Is There a Right of Informational Privacy? Supreme Court Avoids the Issue in NASA Opinion


Debra Cassens Weiss
ABA Journal
January 19, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld background checks for NASA employees, but its opinion didn’t decide whether the Constitution protects a “right of informational privacy.”

The background checks are reasonable, employment-related inquiries, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in his opinion (PDF) for the court.

The 28 NASA workers challenging the background checks said the government had sought information about subjects ranging from their finances to their sex lives. Reuters has coverage of today’s opinion.

“We assume, without deciding, that the Constitution protects a privacy right of the sort” mentioned in two 1977 Supreme Court decisions, Alito wrote. “We hold, however, that the challenged portions of the government’s background check do not violate this right in the present case.”


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