial pneumonia, and also contracted dengue fever while in Burma. He was a heavy smoker, and he suffered fits of coughing from a condition called bronchiectasis. . . .

[D]epressed by his wife’s death, Orwell moved to a windy and damp Scottish island. His health worsened significantly just as he was working on the first draft of “1984,” Ross reports. Fever, weight loss, and night sweats sent him to the hospital, where he underwent “collapse therapy,” a treatment designed to close the dangerous cavities that form in the chests of tuberculosis patients. . . .

“Orwell himself told his friends that 1984 would have been less gloomy had he not been so ill—it was a very dark, disturbing, and pessimistic work,” Ross said. Orwell’s illnesses “made him a better and more empathetic writer, in that his sense of human suffering made his writing more universal.”

I wonder what a less gloomy 1984 would have read like — Brave New World perhaps?

2

When Google Is King

google3.jpgWe are entering the age of the Google Empire. As Randy Picker at the Chicago Law Faculty Blog notes in a review of John Battelle’s The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture:

Microsoft was the king of the personal computer, and the Windows Desktop represented the most valuable real estate available. The rise of search has changed that. Search is now the front-door to the Internet, and the documents located there are often more important than those that sit on your computer. Google, not Microsoft, is defining the new interface to the Internet.

Babies are now being named after Google.

Google is filing for patents for techniques to target ads based on search results.

Google has recently added features such as Blog Search, Instant Messaging, Email, Video Search, Maps, and more. There’s also the much discussed Google Print in the works.

And Google is now unwittingly entering into international affairs, finding itself in the middle of the squabble between China and Taiwan.

All roads, it seems, are leading to Google.

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