I attended the Sexual Privacy On Line panel at SXSW yesterday. Violet Blue moderated with panelists Jonathan Moore, Zoe Margolis, John D’Addario, and Jason Schultz.
Jason had a brief summary of the privacy rights of individuals. These break down to rights against the government, and rights against individuals. He highlighted 5 rights that the courts have acknowledged. The first four listed here are against the government, and the last is a right individuals have against other individuals (including corporations etc.)
(1) Right to Sexual Activity (Griswold, Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas)
(2) Right to Speak/Associate – based on the 1st amendment, and intended to avoid the chilling effects on speech. Several key case specific to the question of anonymity: Watchtowner Bible v. Stratton (2002) - about right of anonymity; Doe v. Cahill (2005) (subpoenas) requiring evidence to show the violation in order to get anonymous persons identity from; NAACP – deals with membership lists
(3) Right to Search/Read – (Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957)) – this case is based on the 1st Amendment; and provides legal foundations, but of course (given the year) it’s application to the internet is not yet resolved.
(4) Right to Information Privacy – this is based on the 4th Amendment and addresses rights against government intrusion. Key cases are: Katz v. US (1967) regarding wiretapping; Smith v. Maryland (1979) about third party phone records. Under Smith, because a party has given its information voluntarily to a third party (the phone company) privacy rights is lost. Jason also noted that there’s also a 5th Amendment right to privacy.
(5) Right to be Left Alone - Right against individuals. The key case here is Sipple v. Chronicle (1984) where an individual was ruled to have no right against the Chronicle for publishing personal facts about him since who he was had become an issue of public interest.
Jason closed wit these open questions reflecting the Public/Private tension (shown in the slide/photo to right):
Who owns/controls your sexual information on and off-line?
When are you private vs. public?
When are you newsworthy?
Can you ever go back?