Protecting the Precursors to Speech and Action

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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6 Responses

  1. Ryan Calo says:


    Thank you for this helpful follow up!


  2. Joe says:

    It is nice when the Constitution cares. It is so reassuring.

    Seriously, this is sort of where that “penumbra” and “emanations” stuff (rightly) comes in. Or, as Brennan noted in Lamont v. Postmaster

    “It is true that the First Amendment contains no specific guarantee of access to publications. However, the protection of the Bill of Rights goes beyond the specific guarantees to protect from congressional abridgment those equally fundamental personal rights necessary to make the express guarantees fully meaningful.”

    or as Douglas noted in Griswold:

    “freedom of speech and press includes not only the right to utter or to print, but the right to distribute, the right to receive, the right to read and freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought, and freedom to teach”

    I appreciate your work on fleshing out such things.

  3. Orin Kerr says:

    In your view, does the constitutional right to associational freedom also govern the interpretation of the Second and Third Amendments? Or does it only govern the First and Fourth?

  4. Ryan Calo says:

    Sorry, Deven, the other question is what the payoff is. What do we get out of protecting association with one versus another amendment? Thanks again!

    • Ryan Calo says:

      Deven, my question was a little thin, apologies. Please let me elaborate. What I like about your project is the recognition that the Fourth Amendment “cares” about association. You cite People v. Weaver where a New York appellate court says so expressly, years before Jones perhaps implies it. I had personally failed to make this connection and like that you’re developing it here.

      The logic behind Weaver—and correct me if I’m wrong—seems to be that a citizen’s expectation of privacy in public and/or information in the hands of third parties is actually one that society should be prepared to accept as reasonable, in part because the association right is involved. I think that’s an elegant argument, but note that your project shies away from reasonableness, which you characterize (at *12) as something of “a black hole.”

      Hence I’m wondering, on your view, (1) how the Fourth Amendment’s concern over association should manifest in practice and (2) how this manifestation differs from the remedy (or lack thereof) for associational harms under the First Amendment.

      Again, thanks for taking aim at the heart of a difficult problem in privacy. I enjoyed reading your draft an am eager to hear more of your views here. Best,


  5. Deven says:

    Orin, have not reached your question in all honesty. It could be that the logic I think I see in First and Fourth is in the Second and Third. Quick (and perhaps ill-advised) response, Third Amendment probably has historical and other connections to the idea, but I’d want to read up and dig a bit before I say anything certain.

    Interesting idea though. Did you have anything in particular in mind that you think should apply or where I ought to look to bolster or rethink my argument?