Posts Tagged ‘ law school

A Return…and a Snippet of Data Privacy

Making my way back in, one post at a time.

I had ventured back to my dear, neglected blog, pondering what on earth to write about, when I noticed how many pending spam comments were awaiting me. It wasn’t the typical 5-10, or even 25. No, it was 175! 175 spam comments! How much viagra can one 28 year old female really need? Apparently a lot.

Anyways, all this talk of spam got me thinking (no, not about Monty Python you sillys) about my Data Privacy Law class. Tonight we happened to briefly discuss spam and what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, all that good stuff, which I found quite interesting, especially given my hatred of spammers and telemarketers (let’s stick it to ‘em my good chap!). Since I’ve been all out of ideas for what to blog about, I figured I’d go with what has swallowed my entire life – law school. Tonight I’ll begin w/ Data Privacy and later I’ll continue with a snippet from all the other classes I’ve taken so far and a bit of info about the startup I interned with this summer. It should be good fun (please note I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey so my speech may sound rather over the top, even more so than usual), especially if any law students, or prospective law students, happen my way. Please note that Data Privacy is an upper level course – I will go down to first year courses after this.

With data privacy, I feel the best way to approach it is to consider: (1) the contexts in which we may find ourselves questioning our rights; (2) the applicable laws surrounding it; (3) what we hope to gain, or a remedy we hope to achieve, through using the law; and (4) how US perspectives stack up against our European counterparts. I will try to throw in a bit about misconceptions and some on point examples where I can. Please note, this may get a bit long but I’m gonna try super hard to keep it brief(ish). I haven’t really referenced sources because a lot of it comes from class notes and reading material, plus it’s late and I’m lazy. But if you have questions, please let me know and I’ll point you to where I got the info.

Also, mandatory disclaimer: I am only a 2nd year law student so you should not rely on any of this as legit legal advice/information and I will not be held accountable if you do. Okay, no more of that, let’s get to it.

Here are some scenarios where you may encounter a need for data privacy protection:

  • When answering government surveys, including the Census
  • When your home is searched by government agents – will a police officer disclose personal information to the government? To my neighbors? To the press?
  • When you sign up for a web service, like for a web app e-mail service. What if the government suspects I’ve committed a crime? Will the service provider disclose my information? Could it be used against me in court?
  • When you happen to be a celebrity and the paparazzi comes after you
  • When you use social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • When your company plans to open up a European subsidiary
  • When you want to tell someone about your boss’ unlawful action and get wrongfully terminated
  • When your employer monitors your work and personal e-mail for quality control purposes


One thing to consider is the U.S. Constitution, and maybe your state’s constitution too. One thing that you might not know (at least I didn’t before), is that the Constitution doesn’t actually guarantee any sort of privacy right. The 4th Amendment provides protection for unreasonable searches and seizures from state actors, but doesn’t say that we’re entitled to be safe from all searches and seizures. Please note that some states (including California, I believe) say that this applies to non-state actors as well. The Supreme Court has also interpreted that there is an implied fundamental right to privacy, but it is not absolute. Certain Justices *cough* Scalia *cough* reject this notion of a fundamental right because it doesn’t appear in the text – let’s just ignore him, shall we (thanks Obama!)?

Statutory law is essential to data privacy law. Although it certainly doesn’t cover everything, it does offer specific types of protection in some (albeit narrow) circumstances. The Wire Tap Act and the Stored Communications Act protect against people either intercepting or storing your information. Please note that these acts actually contain pretty broad exceptions that seem to be relatively easy to circumvent. For example, if the FBI suspects that you’re part of some criminal activity, it won’t take much for them to get your Internet Service Provider to disclose not only your personal information, but also the contents of your e-mails and beyond. So, if you think that your e-mail provider of choice would never do something to hurt you or give your info away, please be warned that they are legally required to disclose your information when applicable.

There are statutes to cover various areas, including spam for commercial use, and statutes for health care providers, celebrities, whistle-blowers, and specific ones for financial information, to name a few. If you work in a specific industry, chances are that there’s a statute that pertains to you.

