In a little over a week, President Trump will announce his pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court of the United States. We have been speculating and pontificating about who should get the nomination and what conservative qualities they would bring to the Court. However, we have ignored a rather important qualification for this next associate justice of the Supreme Court, as well as all future justices: digital literacy.
The Supreme Court of the United States will face an increasing number of cases that pertain to privacy, particularly digital privacy. By their own admission, the justices are not terribly computer literate. Chief Justice John Roberts is famous for writing his opinions by hand on a legal pad. Ruth Bader Ginsburg might be the Notorious RBG, but she most certainly does not understand the intricacies of Facebook’s privacy settings or even what a like is. It is important that our next associate justice and all future justices be familiar with digital technology, as it will help them make appropriate rulings in cases which they will decide.
The changing times and technologies have necessitated this requirement. As a society, we are more and more reliant on digital technology to perform our daily tasks. The younger you are, the more smartphones, computers and the internet itself (yes, even cat pics) are intertwined in our lives. So it is imperative that we have justices who know the technology that citizens are using.
Look at apps. Many users are unaware that the apps they are using are recording their geodata and other personal information. The companies then claim ownership of this acquired information that the user has unwittingly provided. It is a practice that we do not truly know is legal or not. Do consumers have the right to privacy? Or do companies have the right to mine Americans for every scrap of info they can gather? The Supreme Court has yet to weigh in.
Methods of discovery of electronic evidence (i.e. social media and other online activities) will also severely impact court proceedings on both the civil and the criminal sides. Questions will arise over how it is permissible to collect such information, as well as what methods are an invasion of privacy.
Does the Fourth Amendment protect a citizen’s digital activities from unlawful search and seizure by law enforcement? Does law enforcement still have to apply for a search warrant with a judge in order to view a person’s Facebook activity? The Supreme Court has yet to weigh in and offer its interpretation of what the Constitution allows for this or other digital activity.
Americans of all political persuasions should all want our next associate justice of the Supreme Court to be digitally literate and savvy. It will benefit us all, as having justices that understand how digital technology works will allow them to issue better and clearer rulings on the constitutionality of actions pertaining to the digital habits of Americans.
The United States deserves justices that understand the very technology that they are being asked to rule on. Let’s hope that President Trump nominates an associate justice of the Supreme Court that is digitally literate.