POS 3626 Honors Privacy
Spring 2013

Group Project

Students will form groups of about 4 each. Each group will select a topic concerning privacy that must be approved by the instructor. Some suggestions are given below but you are not confined to these. Groups will formulate a plan for researching their problem area, with the help of the instructor, and divide up the work equitably. The report should draw on what you've learned from the course readings but must also draw on material beyond those readings; it might be based on library research (consulting newspapers, court cases, articles, etc.), interviews, and/or other fieldwork. The project will culminate in a group presentation during one of the last 2 class meetings. Each member should play a significant role in the group presentation. The group will turn in a collective report of approximately 4 pages (1000 words) that concisely provides a background of the problem, a discussion of their process of information gathering, the results, and a conclusion, and that includes a bibliography of all sources actually used. Each group will also prepare a one page outline or powerpoint that they will present to the class. The grade will be based on the group presentation and report. In most cases, all members of a group will receive the same grade for the project; however, if it becomes apparent that a member of a group failed to do their fair share, that member's grade may be reduced. To help assess this, each student will hand in a brief statement detailing their particular contribution to the group.
Important Note: Each group must do a practice presentation before the Professor no later than one week prior to the actual presentation, to allow room for feedback and revision.
Members of any group that is able to complete their project early and submit to Research Day (deadline March 22), has their proposal accepted, and presents on Research Day on April 12 will receive extra credit of a 1/3 letter grade increase on the group project grade (e.g. A becomes A+--4.3 points) in addition to the ability to list this achievement on one's resume.

Sample Topics (these are just examples)

Expectations of privacy and the Facebook generation: The prominence of facebook has important implications for privacy. You might explore some of the following questions: Are expectations of privacy changing due to the increasing importance of facebook, youtube, reality tv and other technologies of exposure? Are there generational differences in expectations of privacy in the U.S. based on whether someone has grown up with facebook? How can we determine this: through polls? observing people's behavior? What risks to privacy does someone face when joining facebook and are sufficient protections in place? What role does and should government have in ensuring sufficient protections? If someone posts a video (or photo) of you on YouTube (or Facebook) without your consent and it embarrasses you, what recourse do you have?

Sexting: Suppose a 15 year old highschool student sends a digital image of herself completely naked to her boyfriend, who is 16, with the understanding that this is not to be shared with anyone else. 6 months later they break up and he shares the image with a dozen other people, and the photo gets into the hands of someone's parents, who is offended and calls the police. Who if anyone has acted immorally? Who if anyone has broken any laws? On the legal issues, you might start with A.H. v State, 949 So 2d 234 (2007).

Posting of arrest information: There are many examples where websites post the names and photos and other information of people who have been arrested but not yet convicted of a crime. What legal and ethical issues are raised by this practice? What policies have been and should be developed to address privacy concerns raised by this practice? You might also consider the practice of public shaming more generally (see NYT story about public shaming in China, online; on 'human flesh search', online; and about public shaming in New York's Chinatown, online); or research Megan's laws (which require registry of sex offenders and in some cases the posting of information about them online).

DNA and privacy: A database with everyone's DNA profile would be extremely helpful in fighting crime. What recent developments have occurred concerning the keeping of a state or national profiles? What arguments are being made for and against such a profile? If such a database were to be used, what restrictions would be needed to prevent abuses?

Privacy in public places: Fox Sportsnetwork broadcasts a Florida Marlin's game and shows a close-up of an overweight man in the stands eating a salad, with the announcers commenting, with a laugh, "That's not gonna be enough for that guy." At many sporting events, random camera shots of people in the stands are shown on a large public display for all to see. Do such practices raise legal or ethical concerns?
Related to this: Does videotaping the police making arrests violate reasonable expectations of privacy of the police? See Hornberger v. ABC, Commonwealth v. Hyde, and State of Maryland v. Graber.

Why do some people value privacy more than others? Privacy varies among cultures, but even within a culture there are variations in expectations of privacy. What might account for these variations? What ways are available to determine an answer to this question? Is it possible to value privacy too much, or not enough?

Privacy in the residence halls: What are the reasonable expectations of privacy of students in their residence hall rooms, and what guidelines are and should be in place concerning searches of residence hall suites and rooms? What role does and should consent to a housing contract play in determining what expectations are reasonable? Are there differences relative to the expectations a tenant in a leased apartment, or guest in a motel, or a college-age student living in their parent's home, reasonably have?

Private Searches: Can a private individual conduct a search (which would not violate the 4th Amendment since the 4th Amendment applies only to state actors) and then turn the information they discover over to the police? See U.S. v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109 (1984); Walter v. U.S., 447 U.S. 649 (1980); U.S. v. Jarrett. 338 F 3d 339 (2003). Can FAU's office of information technology search your email and handover any incriminating information in it to the police? Should this be permitted? Would it be possible to draw lines between cases in which it should or should not be permitted? More generally, should we hold the police to higher standards than we hold private citizens, or to laxer standards (on the ground that police need leeway to uncover crime)?

Consent to searches: Is a police search valid if based on the consent of your friend/roommate/spouse ("third party consent")? See Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177 (1990); Georgia v. Randolph, 547 US 103 (2006). Under what circumstances if any can a resident assistant or housing official search your room? If they discover any illicit material can they pass this evidence onto the police and can that evidence be used to prosecute you?

Citizen journalists: The line between journalist and ordinary person is becoming blurred as ordinary citizens share information on the Internet, sometimes through regular blogs. What are some examples where nonprofessional journalists shared information in ways that had positive benefits to society? Should the 1st Amendment, which protects a 'free press', distinguish between professional and citizen journalists? Should state shield laws that protect journalists from having to reveal their sources apply to the latter? See e.g. Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale, 206 N.J. 209 (Sup Ct of NJ, 2011); Obsidian Finance Group v Cox, 2011 WL 5999334 (D. Or.); and Trump v. O’Brien, 958 A 2d 85 (2008, Superior Ct of NJ).

updated 12/14/2012