Symposium Explores Complex Issue of Privacy in a Digital Age
Web Editor - Published: April 24, 2013
“I understand the reference to a digital age, but it’s the privacy part I’m not sure about,” said Professor Alan E. Garfield in his opening remarks as he welcomed attendees to the “Privacy in a Digital Age Symposium” presented by the student chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and held in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom on Friday, April 19th.

Observing that it was quite a morning to be talking about a balance between privacy and public interest in the wake of the tragic bombing in Boston on Monday, April 15th, Garfield asked, “But who is ungrateful for the multitude of cameras that was capturing footage at the finish line of the Boston Marathon?”

Location Tracking and More

Following the introduction, Garfield moderated the first panel, which looked at Location Tracking and featured Richard H. Morse, Esq., the Legal Director of the ACLU of Delaware; Shawn A. Weede, Esq., Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware; and Jay Stanley, a Senior Policy Analyst with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

Morse spoke on “Governmental Surveillance in Delaware” and noted that Delaware has a much more restrictive freedom of information act then other states. He also said of location tracking, “Delaware tends to use those devices less than most other places,” adding that there is “probably more going on in Pennsylvania and Maryland.”

Weede offered an informative look at the “Implications of U.S. v. Jones” that looked not only at protections against unreasonable search and seizure, but also at the ability of Congress to grant additional protections beyond the floor established by the Fourth Amendment. Examining issues related to an expectation of privacy, he asked the audience to consider whether technology changes what is “exposed.”

Offering a look at the impact of technology ranging from cell phone tracking to remote sky borne drones, Stanley offered a primer on what available location tracking technologies and what a world with unchecked location tracking might look like. He concluded the prepared portion of his remarks by saying, “The threat here is that the technology will be applied by police and the government so fast that it will happen before we have an opportunity to have a full debate.”

An informative question and answer session with the panelists followed, touching on issues including third party information gathering, defining what freedom and privacy mean in modern society, and whether governmental or law enforcement agencies should be able to compel third parties to provide information they have gathered.

New Laws for a New Paradigm

The day’s second panel featured Rep. Darryl M. Scott, the Delaware State Representative for the 31st District and Leroy A. Tice, Esquire, who serves as an attorney for the Delaware House of Representatives, Democratic Caucus. Together, they presented “Delaware Law and the Monetization of Your Privacy,” which looked at some of the legislative initiatives they have introduced to protect privacy in Delaware as well as the role of the legislature in regulating social media in a privacy context.

Jay Stanely then spoke again briefly about reform efforts related to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. He touched again on the theme that technology has outpaced the law and suggested that it as imperative to create a new and more adaptive legal framework.

The program concluded with a brief follow-up discussion that examined some legal and ethical questions related to electronic communications. Tice presented a hypothetical about who owns the email of a decedent before concluding, “I think the legislature is here to unravel some of that complexity and to inform the courts.”