Federal Privacy Laws in the USA- 1. surreptitious interception of conversations in a house or hotel room is eavesdropping. See e.g., N.Y. Penal §§ 250.00, 250.05 2. one has a right of privacy for contents of envelopes sent via first-class U.S. Mail. 18 USC § 1702; 39 USC § 3623 3. one has a right of privacy for contents of telephone conversations, telegraph messages, or electronic data by wire. 18 USC § 2510 et seq. 4. one has a right of privacy for contents of radio messages. 47 USC §605 5. A federal statute denies federal funds to educational institutions that do not maintain confidentiality of student records, which enforces privacy rights of students in a backhanded way. 20 USC § 1232g. Commonly called the Buckley-Pell Amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. See also Krebs v. Rutgers, 797 F.Supp. 1246 (D.N.J. 1991); Tombrello v. USX Corp., 763 F.Supp. 541 (N.D.Ala.1991).

Federal Privacy Laws in the USA- 1. surreptitious interception of conversations in a house or hotel room is eavesdropping. See e.g., N.Y. Penal §§ 250.00, 250.05

2. one has a right of privacy for contents of envelopes sent via first-class U.S. Mail. 18 USC § 1702; 39 USC § 3623

3. one has a right of privacy for contents of telephone conversations, telegraph messages, or electronic data by wire. 18 USC § 2510 et seq.

4. one has a right of privacy for contents of radio messages. 47 USC §605

5. A federal statute denies federal funds to educational institutions that do not maintain confidentiality of student records, which enforces privacy rights of students in a backhanded way. 20 USC § 1232g. Commonly called the Buckley-Pell Amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. See also Krebs v. Rutgers, 797 F.Supp. 1246 (D.N.J. 1991); Tombrello v. USX Corp., 763 F.Supp. 541 (N.D.Ala.1991).

6. Records of sales or rentals of video tapes are confidential. 18 USC §2710

7. Content of e-mail in public systems are confidential. 18 USC § 2702(a).

8. Bank records are confidential. 12 USC §3401 et seq.

9. library records are confidential in some states. e.g., N.Y. CPLR § 4509; Quad/Graphics, Inc. v. Southern Adirondack Library Sys., 664 N.Y.S.2d 225 (N.Y.Sup.Ct. 30 Sep 1997). Privay laws in the USA- 1. What is Privacy?

Privacy is the expectation that confidential personal information disclosed in a private place will not be disclosed to third parties, when that disclosure would cause either embarrassment or emotional distress to a person of reasonable sensitivities. Information is interpreted broadly to include facts, images (e.g., photographs, videotapes), and disparaging opinions.

The right of privacy is restricted to individuals who are in a place that a person would reasonably expect to be private (e.g., home, hotel room, telephone booth). There is no protection for information that either is a matter of public record or the victim voluntarily disclosed in a public place. People should be protected by privacy when they “believe that the conversation is private and can not be heard by others who are acting in an lawful manner.” Am.Jur.2d Telecommunications § 209 (1974).

The easiest method to keep information confidential is to disclose it to no one, but this is too severe a method, in that it forces a person to be a recluse and denies a person medical care, among other unacceptable limitations.

2. History of privacy law

Legal concepts like ownership of real property and contracts originated many hundreds of years ago and are now well established in law. In contrast, the right of privacy has only recently received legal recognition and is still an evolving area of law. It is generally agreed that the first publication advocating privacy was the article by Warren and Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harvard L.R. 193 (1890). However, the codification of principles of privacy law waited until Prosser, Privacy, 48 Cal.L.Rev. 383 (1960), which Prosser subsequently entered into the Second Restatement of Torts at §§ 652A-652I (1977).

