Catholic University Law Review


Emily Bushman


The development and proliferation of the Internet, GPS, cell phones, social media, and the associated data that support these now ubiquitous technologies have created a new ecosystem of information making up a person’s digital identity. Our digital footprints have traditionally been subject to different levels of privacy protection depending upon the kind of data at issue. Over time, court decisions have revealed tensions and a lack of consistency on the question of how the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment apply to an individual’s digital footprint and their reasonable expectations of privacy over it. This Comment will examine the gaps in the current landscape of U.S. privacy protections in the absence of federally explicit legislative protections. First, it will examine current federal statutory privacy law and the piecemeal approach through which certain areas of information or categories of individuals are protected. Next, it will examine the development of the Supreme Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence as applied to individual privacy rights. It will then analyze the gaps in privacy protection in both statutory and case law and recommend a unified federal statutory approach to ensure that currently legal uses of data do not, when aggregated, yield an impermissibly intrusive infringement of the privacy rights of U.S. citizens in violation of the spirit of the Fourth Amendment’s protections. It will recommend a legislative solution to fill those gaps, provide a clear expression of how certain kinds of data can and cannot be used, and ensure these critical protections are applied equally to all, regardless of the state in which any individual lives.