Are All Americans Deserving of Equal Privacy Rights in the Age of the Internet of Things?

By: Colin Nardone

I. Introduction

In this modern technology age, do we really have a right to privacy? Practically everything we do, whether it is checking the weather, changing our thermostat, or using an internet connected home security system, is tracked by some company online. These companies compile these vast amounts of data, and often sell them to the highest bidder. Sometimes, even the police gain access to this data in order to solve crimes. Does the Constitution have any meaning in this kind of hyper-connected world?

The Fourth amendment provides “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” but is there anything left to these words to provide that security for individuals, especially those most impoverished in our country?[1] Within the last few decades, the Supreme Court has generally recognized a right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment in specific contexts where technology is involved.[2] But does this same right extend equally to all Americans including those who live in public housing across the United States?

Continue reading “Are All Americans Deserving of Equal Privacy Rights in the Age of the Internet of Things?”

You’re Blocked! Should Public Officials Be Allowed to Stifle Speech On Social Media?

By Peter Kourkouvis

I. Introduction

Last May, the Southern District of New York ruled in Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Trump (Knight Institute) that President Trump violated the First Amendment rights of seven individuals when he blocked them from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account because of their critical comments.[1] Merely the highest-profile instance of a burgeoning phenomenon, people across the U.S. have complained about elected officials blocking them from their social media pages.[2] Since the Knight Institute decision, the Fourth Circuit became the first court of appeals to decide that such exclusion violates the First Amendment.[3] Lawmakers have been put on notice.[4]

However, the issue remains unsettled. Central to determining whether public officials’ blocking of the public from their social media pages violates the First Amendment is determining whether a social media page can constitute a public forum. This Article examines this controversial issue by first discussing the Supreme Court’s public forum doctrine in Part II. Then, Part III discusses how courts have applied forum analysis to public officials’ social media pages. In Part IV, I argue that the approach taken by the Southern District of New York and the Fourth Circuit conforms with public forum analysis, makes sense given popular usage of social media, and best serves the policy of promoting robust discussion on social media, while also providing government officials guidance as to how to avoid violating the public’s First Amendment rights.

Continue reading “You’re Blocked! Should Public Officials Be Allowed to Stifle Speech On Social Media?”

“Alexa, can you keep a secret?” An Analysis of 4th Amendment Protection Regarding Smart Home Devices

By Rebecca Levin

I.     Introduction

On November 5, 2018, Judge Steven M. Houran of Strafford County, New Hampshire ordered Amazon to provide authorities with audio recordings from an Amazon Echo device in the investigation of the stabbing of two women in January 2017.[1]  Judge Houran wrote the Echo device may possess recordings that give insight into the murders given the device’s location in the home where the women were found.[2]  Currently, Amazon is objecting to the legality of this order and has yet to hand over the recordings, stating they will not release the information “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.”[3]  While this dispute is in the early stages; this clash over privacy rights between the government and Amazon is not the first of its kind.[4]

On February 22, 2016, in Benton County, Arkansas, prosecutors charged James Bates with the murder of Victor Collins.[5]  After the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Collins’s death a murder, law enforcement obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home where they seized an Amazon Echo device under the assumption that through use of this device Amazon possessed audio recordings that could help solve the murder in question.[6]  Prosecutors surmised the Amazon Echo inadvertently recorded audio from the night of November 21, 2015 given the device played music on the night of the alleged murder and could have inadvertently recorded evidence of the murder.[7]  Ultimately, Amazon dropped their objection to releasing the recordings when James Bates voluntarily consented to their release on March 3, 2017.[8]  These cases highlight the question of what level of protection home smart devices receive under one’s right to privacy.  This article will explore how the current laws protect smart home device users under the Fourth Amendment.

Continue reading ““Alexa, can you keep a secret?” An Analysis of 4th Amendment Protection Regarding Smart Home Devices”