Early invasions of privacy could be treated as trespass, assault, or eavesdropping. Part of the reason for the delay in recognizing privacy as a fundamental right is that most modern invasions of privacy involve new technology (e.g., telephone wiretaps, microphones and electronic amplifiers for eavesdropping, photographic and video cameras, computers for collecting/storing/finding information). Before the invention of such technology, one could be reasonably certain that conversations in private (e.g., in a person’s home or office) could not be heard by other people. Before the invention of computer databases, one might invade a few persons’ privacy by collecting personal information from interviews and commercial transactions, but the labor-intensive process of gathering such information made it impossible to harm large numbers of victims. Further, storing such information on paper in file cabinets made it difficult to use the information to harm victims, simply because of the disorganized collection of information.

The famous phrase, the right “to be let alone” has a long history. As far back as 1834, the U.S. Supreme Court mentioned that a “defendant asks nothing — wants nothing, but to be let alone until it can be shown that he has violated the rights of another.” Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. 591, 634 (1834). The phrase, “the right to be let alone”, also appears in a law textbook [T.M. Cooley, A Treatise on the Law of Torts 29 (2d ed. 1888)], as corresponding to the duty “not to inflict an injury”, for example, by battery. This argument was expanded by Warren and Brandeis in their famous law review article, cited supra. Subsequently, Brandeis used the phrase “the right to be let alone” in his famous dissent in Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928), the first wiretapping case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The “right to be let alone” is the most terse definition of the right to privacy, although, through numerous U.S. Supreme Court decisions cited later in this article, this phrase has come to be associated with preventing invasions of the private sphere by the government.

3. Modern Privacy Law

Because privacy is an emerging right, a discussion of privacy is typically a list of examples where the right has been recognized, instead of a simple definition. Privacy can be discussed in two different directions: the nature of the right and the source of the right (e.g., case law, statute, Constitution).

Prosser, in both his article and in the Restatement (Second) of Torts at §§ 652A-652I, classifies four basic kinds of privacy rights:

1. unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another, for example, physical invasion of a person’s home (e.g., unwanted entry, looking into windows with binoculars or camera, tapping telephone), searching wallet or purse, repeated and persistent telephone calls, obtaining financial data (e.g., bank balance) without person’s consent, etc.

2. appropriation of a person’s name or likeness; successful assertions of this right commonly involve defendant’s use of a person’s name or likeness on a product label or in advertising a product or service. A similar concept is the “right of publicity” in Restatement (Third) Unfair Competition §§46-47 (1995). The distinction is that privacy protects against “injury to personal feelings”, while the right of publicity protects against unauthorized commercial exploitation of a person’s name or face. As a practical matter, celebrities generally sue under the right of publicity, while ordinary citizens sue under privacy.

3. publication of private facts, for example, income tax data, sexual relations, personal letters, family quarrels, medical treatment, photographs of person in his/her home.

4. publication that places a person in a false light, which is similar to defamation. A successful defamation action requires that the information be false. In a privacy action the information is generally true, but the information created a false impression about the plaintiff.

Only the second of these four rights is widely accepted in the USA. In addition to these four pure privacy torts, a victim might recover under other torts, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, or trespass.

Unreasonable intrusion upon seclusion only applies to secret or surreptitious invasions of privacy. An open and notorious invasion of privacy would be public, not private, and the victim could then chose not to reveal private or confidential information. For example, recording of telephone conversations is not wrong if both participants are notified before speaking that the conversation is, or may be, recorded. There certainly are offensive events in public, but these are properly classified as assaults, not invasions of privacy.

statutes

Other privacy rights are contained in criminal statutes. For example,

1. surreptitious interception of conversations in a house or hotel room is eavesdropping. See e.g., N.Y. Penal §§ 250.00, 250.05

2. one has a right of privacy for contents of envelopes sent via first-class U.S. Mail. 18 USC § 1702; 39 USC § 3623

3. one has a right of privacy for contents of telephone conversations, telegraph messages, or electronic data by wire. 18 USC § 2510 et seq.

