Module I - Introduction
Few legal concepts have taken on such baggage as the concept of
"privacy." Privacy has come to encompass such varied concepts
as the right to make decisions for yourself, the right to travel
anonymously, the right to be left alone, and the right to control
the dissemination of information about yourself. Additionally, the
concept has been applied to so many arenas of contemporary life-from
health care, to credit reports, to search and seizure-that the concept
itself-akin to words like "freedom" and "rights"-carries
multiple meanings in multiple discourses.
The task of our first Module lies in clarifying two things: (1)
Why do we care about informational "privacy" --especially
Privacy in Cyberspace? What values does privacy protect? and (2)
What are the legal sources that will help inform our decisions about
what protection should be given online privacy? In addition, (3)
we have prepared a short tutorial on how the internet works because
many of the issues arising in Cyberspace depend on understanding
the technological possibilities for tracking online behavior.
1. Readings on the values protected by "informational privacy:"
Privacy: Circa 2002 (General
Introduction to Course)
A Brief History of Privacy:
Gormley, One Hundred Years of Privacy, 1992 Wisconsin Law Review
1335 (excerpts) (1992) (Summarizing the historical origins of
the legal concept of privacy in the United States, starting with
the 1891 publication of the Samuel Warren & Louis Brandeis article
from: Jerry Kang, Information Privacy In Cyberspace Transactions,
50 Stanford Law Review 1193, 1212-20 (April 1998)(the excerpt focuses
on the value question in the online context; i.e., what values does
2. Introductory readings on the legal background of privacy
Constitutional Cases on Informational Privacy (read excerpts only):
v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)
NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449 (1958)
Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589 (1977)
3. Readings/Presentations on how the Internet works
Please read through the following hypothetical scenario and discussion
questions. Use the links after each question to submit your thoughts
to the discussion board.
In 1999, a company called RealNetworks was discovered to have inserted
software code into its popular RealJukebox software for playing
CD's on computers to allow it surreptitiously to monitor the listening
habits and certain
other activities of people who use it, and continually to report
this information, along with the user's identity, to RealNetworks.
When a user went to the RealNetworks website to download the CD
playing software, this feature of the program was also downloaded.
Most users were unaware of this feature of the software. http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/11/biztech/articles/01real.html
1. What features of this practice, if any, raise privacy concerns?
Is the concern that RealNetworks did not tell users who downloaded
their software that it was collecting data regarding their music
preferences? Or, is there something troubling about such monitoring
in general-even if the website tells a user about the practice?
2. What privacy values did the RealNetworks practice affect?
(Note that after a public outcry RealNetworks abandoned its monitoring
Go to Discussion Summary
Additional Background Readings (optional):
A. A. Michael Froomkin, The
Death of Privacy?, 52 Stanford Law Review 1461 (May 2000)(excellent
article exploring risks posed by new technologies to online privacy,
as well as privacy generally, and explores overall legal background
to these issues).
B. Jerry Kang, Information Privacy In Cyberspace Transactions,
50 Stanford Law Review 1193 (April 1998) (a foundational article
focussing on the legal issues surrounding the privacy of transactional
data in cyberspace).
C. Simpson Garfinkel, Database Nation (2000).
D. Alan F. Westin, Science, Privacy, and Freedom: Issues and Proposals
for the 1970's, 66 Colum. L. Rev 1003 (1966)(author is one of the
leading thinkers on how technology affects privacy; suggests values
of privacy include solitude, intimacy, anonymity, and reserve).
E. C. Keith Boone, Privacy and Community, 9 Social Theory and Practice
1 (1983)(develops values of privacy)
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