Fasten your seat belts, folks, we're about to take a bumpy ride down the Internet privacy highway. I hope you went to the bathroom first.
In a speech to a Talmudic law institute last January, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared it "silly" that all pieces of information about a person -- like their home address -- be considered private. In the battle between free speech and privacy, Scalia says, free speech wins. Which sounds great, as long as you don't think about it very deeply.
(Though, as the SCOTUSblog points out, Scalia isn't such a fan of free speech when it comes to using naughty words on TV.)
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Fordham law professor Joel Reidenberg decided to take Scalia's remarks and turn them into a homework assignment. Using information available on the public Web, Reidenberg asked his students to compile a dossier on Scalia and his family. They dug up 15 pages worth of addresses, food preferences, photos, etc., and sent it to Scalia for his reaction.
Apparently it's no longer quite so silly to Scalia. Though he still stands by his original comments, he's clearly peeved somebody would dare collect his own not-so-private information.
I stand by my remark at the Institute of American and Talmudic Law conference that it is silly to think that every single datum about my life is private. I was referring, of course, to whether every single datum about my life deserves privacy protection in law.
It is not a rare phenomenon that what is legal may also be quite irresponsible. That appears in the First Amendment context all the time. What can be said often should not be said. Prof. Reidenberg's exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since he was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any.