The Common Law is where we can look for all sorts of protection, although it varies by state and may only get us so far (remember that statutes are where most of the action really is). First, we’ve got good old fashioned property law. We think we own this information, right? Chances are that the answer is actually no. No one can own facts. Your e-mail address, physical address, name, phone number? You do not own that information. Therefore, you can’t file a claim against an individual or entity because they “stole” your personal info. In fact, my professor points out in an article, that many social media companies actually have a stronger property claim to the information in our posts than we do. Although you might have some chance of claiming that your 140 character tweet was so eloquently stated as to garner copyright protection, the facts within that same tweet do not belong to you. If you tweet, “I’m headed to the Page tonight. Gotta love me some Bushmills, dudes,” that information is not your own. Instead, Twitter, or whatever other agency, could claim that this information is protected by trade secret law. That is, it is so valuable to their economic performance/business, that no one else can use this information. So, if someone starts a rival to Twitter tomorrow, they can’t start targeting me with local Lower Haight bars and Northern Irish whiskey based on that one tweet.   If I wanted to sell that information myself, I could not because it is deemed to be factual (and also I probably signed away that right when I signed up). Another property tort you could try would be trespass, but it probably won’t get you very far.

Tort law provides some assurances. If you’re up against a governmental agency, you might be able to argue a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for a civil rights violation. Generally, government officials may not be held liable for civil claims as long as they are acting in their official capacity. Torts like this were created to grant individuals some relief and to prevent against abuse. This would come in to play if, for example, a police officer searched your home (with a warrant) then disclosed to other nongovernmental officials some of your intimate details that a reasonable person would find offensive. So maybe revealing that you like Michael Bolton might not be that big a deal, but revealing that you have a giant stack of foot fetish porn by your bed might be.

Tort law also includes the torts of privacy, which include (1) intrusion upon seclusion; (2) appropriation of private facts; (3) public disclosure of private facts; and (4) false light. These are all pretty boring but are highly relevant in this area. If someone is using your name or image to sell something without your consent, you’ve probably got yourself an appropriation of private facts claim.

Contract law is another biggie. If you’re able, you can use this to give yourself stronger protection. However, most of the time it’s companies or service providers who set the terms. Unfortunately, a lot of these will encourage you to waive your rights. Pay attention to the Terms of Service of the next service you sign up for. Chances are, you’ll find that the provider is asking you (or forcing as I see it) to give up at least some of your expectation of privacy.


What do we want from all this? It can be hard to say in some instances and really goes to the question of “what is privacy?” In some cases, we don’t want to be fired or misrepresented. In others, we don’t want our company’s secrets, or personal financial information, to be freely given away. Other times, we don’t want certain information to be used against us as evidence in court. However, often it’s hard to say what we really want. If Google monitors my information in order to better target me for advertisement purposes, what harm is really done? Now I know that Google won’t *do* anything with that info. They won’t tell all my contacts where I’m going to lunch with so and so, they won’t tell everyone how many times I call my boyfriend a certain pet name, nor reveal some intimate secret to my parents (don’t worry, there isn’t a secret like that, so shhh). Instead, they’ll use it to “improve my ad experience.” Now I sort of appreciate it because I’d rather get ads about my preferred dog food or favorite L.L.Bean slipper shoes instead of diet supplements or engagement rings *cough*Facebook*cough*. However, at first I found it intrusive. How dare they access my e-mail? Even using non-human algorithms! But what harm was really done? Was my sense of self somehow damaged? My reputation? My right to enjoy everything I “get” from using personal e-mail? It’s hard to say. Generally, laws related to data privacy grant injunctions or money damages, and sometimes criminal penalties. But do those remedies really fix the harm? Not all of the above mentioned laws may be used in data privacy settings because of this seemingly lacking harm.

