Barry FriedmanStephen SchulhoferKatherine StrandburgOn April 13, the NYU School of Law hosted the NYU/Princeton Conference on Mobile and Location Privacy, titled “A Technology and Policy Dialog.” The event convened the policy and technology communities to explore privacy issues arising from the growth of mobile and location technologies.

At the daylong conference, Edward Felten, the Federal Trade Commission's chief technologist, gave a keynote address introducing the theme. Ira Rubinstein, a senior fellow at the Law School’s Information Law Institute and an adjunct professor, then moderated a morning roundtable concerning self-regulation models for technology companies and whether the mobile industry requires formal privacy regulation. Following a technological demonstration focused on mobile and location privacy, Stephen Schulhofer, Robert B. McKay Professor of Law, served as moderator of the afternoon roundtable, “Phones, Drones, and Social Networks—New Technologies and the Fourth Amendment after Jones.”

Panelist Barry Friedman, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law, traced the Supreme Court’s recent history in the area of privacy law before discussing the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in United States v. Jones, in which the justices unanimously ruled unconstitutional a law enforcement decision to attach a GPS tracking device to the car of a suspected drug dealer’s wife for a month. The GPS surveillance evidence resulted in the suspect’s conviction for conspiracy to sell cocaine. While the Jones decision was a narrow one that characterized the placement of the device on the car as trespass under the Fourth Amendment, the complexities of the case splintered the justices into three different camps in trying to explain the opinion’s rationale. Observers pointed to many pressing contemporary questions about technology and privacy that remained unresolved in the wake of the ruling’s reliance on 18th-century tort law. “In the rare instances in which [the justices] have tried [to protect privacy rights],” said Friedman, “it’s been doomed to failure, largely because of problems of technology.”

Schulhofer later remarked, “The opinion for the Court in Jones makes trespass everything. However, there are five justices ridiculing that idea. As I read it, they’re not saying that trespass might not be necessary; they are saying that trespass is not necessary.... There’s this idea that prolonged monitoring might be less intrusive than the search of a house, but it also could be considered much more intrusive, and I think there is a reading of the Sotomayor and Alito [concurring] opinions that suggests that.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Information Law Institute and the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy, with support from Microsoft. The organizing committee included Rubinstein and Professor Katherine Strandburg.

Watch the full video of Edward Felten's keynote address (1 hr, 1 min):