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Caselaw Visualizations

“Privacy”

The COVID-19 global pandemic has already raised a number of serious privacy concerns. One such concern is the fear that the surveillance tools used by governments around the world to track and contain the spread of disease will not be discontinued once the pandemic is over. As Bloomberg News reported in its April 5 article Pandemic Data-Sharing Puts New Pressure on Privacy Protections:

“‘There is an understandable desire to marshal all tools that are at our disposal to help confront the pandemic,’ said Michael Kleinman, director of Amnesty International’s Silicon Valley Initiative. ‘Yet countries’ efforts to contain the virus must not be used as an excuse to create a greatly expanded and more intrusive digital surveillance system.'”

Bloomberg News, by Ben Brody & Naomi Nix

Social distancing has also led educational and governmental institutions to hastily adopt video conferencing software exposing themselves to security and privacy vulnerabilities.

“As Americans and others around the world attempt to continue working, learning, socializing, and more, the videoconferencing program has become an essential service, going from 10 million daily call participants at the end of 2019 to 200 million in March. But Zoom’s ballooning popularity is also resulting in newfound scrutiny over the software’s privacy flaws—including, potentially, from the Federal Trade Commission.”

Vanity Fair Hive, by Alison Durkee

This surge in news over privacy concerns led to the following analysis of the term “privacy” in American state caselaw.


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Instructions: Explore the interactive data visualizations on this site by clicking on the data points you wish to learn more about. On wider screens, depending on the type of visualization, you may see the option to display only the states you wish to learn more about on certain types of charts.

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If you had to guess which state disproportionately discusses the topic of privacy, what state would you guess? By proportion of cases, the winner is Alaska. By word frequency, the winner is Hawaii. Why do you think the courts of the lower 48 states have a lower proportion of cases and text discussing “privacy” than the courts of Alaska and Hawaii?


<methodology>

Word frequency for each state is determined by dividing the number of times the word “privacy” appears over the total number of words each state’s corpus (the total combined body of caselaw).

Word Frequency =(Word Count of Privacy)/(Total Word Count)

Case frequency for each state is determined by dividing the number of cases that contain “privacy” over the total number of cases in each state.

Case Frequency =(Cases that Contain Privacy)/(Total Number of Cases)

</methodology>



The raw number of privacy-containing cases in California and New York, however, outnumber all others as the following bubble chart demonstrates.



Do you have any guesses or explanations about the findings shown above? Do you have any additional visualizations concerning privacy and law? Let me know @JoaoMarinotti on Twitter. This post is part of the Caselaw Visualizer Project. For a description of the dataset and the processes used to generate these visualizations, click here. The data was made available by the Harvard Law School Library’s Case Access Project (found at Case.Law). For information about me, click here.