Privacy violations are destructive, no matter the perpetrator, but governmental privacy violations can cast a particularly long and destructive shadow. In 2017, when the Department of Justice revealed the texts and extramarital affair of public servants to the press and the President amplified that information in a years-long smear campaign, the harm was incalculable. The injury to those individuals included job losses, stained reputations, physical danger, and emotional suffering. To the public, the message was clear: the government can’t be trusted to handle intimate data with care. In the wake of privacy violations at the hands of powerful government actors, we must recognize the wrongs done to individuals and the public. Existing law provides some relief, but the government’s own actions must play a part. At every branch and level, state and federal, the government must work to restore public confidence in its data-handling practices. A key step would be to recognize intimate privacy as a foundational right.

Danielle Citron, Presidential Privacy Violations, 2022 University of Illinois Law Review, 1913–1942 (2022).