Title: Information Privacy Law
Authors: Daniel J. Solove & Paul M. Schwartz
1205 pages. Wolters Kluwer.
Aspen Casebook Series
Yes, this is a book review of a law school textbook (casebook). However, if you are not a lawyer or a law student, do not worry--this book is makes the law accessible to anyone that has a basic understanding of the United States' government, such as where laws come from and the idea of separation of powers.
That being said, let's put you in the position of a law student to explain how beneficial this book is. Today you are taking the final for your privacy law class. Like most of law-school classes, the final counts for 100% of your course grade. You open your exam and find just one question that you have to answer: What are Dr. Johnson's rights and liabilities? You have to answer this question in the context of a long story (a "fact pattern" in law-school speak), which follows:
Dr. Johnson is a psychiatrist for a state hospital. Recently, a patient of Dr. Johnson told her that he was having thoughts about stabbing his annoying neighbor. Dr. Johnson, not wanting anyone to get hurt, then called the neighbor, told the neighbor that the patient was planning on hurting him and that the patient was "crazy for having such thoughts." The neighbor confronted the patient with the information, and the patient said he was just venting to his psychairiatist and had no intention of actually doing anything. The patient, in turn, complains to management at the hospital. Management immediately fires Dr. Johnson, enters her locked office, and seizes all of her notes/belongings as evidence to justify the firing.
In this story, there are a lot of issues for you to talk about in your exam. Since the hospital was state-owned, you need to discuss whether management violated the Fourth Amendment by entering Dr. Johnson's office and seizing her stuff. Then, since Dr. Johnson revealed patient information to the neighbor, you must discuss whether she violated any HIPAA rules. Finally, there are potential claims that the patient has against Dr. Johnson directly. These include a suit for revealing his private thoughts and defamation for calling him "crazy."
If you read Information Privacy Law, you will do just fine on this test.
As you probably noticed in the story, there are a lot of different laws at play. This is because the United States does not have an overarching "privacy law." Rather, it follows a sectoral approach, meaning that there are different laws for different categories of information.
Indeed, Information Privacy Law really shines in the way that it highlights all these different laws in an understandable way. Really, it is quite amazing how many different "privacy laws" the United States has. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) applies to medical information; the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act applies to student records; the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act applies to information shared on the Internet by children younger than thirteen years old; the Stored Communications Act applies to obtaining the communications of others but not as they are actually in the process of being transmitted; etc.
While this book covers a lot of material, it does not ask its readers to already know a lot about the law. Instead, explains all of the necessary basics before going into any heavy detail. The book's discussion on Fourth Amendment searches and seizures is a great example. Fourth Amendment law is notorious for having many, many exceptions. Thankfully, the book's exploration of the Fourth Amendment starts with the basics. Really, the basics--it begins with what the Fourth Amendment's text actually says. The book then clearly lays out the general structure of Fourth Amendment law and eases its readers into any complicated material.
Further, the structure of the book helps guide readers through the content. Each chapter, which focuses on a particular type of information and privacy concern, begins with an overview of the topic and a description of the general rules. As the chapters move into the more dense content, the book provides either snipits of or full judicial opinions. The opinions serve to show the reader how the laws function in real-life situations. Finally, each section ends with "notes & questions," which provides a variety of additional information. The information ranges from additional quirks in the law, to follow-ups on what happened later to the people discussed in the judicial opinions, and beyond. The "questions" portions ask the readers to either apply the rules to novel scenarios or to contemplate the ultimate fairness of the law.
At this point in the review, you may be asking yourself, "What does all of this have to do with cyborg law and policy?" Well, similar to "privacy law," there is not a overarching, codified "cyborg law." Rather, the question for those thinking about or creating cyborg-technology, is "Does this impact any pre-existing laws?" And, really, the answer to that is only limited by one's imagination. For example, looking at future in-the-body technology (e.g. The Techno-Human Shell), it is almost certain that individuals' health information will automatically and continuously be transmitted over the Internet to various companies and doctors. Certainly, that implicates HIPAA. Although HIPAA's application may seem obvious, other more obscure issues will arise. For example, consider this website's discussion of the Cyborg-Technology Provider Relationship, which necessarily carries a duty of confidentiality similar to that raised in the hypothetical above by Dr. Johnson.
In the end, anyone exploring cyborg law and technology should read this book. Privacy law will impact cyborgs in countless ways, whether it in the application of current laws or the need to pass new laws. This book will expand the breadth of knowledge its readers have about privacy law; having a basic understanding of privacy-related issues is necessary to shape our cyborg future.
If you are interested in purchasing this book, please click the adjacent picture: