Does familiarity with technology affect the way judges vote on privacy?
Judges with daughters are more likely to vote in favor of women’s rights than ones with only sons. Or so reports the New York Times, citing a study by Maya Sen and Adam Glynn. The study, which considered about 2500 votes by 224 appeals court judges, found that having a daughter “corresponds to a 7 percent increase in the proportion of cases in which a judge will vote in a feminist direction.”
These findings, some would argue, confirm what many already assumed to be true. Personal experience matters in judicial decision making, at least if by “matters” we mean “has predictive force.” (Whether it should matter is of course a different issue, which others have written about extensively).
Assuming there’s some truth to this, is there a corollary in the context of privacy rulings? Is part of the reason the Supreme Court ruled one way in Jones and another in Florence that all the justices ride in cars, while none are likely to be strip searched in a jail cell? Are judges who emigrated from totalitarian regimes more sensitive to the perils of government overreach?
What about when the question involves the privacy implications of emerging technologies? If a judge is an avid smartphone user, does that make her more likely to rule in a way that protects smartphones from warrantless searches? Would a judge that uses the internet be more likely to protect the privacy of online search or browsing history? What about email or social media use?
Exposure to technology could of course cut both ways. Perhaps tech savvy judges will be more used to — and therefore more amenable to — daily tradeoffs between privacy and convenience. Or perhaps familiarity with technology simply gives judges more nuanced attitudes towards privacy, but does not affect their overall voting pattern on privacy/tech issues one way or another.
If there are law students out there looking for an interesting research project, it would be fascinating to see if there’s a correlation between judicial age, or other factors reasonably associated with tech savvy, and judicial decision making on legal issues involving privacy and emerging technologies — and if so, which way it cuts. And if readers know of existing work in this area, do share.