Fri, May 18 at 7 p.m. | 90 minutes
We’ve developed a troubling tendency in America, more of a knee-jerk reaction really, when faced with the latest news about government surveillance or some corporate hacking scandal to simply shrug our shoulders and remark knowingly that “privacy is dead.”
Did you know that the word privacy doesn’t appear once in the text of the US Constitution? But despite that troubling omission, the Supreme Court has repeatedly insisted that Americans have a constitutional right to privacy because of the spirit behind certain constitutional amendments. It’s a slippery business. Exactly how privacy came to be recognized as a constitutional right is a complicated story that reaches back to the civil rights movement, the war on crime, the women’s movement, and the crusade against communism.
Privacy is not dead in the United States, but it does seem to be circling the drain. This Olio offers an accessible primer to the basics of our constitutional right to privacy and the key legal trials that led to its recognition.
Lawrence Cappello is a Professor of Constitutional History at the University of Alabama and the author of None of Your Damn Business: Privacy in the United States from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age. His essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and The Nation. He was recently profiled by The Economist.