Scalia Scoffs at Calls for More Data Privacy Protection, Students Surprise Him With Dossier of His Own Data.

Mark Kleiman says,

Last year U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave a public speech questioning the need for more privacy protections.

This year a Fordham University law professor teaching a course on privacy gave his class the project of turning up publicly available information on Scalia.

The fifteen-page dossier completely flipped Scalia out.

"It seems that Professor Reidenberg successfully created an active learning environment where his students took control and learned the subject in a way they will not soon forget."

Read: Fordham Law Class Collects Personal Info About Scalia; Supreme Ct. Justice Is Steamed.

Snip: His class turned in a 15-page dossier that included not only Scalia's home address, home phone number and home value, but his food and movie preferences, his wife's personal e-mail address and photos of his grandchildren, reports Above the Law.

If you are interested in following this story, including a discussion of privacy and ethical considerations, here is a link to a blog which provides further detail.

Read: Justice Scalia's Dossier: Interesting Issues about Privacy and Ethics


  1. Swine flu and hospital food are one thing, but Antonin Scalia definitely requires a unicorn chaser. Or more briefly – MY EYES!

  2. Hey here’s a project for everyone.

    Find the home address of Joseph Cassano of AIG.

    You can’t.

  3. God, it’s so true, Antinous. Hospital food is one thing, but this guy is so totally vomit. Chaser please. I did. I did just throw up a little bit in my mouth.

  4. On this subject: is there any way to thwart online behavioral targeting? Is there a piece of software or browser add-on for this?

  5. Where’s the link to the actual content of his students’ 15-page report? I couldn’t find it linked on any of the articles. Could someone please post that? :)

  6. I’m rather nervous that it took a stunt like that to clue him in. Though this is “no one would convict Jack Bauer” Scalia, so I already knew that my constitutional rights were in good hands.

    If he doesn’t like this dossier, somebody should clue him in to what Choicepoint and Acxiom are selling. Or, for that matter, what Google isn’t selling (yet). He seems to have completely missed the point, preferring to interpret this as a petty attack by the guy who put it together.

    If a bunch of amateurs can put it together off the web in a semester, the pros are doing far worse 24/7.

  7. Nosehat, they did not make the dossier public. They compiled it for class work and to make a point to Scalia, not to spread the information – which they think is unethical and should be illegal (as I read it).

  8. I’m having a hard time figuring out what’s supposed to be bothersome about this. Scalia gave a speech saying he doesn’t think there should be more protections for online privacy. Somebody dug up a bunch of publicly-available information about him online. Scalia responded by calling it “an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment” — so he’s consistent with his earlier position and still doesn’t think it should be illegal.

    The dossier apparently contained, “not only Scalia’s home address, home phone number and home value, but his food and movie preferences, his wife’s personal e-mail address and photos of his grandchildren…” Which of these pieces of information should it be illegal to collect? And if it’s illegal, who can be arrested for collecting them? Private investigators? Journalists?

  9. “Nanny state bullshit and cynical profiteering and power grabbing. Condoned by sheep and idiots.”

    I’m not even sure if you are responding to the article, the linked article or just the Bus Schedule here, so I’ll just whistle on by.

    “When you infantilize by removing individual responsibility for judgement, you destroy capacity for judgement.”

    Ah, there’s the rub. The issue here isn’t the things you can choose, like choosing to share on BoingBoing or Choosing to Share your lunch. This is about the Data that is shared without your willing consent or knowledge. I bet that you and Antony missed that nugget. Therein lies a fun little inversion of your own point; is it infantile to desire legal protection from those that would sell your information to third-parties without your consent? I imagine you hold no id and no phone or address; so rant on from your Library terminal you homeless Savant of the Vox Individualis.

    “Wrap yourselves in chains if you wish – leave me out of it.”

    Your BDSM Fantasies are somewhat misplaced, but please share more if you wish.

    Now “who wrote this”?

  10. Wait, where is it saying that Scalia “flipped out,” or that this “clued him into” the need for privacy. It doesn’t sound that way at all to me:

    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…

    It is not a rare phenomenon that what is legal may also be quite irresponsible… Prof. Reidenberg’s exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment.

    It sound like, for better or worse (probably worse), he’s completely sticking by his statements, and saying that the class’s exercise is completely legal, although “poor judgment.” Am I missing something in what he said?

  11. Scalia’s picture doesn’t make me puke, but I wouldn’t look at it if I were a pregnant woman.

    I know it’s An Old Wive’s Tale, and yet…

  12. Hopefully, this will keep him from ruling on any case about this issue that would go before the Supreme Court.

  13. I have to respect Scalia for his consistency. I think he’s been wrong in just about every Supreme Court case in the last few years so I shouldn’t be surprised that I disagree with him on this issue either…

  14. So what sort of limitations here don’t have absurd consequences?
    “Sorry, you’ve been keeping a record of people’s names, addresses, and phone numbers, also photographs of their houses and families, and many of their shopping preferences.” “Yes, that’s my phone book, flickr account, and gift idea list…”

  15. If it didn’t give the potty old ratbastid the brain embolism this country needs him to have while a reasonably sane person sits in office, I can’t quite regard this as a win.