U.S. vs. Europe

Just to quickly mention it, Europe approaches data privacy very differently from the US. Despite what 1984 would have us believe, Europe is pretty stringent compared to us. Rather than having piecemeal statutes and common law approaches, which target individual areas of data privacy, Europe leans more to broad and over-encompassing regulation. The default rule is that companies, individuals, or the government can’t process data unless there is a specific statutory exception. Europeans may more easily complain that their “right of personality” has been harmed by a privacy invasion, while Americans are told that they didn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the same setting. We can waive our rights while it is much harder for Europeans to do so. As a result, the United States is much more amenable to tech companies that take advantage of our personal information. How would many startups survive if they had to search for legal exceptions to accessing our personal data? This also makes doing transnational business trickier because the European Union has had trouble accepting U.S. standards for protection. Now, American companies are encouraged to adopt certain standards and follow specific guidelines if they hope to engage in transnational transactions or establish foreign subsidiaries that will allow for the transfer of personal data (including employee, not just customer, information). The FTC is to step in and enforce these provisions, although it has gained criticism for often failing to do so.

I could continue on about the differences between German, EU, and US data privacy law, but will stop, for everyone’s sake. The main point is, don’t take your personal data privacy for granted; simply because it seems “safe” does not mean that it is yours for the keeping.

Oh – I realize I didn’t really talk about spam in the end, but maybe I’ll address it another day. If you’re really interested right now, go check out the Can-SPAM act, which sets out the elements for a claim. You’ll find that many spammers, including those fondly mentioned (ahem, *worst*) spammers who left me 175 comments, would not satisfy those elements (meaning they are guilty as the eff for spam violations as long as blog comments are included in the Act). Part of the reason I didn’t include it just yet is because we covered it super quickly and I’d like to be able to address it more fully so if anyone does want to make a claim, you’ll know whether you’ve got what it takes to put something together. You can also look for statutes that target your specific industry (as mentioned above) to see what protection you might have.

Next time in the law school series: Civil Procedure I ( I promise they will be more exciting after that)

2011 in Review

Despite some frustrations and some ups and downs here and there, 2011 was overall an exciting year. I’m pretty sure I’ll look back at this one when I’m older and go “aww yeah, 2011 was the year of awesome.” I have a feeling 2012 is going to be pretty challenging, but I’m looking forward to it and am ready to face it head on.

January started off right with the Crunchies after party at the Exploratorium; there’s nothing quite like unleashing a bunch of 20 and 30 somethings, hopped up on vodka red bull, into a building filled with gadgets, sounds, and all sorts of hands-on exhibits. The other C and I also made it to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the first time and hung out with some grad school friends who visited from TX and Denmark.

February kept things moving with a three week visit from my Northern Irish cousin and one of her good friends. We played tourist, danced the night away at DNA Lounge, gambled our way through Reno, and sat in awe for a three hour long Elton John concert. A friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in forever also visited, which made February the official month for catching up.

In March I ventured over to the UK to visit parents and friends. I also made it to Northern Ireland for my Grandmother’s surprise 80th birthday. Although I was convinced that she had figured us all out, she was completely shocked to see everyone who had driven down or flown over for her birthday.

April was dedicated to wine tasting and Disneyland. I didn’t think it was possible, but the group I went with managed to ride almost every single ride in both Disneyland and California Great Adventure (or whatever it’s called).  Needless to say, I was exhausted and extremely cranky by the end of the day (but it was magical and well worth it).

May was one of the most fun months ever (like omg for srs!). First I went to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, which consisted of a pub crawl from one end of town to the banks of the Mississippi, fried alligator, beignets, and flippin’ sweet music. I later made it to Houston to visit my good friend Sara who was working there as a teacher. I also made it a bit further south to visit some family I hadn’t seen in a while. AND! I met the other C’s parents in Kingwood. Once the great NOLA/TX journey was done, it was time for more wine tasting with the other C’s siblings and a whirlwind apartment search. Somehow the other C and I managed to snag a wonderful apartment right next to Alamo Square.

