1. "Webs of Significance," Clifford Geertz
  2. Federal vs. State Power in Antebellum America
  3. Daniel Solove’s six general types of privacy
  4. Making DNS work when your ISP blocks port 53
  5. Is it OK to Share my WiFi? (Comcast)

Publishing leaked materials: the Pentagon Papers case

Within a month of taking office, President Donald Trump announced his desire to go after “leakers” who have helped embroil his administration in controversy. He also declared many traditional news outlets to be “enem[ies] of the American People!” What does this mean for those who publish such material?


Haverty v. Bass: protecting the public health in 1876

In 1873 a Bangor police officer and a physician forcibly pulled Martin Haverty’s child “out of the arms of the mother” in order “to remove it to the city hospital” for quarantine due to suspected smallpox infection.

Preserving Jeffersonian ideals through government regulation

In the contentious years of Gilded Age America — 1870-1900 — the general consensus has been than the United States, laissez-faire capitalism and “liberty of contract.” Reality, unsurprisingly, was more complex.


Privacy can keep histories of abuse hidden from public view

Privacy can serve both to protect individuals and to shield abusers from public visibility.

Thinking about evidence and causation in same-sex marriage arguments

A recurring theme in criticisms of allowing same-sex marriage — or, as Obergefell did, in finding that bans violated the fundamental right to marriage — is some variation of the “slippery slope.”

Technology & Science Studies

No privacy in city life: what modern methods are bringing us to (1902)

“Is it possible,” asked the Chicago Tribune in 1902, “to be a private citizen in Chicago?”

Four useful analytic categories from science and technology studies

Science and technology studies (STS) is an interdisciplinary collection of analytic approaches. In his analysis of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Philip Doty pulls out four concepts from STS that he believes are particularly useful

Promoting involuntary sterilization: early hints of problems in the 1930s

A 1930s article published in The Journal of Heredity, “Beginnings of Sterilization in America,” is notable for the way it portrayed sterilization, particularly when it is compared to an earlier account of the same interview with Dr. Sharp that formed the basis of the article and that has been preserved in the archives of California’s Human Betterment Foundation.

Fake news, libel, and press protections against executive power

The press serves an important role in checking executive power in the American system. The first article in this series deals with libel suits against newspapers; the second will cover the publication of leaked materials (the so-called “Pentagon Papers”).

“Baloney Detection” in the era of “fake news”

In attempting to help my students (and extended family) recognize these categories more responsibly — preferably before they share them — I think it’s useful to remember Carl Sagan’s chapter on “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” from 1996.

E. S. Gosney Papers and Records of the Human Betterment Foundation

As part of my dissertation on privacy and technology, I’m looking into sterilization in the early part of the twentieth century. The E. S. Gosney Papers and Records of the Human Betterment Foundation have a number of archival records capturing information about these patients, especially those who were institutionalized.

Privacy, autonomy, and birth control in America, 1860-1900

Access to birth control became, controversially, protected by the “right to privacy” in 1965; a hundred years before, “procreation was a matter of public concern.” Yet, contradictorily and confusingly, Victorian women — and their bodies — were protected (and limited) by a powerful social division between private and public spheres.

Victorian domestic specialization and gender roles

As the Victorian version of separate spheres solidified in the mid-nineteenth century, the “idea of wifely sainthood gained ever more credence as housewives found themselves increasingly isolated from the male-operated world.”

Justice Scalia on the Constitution, privacy, and criminality

Justice Scalia once noted that “the Constitution sometimes
insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.”

Prohibition and the domestic home

The Volstead Act (implementing Prohibition), in keeping with American legal tradition, gave special recognition to the home and the private, domestic sphere.