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


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 Mondays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in Room 102. On a few occasions, I may need to cancel class because of a conflict; when this 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 210) and chat or just grab some candy. If you’d like to set up a specific time to talk, please email me at


The casebook is Solove & Schwartz, Information Privacy Law (6th ed. 2018). The authors also maintain a website for the book, which contains links to privacy statutes, organizations, and various other resources.

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, grading, and collaboration policies

Regular attendance is required, and under the standard ABA rules, you may be barred from 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 I want to encourage an open and meaningful class discussion — about which more shortly — out of respect for your fellow students’ privacy, I will not be recording class sessions, and I ask that you do not do so. (New Hampshire, for what it is worth, is an all-party-consent state.)

Your course grade will be based on three components:

We are all here to learn about the law, and in general I am all for anything that helps further that goal. This means that, except where expressly told otherwise, you’re free to collaborate with each other and to consult whatever sources you wish in your work for this class. One of those express exceptions will be the short discussion papers; for those, you are free to consult whatever sources you wish and discuss the assignment with other students, but the writing you submit must be entirely your own.

Short discussion papers

For each of the four short discussion papers, you should read the assignment for the week and write a short essay (aim for about 1,000 words) on something related to that week’s subject. These papers do not need to be formal or include a bunch of citations and footnotes; prioritize thoughtfulness over formality. The goal is not to just respond to or regurgitate the readings. Instead, 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, but the four week numbers for your four papers must add up to no more than 30. That means you can write in weeks 2, 3, 4, and 5 (2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 14), for example, or weeks 3, 7, 8, and 12, but not weeks 6, 8, 10, and 13 (6 + 8 + 10 + 13 = 37). So you need to plan ahead and not procrastinate too much. Each paper is due two hours before class. Submit your papers by uploading them here.

Important formatting demands about which I am irrationally insistent: Upload each paper as a PDF file — not a Word file or anything else — with the filename Week n.pdf where n is the number of the applicable class. (Don’t add your name or anything; Dropbox takes care of that.) And in the document itself, please number your pages; put your name at the top of every page; use 1.5" margins on all sides; and include some sort of title. I ask for these small courtesies because they make it easier for me to read and grade a bunch of different papers. Also, don’t use Times New Roman, which is a terrible font.

Final exam or research paper

For the main assignment, we will do a take-home final exam or writing assignment. This assignment has taken different forms in different years, and I am flexible and open to different options, so we will discuss what form it will take this year during class.

Class discussion, diversity, and inclusion

This is a course centered on small-group discussion. I will not be lecturing, so it is critical that you come to class prepared. This means you need to have read and considered the assigned materials and be ready to discuss them with me and with the rest of the class. 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. In this course, we are all here to learn from each other, and if you don’t contribute to that exchange, you are shortchanging your fellow students.

This learning process only works if the classroom is a welcoming and inclusive place that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives, and experiences, and honors your identities, including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, ability, and so forth. I want you to feel comfortable in class, free to express your experiences and opinions — in a professional and respectful manner — and learn from the many diverse experiences and opinions of your classmates. If there’s anything that is making you uncomfortable, inside or outside of class, please come and talk with me about it, and I will do anything I can to help so long as it’s consistent with the goal of learning. And if you use a name or set of pronouns that differ from those in UNH’s records, please let me know.

In an ideal world, the law would similarly reflect the full, diverse array of thoughts, perspectives, and experiences. Law, though, is a field that is historically built on a small subset of privileged voices. We will make an effort to read materials from a wide array of authors and perspectives, but we can only do so much given the way that legal doctrines and ideas have developed. I am counting on each of you to help surface these biases and limitations as we make our way through the course.

Schedule and reading assignments

Last updated: April 18, 2020.

I will fill in the following list of reading assignments over the course of the semester. “S&S” refers to the Solove & Schwartz casebook.

  1. The functions of privacy and origins of privacy law.
  2. News gathering, disclosure, and the public interest in information.
  3. Regulating privacy and speech: The First Amendment, emotional distress, and anonymity.
  4. Consumer privacy and data brokers.
  5. Consumer privacy and the FTC as privacy guardian.
    • S&S 845–855, 861–876.
    • FTC v. Frostwire complaint (2011).
    • FTC v. Wyndham Worldwide (2015) — Parts I and III.
    • LabMD v. FTC (2018). (Since these two cases and the Frostwire complaint are unedited, please skim / skip over the parts that don’t seem especially relevant.)
    • Solove & Hartzog, The FTC and the New Common Law of Privacy — this is a egregiously long article; just skim through the introduction and Part I to to get an overview of the argument.
    • Also please review the material from last time we didn’t get to.
  6. Financial privacy, identity theft, and data security.
  7. European privacy law: Privacy as a human right.
    • S&S 663–665, 1094–1140.
  8. European privacy law: Data-protection law, part I.
  9. European privacy law: Data-protection law, part II; international data transfers.
    • Review S&S 663–665, 1096–1100, 1168–1173.
    • Review van der Sloot & Borgesius, pages 1–26.
    • van der Sloot & Borgesius, pages 34–42.
    • S&S 1173–1197.
    • Optional but useful if you’re interested in AI and algorithmic decision making: Margot Kaminski, The Right to Explanation, Explained.
  10. Privacy and national security.
  11. Privacy, public health, and pandemics.