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Lack of Online Privacy Hits Home for Justice Scalia

Issued: May 01 2009
Antonin Scalia is not happy with a Fordham University information privacy law class, which turned in a 15 page report listing the US Supreme Court Justice’s home address, phone number, house value, favourite foods and movies, wife’s personal e-mail address and photos of his grandchildren.

According to a story in the Above the Law blog, researching Scalia’s personal life was made into a class assignment after his January comments at a conference organised by the Institute of American and Talmudic Law, where he stated his views on the privacy of personal information online rather succinctly: “Every single datum about my life is private? That’s silly.”

Professor Joel Reidenberg told a Fordham conference on Privacy Rights and Wrongs that “Justice Scalia said he doesn’t care what people find out about him on the internet, so I challenged my class to compile a dossier on him.”

Reidenberg then told Above the Law: “When the discrete bits of personal information were assembled at the end of the semester, the extent of the overall dossier and some of the particular items of readily available information on the web concerning his family and family life were astonishing to the class.”

For his part, Scalia told Above the Law he stands by his remark that it is “silly to think that every single datum” about his life is private.

“I was referring, of course, to whether every single datum about my life deserves privacy protection in law,” he said. “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.”


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