Persons have an interest in keeping some facts about themselves from others. However, the nature of this interest and its fair recognition by a legal system is complicated. After all, the government represents “the public” and carries out activities on its behalf. Recognizing privacy thus seems to require that the government tie its own hands and to compromise, to an extent, its defining public mission.
This course is about exploring this conflict between the public interest and the individual interest in privacy by asking what privacy is good for, and therefore, when it should be allowed and protected as opposed to prohibited or stifled. Should people be permitted to be anonymous while in public, or may they be required to identify themselves? To what extent should persons be permitted to speak and read anonymously? May thoughts themselves be punished, or may they at least be exposed and used as evidence for punishment?
By thinking about these questions and others, this course will illustrate the urgency and difficulty of articulating the value that privacy serves within a legal system.