4. one has a right of privacy for contents of radio messages. 47 USC §605

5. A federal statute denies federal funds to educational institutions that do not maintain confidentiality of student records, which enforces privacy rights of students in a backhanded way. 20 USC § 1232g. Commonly called the Buckley-Pell Amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. See also Krebs v. Rutgers, 797 F.Supp. 1246 (D.N.J. 1991); Tombrello v. USX Corp., 763 F.Supp. 541 (N.D.Ala.1991).

6. Records of sales or rentals of video tapes are confidential. 18 USC §2710

7. Content of e-mail in public systems are confidential. 18 USC § 2702(a).

8. Bank records are confidential. 12 USC §3401 et seq.

9. library records are confidential in some states. e.g., N.Y. CPLR § 4509; Quad/Graphics, Inc. v. Southern Adirondack Library Sys., 664 N.Y.S.2d 225 (N.Y.Sup.Ct. 30 Sep 1997).

professional ethics

Other examples of privacy are included in professional ethics, such as confidentiality of disclosures during physician-patient, priest-penitent, attorney-client relationships, together with the evidence code that protects such disclosures. Violation of such confidentiality can be a tort. Humphers v. First Interstate Bank of Oregon, 696 P.2d 527 (Or. 1985)(physician violated confidentiality of adoption by helping daughter find her birth mother). The violation of confidentiality could also be a matter for a professional licensing board.

invasions of private sphere by government

The privacy issue arises in a different context when the government attempts to limit the choices of individuals in various personal areas, such as use of contraception or abortion, who to marry, and the right to chose how to rear and educate their children. Some search and seizure issues can also be interpreted as supporting the individual’s right to privacy, against intrusions by the police. In the context of preventing governmental intrusions into personal life, Justice Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the writers of the U.S. Constitution conferred

the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis,J., dissenting).

The wisdom in this dissenting view lay dormant for many years. The following is a brief history of the use the “right to be let alone” in majority opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A 1946 majority opinion considered a newspaper’s refusal to comply with a subpoena, in which the Court cited, in a long footnote, Brandeis’ dissent in Olmstead as making “the case for protected privacy”. Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186, 204, n.30 (1946).

A 1950 majority opinion involved the compliance of two salt companies with a cease and desist order of the Federal Trade Commission, in which the Court mentioned that:

It is unnecessary here to examine the question of whether a corporation is entitled to the protection of the Fourth Amendment. Although the ‘right to be let alone — the most comprehensive or rights and the right most valued by civilized men,’ is not confined literally to searches and seizures as such, but extends as well to the orderly taking under compulsion of process, neither incorporated nor unincorporated associations can plead an unqualified right to conduct their affairs in secret. While they may and should have protection from unlawful demands made in the name of public investigations, corporations can claim no equality with individuals in the enjoyment of a right to privacy.

U.S. v. Morton Salt Co., 338 U.S. 632, 651-52 (1949)[citations omitted].

The Court’s words are interesting, because at the time of the Morton opinion, the Court had still not recognized “the right to be let alone” as a right belonging to individuals. Apparently, the Court simply assumed that the right existed.

A 1966 majority opinion in a habeas corpus proceeding mentioned that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments stand “as a protection of quite different constitutional values reflecting the concern of our society for the right of each individual to be let alone.” The Court provided no citation to an earlier use of the “right … to be let alone” in this case. Tehan v. U.S., 382 U.S. 406, 416 (1966).

Finally, in 1967, the Court overturned its ruling in Olmstead and held that recording by police of conversation in public telephone booth was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, because the speaker had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the booth. Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347, 350 (1967). The Court quoted “right to be let alone” from Warren & Brandeis 1890 article, instead of from Brandeis’ dissent in Olmstead, a case on the same issue. Maybe the Court was embarrassed to reverse its earlier position in Olmstead. https://rpangell.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/mind-reading-the-global-world-war-iii-begun-in-1973-since-1973-darpa-has-been-studying-mind-reading-with-eeg-hooked-to-computers-using-scientists-at-the-university-of-illinois-ucla-stanford-rese/

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