In June I went to Nova Scotia with my grandmother (the one who just turned 80) to visit her older sister who lived in a nursing home up there. It was a strenuous, but rewarding trip.

July was the month for learning how to become a “hacker.” I took a beginner Java course at UC Berkeley and learned all about loopy things and some other quirky stuff from a professor who showed up with Doc from Back to the Future’s hair and a repertoire of puns related to coffee and Indonesia. The other C and I also celebrated our first anniversary by spending some time on the road and hiking.

August was for relaxing in Colorado and then launching into my first semester of law school at UC Hastings.

In September I thought I’d figured it all out and didn’t find law school all that difficult. Well, it was a lot of work but I didn’t quite understand what all the fuss. Then…

October hit and I understood.

November was for taking take home exams, doing most things at home, and being incredibly grateful for having a caring boyfriend who always knows how to make the anxiety go away. Thanksgiving was the highlight of the month. We hosted it at our place and C’s parents, brother and boyf came over for Apples to Apples, good food, and a whole lot of silliness.

December, or at least the first half, can be defined as ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Exams are terrifying. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve studied for days on end and have read every case and most of the supplement if you get test anxiety. I managed to come out only moderately scathed, partied hard, and was happy to have made some awesome and smart new friends. After collapsing in a heap for several days and playing the new Zelda game, I flew to Cleveland for Christmas, then to Colorado, which is where I am now!

I didn’t make it to any new states or countries in 2011 – in fact, I barely left SF – which is a let down from my yearly goal. However, I got to know my city better and fell even more in love with California than I was before. Will I make it to any new places in 2012? Not too likely. But with some weddings coming up, it looks like 2012 will be even more of a reunion year than 2011 was. And perhaps I can make it somewhere sweet over spring break, like Vancouver or Arizona.


It’s all about the race

The more of this semester I get through, the more I’m convinced that law school, or at least the first year, is just one big endurance test, or race. It doesn’t necessarily seem to be about what you know but about who will last the longest. Here is a bit of whimsy from a brain overloaded by contracts.

You start off a little rusty, then you get the hang of things and think you’re going to make it. But then an incline appears out of nowhere and before you know it, you’re out of breath. All of a sudden, you realize this isn’t a simple road race but one filled with obstacles, mudslides, fried computers, and a kajillion twists and unexpected turns. Signs keep telling you that you’re doing great, that you’re almost there, but you find clues and hints here and there to indicate that you’ve still got a long way to go.

You realize that the other runners aren’t necessarily more athletic than you, though some are, but that many are better prepared. Perhaps they’ve figured out what stretches and strengthening exercises they needed to do before this whole thing began. Maybe they began training a long time ago, listened to podcasts, bought the right shoes, or hired a coach. You learn you’re not the worst runner, but you aren’t sure how to keep up with the others who’ve figured this whole game out, or at least act like they have.

So you train, every day. You make sacrifices by forgetting to sleep, to shower, to buy groceries, and remembering to take breaks. When you do sleep, you dream about the race. When you meet with friends, all you can think about is what you should be doing instead. You let it consume you and take over your life. You become part of a fraternal order that is both bound by shared experience and stretched by fierce competition. You’re not sure which of your siblings will give you the wrong directions and which will share their water with you when you’re at your lowest point. Some will remain silent and go it alone – you don’t know what to expect from them. The hardest question to answer is what type of sibling are you? What will you do when decision time comes?

You pause only when your body can’t take it anymore. Or when you realize that there is more to life than just this race. Or, more likely, when you realize that you are simply exhausted and have perhaps exaggerated how bad it really is.

You decide to reengage with friends, family, the outside world. You pick up the news to find out what you’ve missed. You let other people help you and you do your best to thank them.

You smile at the person who is always there for you – who calms you down after every breakdown and moment of panic. None of this would be possible without him and his promise to always smile back. He reminds you that you love the race and assures you that he’ll always be there to welcome you home.

You retie your shoes, focus on the path directly in front, and get back to running.

It’s a part of who you are now.

