Originally published: March 9, 2010
Last updated: March 9, 2010 - 4:49pm
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the First Amendment protects demands for personal information from government contract workers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The case asks whether the Constitution protects a "right of informational privacy."
The Supreme Court mentioned such a right in a 1977 decision, and has seldom mentioned it since. A panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction halting the background checks while the suit goes forward, and the full appeals court refused to rehear the case in June. The 9th Circuit's chief judge, Alex Kozinski, highlighted the legal issue when he dissented from the decision not to rehear the case. "Is there a constitutional right to informational privacy? Thirty-two terms ago, the Supreme Court hinted that there might be and has never said another word about it," Judge Kozinski wrote. "With no Supreme Court guidance except this opaque fragment, the courts of appeals have been left to develop the contours of this free-floating privacy guarantee on their own. It's a bit like building a dinosaur from a jawbone or a skull fragment, and the result looks more like a turducken. We have a grab bag of cases on specific issues, but no theory as to what this right (if it exists) is all about."
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