»  Updates

Note: This is the webpage for a class from the past that has ended. Information about current classes is available here.

Machine-learning example: Here is an incredible example of the power of machine learning. As one tweet put it, the biggest casualty of AI may not be jobs, but the eradication of trust in anything you see or hear.

Final exam: The final exam has been posted here. It is due at noon on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Good luck!

No class on November 14: Under the UNH Law calendar, Tuesday, November 14 has a Friday schedule, so we won’t meet on that day. See you all on Tuesday, November 21.

Schedule update: We will not meet on Tuesday, October 31. We will hold a make-up class on Thursday, November 2, at the normal class time, in a room to be announced room 102. Short papers for that week’s class may be turned in before Wednesday, November 1 at 6:00 p.m.

»  Overview

Privacy is the study of society’s efforts to draw boundaries between different contexts in which information flows. In the last few decades, privacy law has gone from being a minor issue largely confined to a few specific industries to one of the most important and pressing issues for businesses, consumers, and government officials of all kinds. This course will survey legal regimes governing the collection, use, and dissemination of information. Topics of discussion will include information dissemination and the First Amendment, associational privacy, the privacy torts, consumer privacy on the internet, the role of the Federal Trade Commission, medical privacy, government surveillance and the Fourth Amendment, privacy and national security, and international privacy regimes.

»  Class meetings and office hours

We will meet on Tuesdays from 3:10 to 5:10 p.m. in room 202. On a few occasions, I may need to cancel class because of a conflict; if that happens, we’ll make up those sessions at times announced in class and posted on this site.

Outside of class, I don’t have set office hours, but you are always welcome to stop by my office (room 281 210) and chat or just grab some candy. This semester, I should be in the office most Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons, and some Thursdays; if you’d like to set up a specific time to talk, please email me at roger.ford@nulllaw.unh.edu.

»  Materials

The casebook is Solove & Schwartz, Information Privacy Law (5th ed. 2014). List price for the book is $226. On Amazon, as of this writing, the book costs about $198 (new) or $116 (used), or it can be rented for about $80. Professor Solove also maintains a website for the casebook, informationprivacylaw.com, which contains links to privacy statutes, organizations, and various other resources.

If you exercise the option to write a substantial paper (see below), you’re also going to want a copy of Eugene Volokh’s book Academic Legal Writing. (It doesn’t really matter which edition, though later is probably at least a little better.)

In addition to the casebook, I will post links to other readings and assignments on this site. I will not be using Canvas or a similar system.

»  Attendance, participation, and evaluation

Regular attendance is required, and under the standard ABA rules, you may be barred from taking the examination and receiving credit for the course if you miss more than 20% of class sessions. Attendance will be taken by sign-in sheet, and signing in for someone else is, as always, academic misconduct. An occasional absence is fine, but please let me know in advance.

Because this is a class centered on discussion, it is critical that you come to class prepared, having read and considered the assigned materials. I cannot stress this enough: If you do not want to be an active participant in class discussion, do not take this course. Participation is required, and you will not receive a passing grade if you do not contribute meaningfully to the discussion.

Your course grade will be based on three components:

For each of the four short discussion papers, you should read the assignment for the week and write a 2- or 3-page paper on something related to that week’s subject. These papers do not need to be formal or include a bunch of citations and footnotes. The goal is not to just respond to or regurgitate the readings; it’s to bring something new to the table — an example, case study, new idea, or proposal that goes beyond what’s covered in the readings. This will likely require doing some Google research or outside reading in addition to the week’s assignment. This also means that your paper will likely be far narrower than the week’s reading; that’s fine, since the goal is to spark interesting discussion. You can choose any four weeks (after the first week) to do these papers, and they are due the Monday evening before class at 6:00 p.m. by email to me at roger.ford@nulllaw.unh.edu. Please use the email subject line “Privacy short paper” and include your paper as a PDF attachment with the filename “[your last name] week [week number].pdf.”

For the final exam, I’m going to try something new this year. The exam will be due on Thursday, December 14, at noon, and will be distributed approximately one month in advance. The exam will be open to any materials and also open to original research; indeed, it will likely require original research. You can also discuss the exam with each other or anyone else; the only rule is that your exam responses must be written individually by you. I will say more about the substantive content and format of the exam as it approaches.

If you choose, you have the option to write a substantial research paper of 10,000 words or more — along the lines of a Law Review or IDEA note — in lieu of the exam. This option is only available to you if I approve your topic by the end of October. This will require some work: I will want to see a thesis, abstract, and/or short outline, and discuss it with you, before approving your topic. If you are interested in exercising this option, let me know well in advance of the October deadline so we can discuss what would make for a good paper.

»  Competencies

In 2013, the faculty approved a list of competencies that are important to the practice of law. For a list of those competencies, indicating which will be covered in this class, click here.

»  Schedule and reading assignments

I will fill in the following list of reading assignments over the course of the semester; the list of subjects to be covered is tentative and subject to change depending on late-breaking developments and the interests of the class. We will cover each assignment during one class session. “S&S” refers to the Solove & Schwartz casebook.

  1. The functions of privacy and origins of privacy law.
  2. News gathering and the public interest in information.
  3. Privacy-torts grab bag: false information, emotional distress, appropriation, and anonymity.
  4. Law enforcement and government surveillance.
  5. Privacy versus national security.
  6. Health privacy and HIPAA.
  7. Intimate privacy and individual autonomy; genetic privacy.
  8. Associational and group privacy; privacy in the workplace.
  9. Consumer and financial privacy.
  10. The Federal Trade Commission as privacy guardian.
  11. International privacy and the European privacy regime.
  12. Privacy of government records.
  13. Data breaches, identity theft, and protecting your own privacy.
  14. Robots, drones, artificial intelligence, big data, and future privacy. For this final class, we will discuss some emerging and future topics in privacy law. These are all technological developments and social developments that promise or threaten to change the relationship between actors in the information ecosystem. I’ve linked to some readings relating to some of these developments, which you should look over; but please also spend some time thinking about how you think privacy will evolve in the coming years and how the law could or should respond to that evolution. And if you have other developments you think will play a similar or bigger role, read up on those and come ready to convince us.