InfoSys 205


 Information Law and Policy


Spring, 2005


Larry Downes




Written Assignment #1


DUE:  March 8, 2005



Over the past few weeks, a number of interesting events have taken place that relate to the problems of information and privacy in the digital age.  For example:


1.      On February 15th, a state appellate court in Florida ruled that a wife who installed monitoring software on her husband’s computer to intercept his on-line chats with a woman with whom he was playing Yahoo Dominoes had violated the state’s wiretapping law, and that the contents of the chats could not be used as evidence in their on-going divorce proceeding.


2.      On February 27th, The New York Times reported on a hacker’s successful breach of Paris Hilton’s Sidekick and the subsequent publication on the Web of its contents, including emails, photos and the telephone numbers of other celebrities.


3.      Last week, consumer financial data warehouse giant ChoicePoint, Inc., announced that criminals posing as “legitimate buyers” of data had obtained records of over 145,000 people.


Does the Florida wiretapping decision suggest that information privacy is over-protected?  Do the Paris Hilton and ChoicePoint incidents suggest that information privacy is under-protected?


Please write a 1 ½ page (double-spaced) paper analyzing the three items, along with your recommendations on how the regulation of information privacy ought to be addressed.  Your paper should take the following form:


A.     By way of introduction summarize the three items described above, based on the attached articles (1 paragraph).


B.     Taken together, discuss what the three suggest about the current state of information privacy and the role of government in regulating it (3/4ths of a page).


C.     Based on these particular items, what you believe needs to be done (1/2 page).






1.  Here are the links for the articles:


John Schwartz, “Some Sympathy for Paris Hilton,” The New York Times, February 27th, 2005


Declan McCullagh, “Court:  Wife Broke Law with Spyware,” CNET News.Com, February 15th, 2005


  1. Please pay attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other matters of look-and-feel.  If you are unsure, please refer to the references for writers on the course website.


  1. Please submit your papers in hardcopy in class on March 8, 2005 or before that to my mailbox.