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Faculty Candidate: Bryan Choi

Faculty candidate talk for joint position with Ohio State Law School.
Friday, December 18, 2015, 9:30 am
Bryan Choi
480 Dreese Labs
Columbus, OH 43210

For Whom the Data Tolls: A Reunified Theory of Fourth and Fifth Amendment Jurisprudence

Data privacy demands a reunified theory of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Data technologies allow personal information to be disembodied from physical bodies and “possessed” simultaneously by both first persons and third parties. As a result, the government has been able to use a divide-and-conquer strategy to obtain incriminating evidence alternately from the data intermediary or from the suspect.

Currently, Fourth Amendment doctrine and Fifth Amendment doctrine work at cross-purposes. The privacy community has already sounded the alarm on the “third-party doctrine,” which allows the government to sidestep the Fourth Amendment when demanding evidence from third parties. But few have noted the equally potent “required records doctrine,” which allows the government to circumvent the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when demanding evidence directly from first persons. Taken together, the two exceptions swallow the rule, allowing the government to evade both Fourth and Fifth Amendment review at every turn.

This talk will argue that juxtaposing the two exceptions together offers clues for how to resolve the reciprocal line-drawing problems. The first clue is that one excludes only “third parties” from constitutional protection, while the other excludes only “first parties.” The second is that the third-party doctrine grew out of cases upholding the autonomy of natural persons, whereas the required records doctrine drew its authority from the need to regulate commercial activities of business entities. Reframing the jurisprudence along those two axes offers a more coherent conception of the case law, and acknowledges the vital interdependencies between the two Amendments.

Bryan Choi is a Faculty Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he is affiliated with the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition. Previously he was a Visiting Associate Professor at New York Law School where he taught Intellectual Property, Internet Law, and Property. Before that, he was at Yale Law School as the Director of Law and Media at the Information Society Project. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School and his B.A. in Computer Science from Harvard College. His research focuses on the legal issues concerning ubiquitous computing and ubiquitous data.

Host: Leon Wang