Affirmations of Life

Boring blog post about nothing in particular because I’ve been a bad blogger

Some days words come without me barely having to put forth an effort and others the mere thought of coming up with a decent blog topic is a challenge. As I enjoy posting to my blog somewhat regularly, I’ve got to push through and allow myself to have a few horrible blog posts.*

I just looked through some older posts, hoping to find a bit of inspiration, and stumbled across my *not* resolution post from the very beginning of this year. I must say, without trying too hard, I’ve done a pretty good job of doing the things I’d hoped to do:

-To get into an awesome law school and to not have that kill me.
So far I’ve only heard from one school and it was good news. It may not be at the very top of my list of where I’d like to go, but it’s decent and they’ve offered me quite a bit of money. Even if I wind up getting rejected from everywhere else I’ve applied, I know that someone wants me. After a year of rejections, it’s nice to finally feel gratified after months of studying, writing, and wondering. Hopefully I’ll hear back from some other schools soon!

-To find an internship and some more contract work.
Sigh. Still have to get cracking on this one. But I’ve been keeping myself busy with Twilio stuff and lots, I mean lots, of guests!

-To design my own website.
This is another thing that’s going to take some time. But thanks to my friend Brendan and a CSS book filled with lots of tutorials, I now have an idea of what this CSS stuff is all about. I still get easily confused but I think I’m just about ready to jump in and try my own thing.

-To visit another new state and country (or international city)-this is pretty much my goal every year.
This one’s going to be tough. Not sure if the country is going to happen as it looks like the rest of 2011 is almost entirely planned out, but a new state could possibly happen. Perhaps I’ll plan an adventure to Seattle before the end of the year!

-To get back into martial arts.
Success! I have joined the Okinawan Karate Club of San Francisco and I absolutely love it. My only gripe is that the only two class times are on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. I’d love a third class on Mondays or Tuesdays! The other people in the club are really nice, they keep things traditional, which means they focus on self-defense and history rather than competition. I have to start as a white belt again though, which is a bit weird since I have a brown belt in my old style, but I suppose it’s good to brush up on my basics.

-To reconnect with other old friends who I have been horrible about keeping in touch with.
I’ve definitely been slightly better about this, but there’s still more I should do. But hey, as I mentioned before, I’ve had a million guests here!

-To properly visit the East Coast.
Still hasn’t happened.

-To keep being happy.
Still doing pretty good on this front!

That’s it for now. I’ve just discovered that there’s an Android app for Words with Friends (gasp! A Zynga product, noo!) so I’m going to challenge a stranger. If you’re on there, you should totes be my friend (username cedickie).

*I admit, there haven’t really been any good blog posts for a while, whatevs!

Sometimes I feel like a boat in the ocean, then I realize there are much bigger things, like giant boats, out there (hey, don’t get mad at me for not making sense, you’re the one that made it this far down the post!).

iPad uPad weallPad for iPad

I’m not in a particularly writerly mode at the moment.

I am trying to type this from Conner’s iPad, which i have temporarily hijacked. not quite ideal for blogging. however! I like to read the economist on it and could imagine using it someday in class when I am a fancy pants law student. Here’s hoping all law school reading material is available digitally by next school year.

type.type. type.

Eureka! (The Sentiment, not the Californian City)

First things first, mandatory self-imposed guilt trip: I FAIL at reading. I will do better soon! At least I’ve started reading the Economist again, which should count for something.

Now on to the real blog post.

Back in high school I was the type of kid who enjoyed her surroundings and didn’t worry too much about the future. Some of the other students at my school attended college fairs their freshman year, others spent their weekends at debate tournaments, and I did my best to cope with the fact that I was in freakin’ high school. I played between two to three sports a year, took extra classes and invented tutorials for fun, dabbled in drawing, painting, photography, and improv acting, and- perhaps the most time consuming activity of them all, pined over many a boy, as demonstrated by semi-emo, post-midnight poetry scribbled into my diary.

