Back in January, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a speaker at the Institute of American and Talmudic Law’s midwinter conference on privacy issues. Sitting in the New York office of Weil Gotshal, Scalia told attendees that privacy was not that important to him.
From the Associated Press (available cached only):
Discussions of privacy rights in the digital era should distinguish between such confidential data as medical records and information that might be personal but is easy to find out, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Wednesday.
Considering every fact about someone’s life private is “extraordinary,” he said, noting that data such as addresses have long been discernible, even if technology has made them easier to find.
“Every single datum about my life is private? That’s silly,” Scalia [said].
Well, Fordham Law Professor Joel Reidenberg interpreted that as a challenge. He gave the fifteen students in his Information Privacy Law class a special assignment this semester: Track down everything available on the Web about Antonin Scalia to compile a dossier on him.
Find out what they found out, after the jump.
Joel Reidenberg, the founding director of the Fordham Center on Law & Information Policy, shared the story during a presentation at a conference yesterday on Privacy Rights and Wrongs at Fordham.
“Justice Scalia said he doesn’t care what people find out about him on the Internet,” said Reidenberg during his presentation on the transparency of personal information. “So I challenged my class to compile a dossier on him.”
Now four months later, at the end of the semester, the dossier (available online somewhere, but password protected) is 15 pages long. Among its contents are Nino’s home address, his home phone number, the movies he likes, his food preferences, his wife’s personal e-mail address, and “photos of his lovely grandchildren.”
“When the discrete bits of personal information were assembled at the end of the semester, the extent of the overall dossier and some of the particular items of readily available information on the web concerning his family and family life were astonishing to the class,” Reidenberg wrote to us.
Reidenberg argues that technological constraints should be built into the infrastructure of online networks in recognition of users’ privacy rights. (We think this would perhaps translate to Facebook defaulting to private settings — e.g., letting only friends see your profile — rather than the current default upon signing up, granting access to your whole city or university network.) Laws around norms of non-transparency of personal information and data misuse need to be stronger, he said.
“So, what are you going to do with the dossier now?” we asked Reidenberg after his talk.
“I might write to Scalia to tell him what we’ve done and see what he thinks,” Reidenberg said, laughing.
“We’ll probably write about this on Above The Law,” we replied. Reidenberg stopped laughing.
Justice Scalia, Talmudic Scholars On Privacy, Free Speech [Chabad Lubavitch Global News]
Associated Press: Scalia speaks on digital privacy at NYC conference [Associated Press via Privacy Lives]