  16. I may have misunderstood this, but isn’t Scalia kind of missing the point here? He believes that getting the data is ok, but using it is wrong? If a person collects data on another with the intent of doing harm or making money, does he really think they will be bothered by whether its morally wrong or not? Its like if a 17 year old stole a bottle of bourbon from a store: does anything think that having done so, he will be too principled to drink/sell it? I just can’t understand his logic, but anyway that’s my 2 cents.

  17. Technically, this qualifies as ’embarrassing’, of which the sharing of this type of personal information Justice Scalia ostensibly supports.


    What more need be said?

  19. actually I don’t see the problem with this at all: Scalia is a public figure, and a powerful political figure. He shouldn’t have the same privacy protections as other people.

  20. The thing to do with the data is to watch him and his family intently, and see if any of them do anything remotely criminal, and if they do, report them to the police.

  21. Why not have a Friends of Privacy and Misinformation Association, that will deliberately disseminate false personal identification on people?

  22. JJASPER is right. 24 hour surveillance is required, where are the paparazzi when you really need them?

  23. I thought it was a big-time Federal crime to find out what movies a judge was renting: a statute that went into place a day or so after a judge was embarrassed by a video store clerk who talked to a reporter about what kinky movies the judge was taking out.

    Or was this a record of Scalia’s downloads? ;-)

  24. Scalia has been consistent, and I’m not even sure I disagree with him. What did they do that ought to be illegal? Knowing where someone lives?

  25. Wouldn’t it be great if someone performed the same service for all the Supreme Court justices, congressmen and senators?

  26. Scalia has indeed been consistent on this issue. It would be another matter if he’d said that these students should be prosecuted for anything they’ve done.

  27. I am enjoying this way too much. Its just like the california senator(?) that was posted here last week who had the same reaction when it was shown to her how public her information really is…this is exactly what we need for every public official! Then maybe they can start taking our privacy more seriously..

  28. In another similar move from a few years ago, a group calling themselves the Lost Liberty Hotel Project proposed taking ownership of the New Hampshire home of Justice David Souter by Eminent Domain authority of the Town of Weare, NH (as a “blighted” property), and using Redevelopment funding to build a resort hotel on the site, because it would generate greater tax revenue and benefit the community more than the current dilapidated home. This was in retaliation for Souter’s vote in the Kelo v City of New London eminent domain case, where he argued that such taking of private property was completely justified (see

    Why couldn’t both Scalia AND Souter get the itch retire at the same time?

    #33 WarEagle
    I think you may be referring to California Congresswoman Jane Harman, who defended the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping policy because she was assured that Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department would then drop their investigation of her lobbying efforts on behalf of Israeli spies (for which the Israeli group, AIPAC, promised to lobby Nancy Pelosi to appoint her to chair the House Intelligence Committee). The Justice Department had collected all this incriminating evidence against her by their use of … illegal warrantless wiretaps. Oh, the irony.

  29. One difference between Scalia and me is that he’s a public figure and I am a small fry. There’s tons of information about Scalia out there that was put there by others. He has millions of pairs of eyes on him. I don’t. Practically all the informaion on the internet about me was put there by me, and I have nobody to blame but myself for it.

    But the critical difference between Scalia and me is that I am not handing down decisions written in crypto-Fascist gobbledyspeak that could some day transform the information about me on the internet into a tool to criminalize and arrest me for some nonconformist behavior.

  30. Nadreck: yes, video rental histories actually have special privacy privileges not accorded to any other form of communication. This is because of the Robert Bork confirmation hearings back in 1988: someone dug out Bork’s rental history, and Congress was so horrified that they passed a law against it.

    As far as Scalia’s position: almost any political system is viable if one assumes some degree of polity and restraint among the people and the agents of government. A lot of people still really believe that this restraint exists, and act as if we can depend on the law not to be abused.

    Unfortunately, we are in a modern world where substantial numbers of the government and the people are completely unrestrained by anything but “Does this follow the letter of the law; if not, what are my chances of being caught, and what is the punishment if I am?”

  31. I have to agree with Scott McNiel (Sun CEO/founder) “Privacy is dead, get over it”.

    I still think David Brin’s “The Transparent Society” make a lot of points that most people don’t even think about, let alone have answers for. It’s been out a decade, you should read it.

  32. This is not an unusual assignment to be set for students in a variety of university levels courses. Even in little ol’ New Zealand for our year one journalism course we were each assigned a Member of Parliament to create a report on, based on any information we could find about them from chasing down public records.

    Common information we gathered included:
    Photos (of themselves, their families, and vehicles)
    Property information (including house layouts, purchase price, and whether a mortgage was outstanding)
    Copies of driver’s licenses, vehicle registration
    Birth certificates (Their own, their parents and their children)
    The text of speeches given in the House.
    Companies they owned, or were involved with as anything from board members to shareholders.

    My favourite was the enterprising young student who found where their assigned MP used to live, explained the assignment to the current occupants, and came away with a photo of the MP’s previous toilet.

Comments are closed.