Home, Home on the Web and other Fourth Amendment Implications of Technosocial Change

Privacy and Security, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Internet

Article Snapshot


Katherine Strandburg


Maryland Law Review, Vol. 70, No. 3, pp. 614-680, 2011


Compares the traditional notions of “privacy” and the private activities with technologies such as digital social media.

Policy Relevance

This paper argues that Fourth Amendment protection must be expanded to take into account the fundamental effects the Internet and related technologies have had on social interactions and behavior.

Main Points

  • Technological advancements such as cloud computing and digital social media infiltrate our daily lives on a profound level and have become inextricably linked to the world in which we live.
  • Such technologies enable users to perform activities in cyberspace which were once confined to the privacy of the home or office (paying bills, storing private information, communicating with friends).
  • While the law has always sought to protect the privacy of one’s home, office, and similar spaces, the traditional limitations of Fourth Amendment protection do not reflect the intertwined social and technological effects of widespread use of digital media.
  • Fourth Amendment doctrine should be based upon a principle of “technosocial continuity” in which the law evolves to reflect the role new technology plays in people’s lives, as it did in the 1960s in providing Fourth Amendment protection to telephone conversations.
  • Thus, the Fourth Amendment should apply to law enforcement surveillance of cloud storage and social networking sites, to the extent that they are not left open to the public at large by their users.
  • Aggressive interpretations of the “third party doctrine,” which imply that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in any communication involving an intermediary (such as an ISP), are inconsistent with Supreme Court interpretations of the Fourth Amendment in the physical world, have never been applied by the Supreme Court to the online context, and should be abandoned.

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