Updates

IAPP study guide: The International Association of Privacy Professionals, the leading industry organization for professionals working in privacy-related roles, offers several professional certifications, which employers sometimes value. If you are interested in taking the exam to become a Certified Information Privacy Professional (United States), the library now has a copy of the IAPP’s study guide, which should be available for checking out in about a week. If you would like to learn more about IAPP or its certifications, let me know. (9/14/21)

Contents

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.

Materials

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.

Class meetings, office hours, and other resources

We will meet on Thursdays from 1:15 to 3:05 p.m. in Room 200. 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 for this course, but am happy to meet to discuss papers or anything else; to set up a time to talk, please email me at roger.ford@nulllaw.unh.edu. (Do remember, though, that this is a professional environment, which means your email should be professional in formatting and tone.) I’m happy to meet and help if there’s something from class that’s confusing or unclear, or to go over the material we covered in class, or talk about connections between our material and other classes or legal issues you’ve come across, or discuss career plans or other courses to take — whatever’s helpful for you.

If there is anything that is making it harder than it should be to perform well in this class or in law school generally — whether that’s an issue with your mental or physical health, challenges securing food or housing, relationships with other students or family members, anything — please get in touch with the Assistant Dean of Students or with me if you’re comfortable doing so. We can point you toward useful tools and resources and can do whatever we can to help.

Grading and collaboration policies

Your course grade will be based on two 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.

Attendance policy and pandemic considerations

Because this is a discussion course, it’s critical that you come to class prepared and ready to discuss the material. Having said that, the ongoing pandemic means that things will come up that are more important and urgent than class. So we will all have to be patient and flexible with each other — none of us signed up for this.

We are beginning the semester in the classroom, though depending on how things go, we may need to pivot to partially or fully remote classes at some point. We are also beginning the semester with masks required, and I expect that to continue for most or all of the semester, though again it depends on the course of the pandemic.

Because this is a course about privacy in which we will discuss sensitive issues, to encourage an open and meaningful class discussion and 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.) The one exception is when I receive a request from a student who cannot make it due to illness or other compelling circumstances. When that happens, I will announce to the class that we will be recording that day, and I will only provide the recording to the student who misses class.

Class discussion, diversity, and inclusion

This is a course centered on discussion, 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.

Reading and writing assignments

Last updated: September 24, 2021.

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

Week 1. The origins of privacy and the privacy torts.

Writing assignment 1. Privacy, shaming, and social media.

One common claim is that the popularity of social media shows that people don’t value privacy. If people voluntarily expose the most mundane aspects of their lives to hundreds or thousands of followers, then maybe that shows that privacy isn’t important to them. Maybe, then, privacy shouldn’t be a significant concern to policy makers.

One response to this claim comes from Andrew Watts, who argues that social-media use is often more deliberate and nuanced than it might seem. Another response — normative rather than descriptive — is that privacy provides an important safe space in which one can develop one’s personality and try on different ideas and beliefs and personas. If youthful mistakes inevitably haunted people decades later, then maybe people would censor themselves or avoid trying out new ideas, and society would be worse off in the long run.

What does the rise of shaming, as described in The Shaming of Izzy Laxamana, tell us about these arguments? (Assuming it exists. As with all trend pieces, it’s worth taking this one with a large grain of salt.) Does it suggest that people do value privacy after all? Or is this not a privacy issue at all? Does it matter if the conduct that sparked the shaming might be seen as fairly innocuous, as in Izzy Laxamana’s case, or if it might be more condemnable, as when a random person goes viral for some racist incident or ill-considered tweets or both?

Write no more than 300 words responding to this prompt. Submit your response here sometime before our second class. No need to worry about formality or IRAC or anything; go for clear and thoughtful rather than structured and formal. I recommend that you write your response in a word processor or text editor, and then copy and paste it into the web form when you’re done, so that you don’t lose your work due to a page reload or accidentally closed tab.

Week 2. News gathering, disclosure, and the public interest in information.

Week 3. Regulating privacy and speech: The role of the First Amendment.

Week 4. Consumer privacy and data brokers.

Week 5. Consumer privacy and the FTC as privacy guardian.

Week 6. Consumer privacy, data brokers, and the FTC continued.