Nathan Cortez (SMU – Dedman School of Law) and William M. Sage (Texas A&M University School of Law) have posted “The Disembodied First Amendment” (100 Washington University Law Review 707 (2023)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
First Amendment doctrine is becoming disembodied—increasingly detached from human speakers and listeners. Corporations claim that their speech rights limit government regulation of everything from product labeling to marketing to ordinary business licensing. Courts extend protections to commercial speech that ordinarily extended only to core political and religious speech. And now, we are told, automated information generated for cryptocurrencies, robocalling, and social media bots are also protected speech under the Constitution. Where does it end? It begins, no doubt, with corporate and commercial speech. We show, however, that heightened protection for corporate and commercial speech is built on several “artifices” – dubious precedents, doctrines, assumptions, and theoretical grounds that have elevated corporate and commercial speech rights over the last century. This Article offers several ways to deconstruct these artifices, re-tether the First Amendment to natural speakers and listeners, and thus reclaim the individual, political, and social objectives of the First Amendment.
Shai Dothan (University of Copenhagen – iCourts – Centre of Excellence for International Courts) has posted “Facing Up To Internet Giants” (Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Mancur Olson claimed that concentrated interests win against diffuse interests even in advanced democracies. Multinational companies, for example, work well in unison to suit their interests. The rest of the public is not motivated or informed enough to resist them. In contrast, other scholars argued that diffuse interests may be able to fight back, but only when certain conditions prevail. One of the conditions for the success of diffuse interests is the intervention of national and international courts. Courts are able to fix problems affecting diffuse interests. Courts can also initiate deliberation that can indirectly empower diffuse interests by getting them informed. This paper investigates the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It argues that these international courts help consumers, a diffuse interest group, to succeed in their struggle against internet companies, a concentrated interest group.
Woodrow Hartzog (Boston University School of Law; Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society), Evan Selinger
(Rochester Institute of Technology – Department of Philosophy), and Johanna Gunawan (Northeastern University Khoury College of Computer Sciences) have posted “Privacy Nicks: How the Law Normalizes Surveillance” (101 Washington University Law Review, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Privacy law is failing to protect individuals from being watched and exposed, despite stronger surveillance and data protection rules. The problem is that our rules look to social norms to set thresholds for privacy violations, but people can get used to being observed. In this article, we argue that by ignoring de minimis privacy encroachments, the law is complicit in normalizing surveillance. Privacy law helps acclimate people to being watched by ignoring smaller, more frequent, and more mundane privacy diminutions. We call these reductions “privacy nicks,” like the proverbial “thousand cuts” that lead to death.
Privacy nicks come from the proliferation of cameras and biometric sensors on doorbells, glasses, and watches, and the drift of surveillance and data analytics into new areas of our lives like travel, exercise, and social gatherings. Under our theory of privacy nicks as the Achilles heel of surveillance law, invasive practices become routine through repeated exposures that acclimate us to being vulnerable and watched in increasingly intimate ways. With acclimation comes resignation, and this shift in attitude biases how citizens and lawmakers view reasonable measures and fair tradeoffs.
Because the law looks to norms and people’s expectations to set thresholds for what counts as a privacy violation, the normalization of these nicks results in a constant re-negotiation of privacy standards to society’s disadvantage. When this happens, the legal and social threshold for rejecting invasive new practices keeps getting redrawn, excusing ever more aggressive intrusions. In effect, the test of what privacy law allows is whatever people will tolerate. There is no rule to stop us from tolerating everything. This article provides a new theory and terminology to understand where privacy law falls short and suggests a way to escape the current surveillance spiral.