How anyone at the age of 15 or 16 could possibly know what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives was beyond me. I barely knew what I was going to do at the weekend (some things never change). Occasionally my more ambitious friends would pester me with questions about where I wanted to go to college, which would result in my having a minor freakout sesh.

Why hadn’t I cared more about improving my GPA, or joined more clubs, or taken AP lit instead of taking extra electives in Chaucer, Shakespeare, and creative writing (which led to me winning an award senior year in English BTDUBS, bam!), or? Why did other people want to move away from home? Was I really so strange for liking my parents and for knowing that I could obsess over a band and get away with it because I was still a teenager?

The freakouts never lasted long. I’d moved enough times by that point to understand that life’s little bits and pieces pull together eventually, some more easily and quickly than others.

Instead of drawn out plans I tend to have moments. Either I’ll reach a place, read a sentence in a book, or meet someone new and think to myself, “Yes! This is me.” In other words, “Eureka!” There will be much debating prior to the moment, many dilly dallyings and doubts. Perhaps my life could be summarized as the moments and periods of waiting in between.

An example of a moment would be my first experience with Trinity College (Connecticut) where I went for undergrad. During the summer of 2002, My mom and I embarked upon a tour of liberal arts colleges on the East Coast. I still had no idea who I supposedly was (did it matter?) or where I belonged. After one information session after another I quickly determined what I most certainly did not want from a school- a heavy core curriculum? No thanks (isn’t the beauty of liberal arts the ability to choose?). I didn’t want anything to do with Pennsylvania and thought Maine seemed a bit far away from everything. Then we got to Trinity and I had that moment. I fell in love with the campus, imagined myself eating at one of the cafeterias, and wanted to be one of those students lounging on the quad. I figured I could deal with the salmon-colored pants and the pearls as long as I could have an old chapel and a strong history department within a five minute walk from my dorm. As we left I told my mom, “I’m coming back here.” Apparently Trinity felt the same way because I matriculated into the class of 2007.

Do I think I could have been happy at another school? Of course. Did I ever regret the fact that I didn’t do more research about other schools after visiting Trinity or try harder to get in somewhere else? Nope. I never, not even for a second, considered the possibility of transferring. Whenever anyone asks me how I enjoyed it, I always answer that I loved it. These moments of mine are pretty damn incredible.

It had been a while since my last one, but I finally had one tonight. It may involve going back to school again (crap)…and taking the LSATs in October. It’s an idea I’d previously considered but could never commit to. I’d prevented myself from thinking about it since graduating from the LSE because the idea of studying more, and for a long time, is exhausting. But now it’s all I can think about and I plan to hunt it down.

I went to a Trinity careers networking reception this evening and wound up chatting with one of the panel members, who happens to be a partner at a fancy pants law firm in SF. He’d also studied history at Trinity- we’d even had one of the same advisors! Imagine, he experienced one professor at the start of his career and I experienced him on the verge of retirement. He urged me, while insisting that he wasn’t, to think about law and I laughed the thought off instantly. “It’s not for me,” I muttered. Then I went home and realized how wrong that statement was. Maybe it wasn’t for me, once upon a time. There certainly wasn’t anyway I could have handled it after graduating from Trinity. But I’ve since made my way to the (freakin’) LSE and survived. I know I can handle the workloads because I’ve already faced them.

Here are a few reasons this makes sense:

-I get excited about cyber laws and digital copyright.
-I think doing research and writing about it is fun.
-My friends don’t call me “Sassoline” for nothin’- I like to argue.
-Having a background in History of International Relations, Law, and social media, would make me an official badass (international and/or technology law here I come!!).
-I have a pretty sweet memory, which has caused my friends much frustration on numerous occasions.
-I don’t like it when rules aren’t followed properly (i.e. the car MUST be sighted before “shotgun” can be properly claimed).

You may think this is a pretty big decision to have made within a few hours, but remember, once I have a moment I have to give in to its power. The moment never (or rarely) fails. And really, there wasn’t ever so much a question of me not wanting to pursue this but of me not being ready. Now I am.