The Third-Party Doctrine and the Third Person
47 Pages Posted: 23 May 2013 Last revised: 1 Nov 2017
Date Written: May 22, 2013
According to the Third-Party Doctrine, a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information that has been shared with others – including a bank, a phone company, or a credit card company. The doctrine got its start through an appeal to a locatable observer who corresponds, in literary terms, to a narrator with a limited perspective. This is the kind of perspective that courts have traditionally emphasized when explaining how to assess probable cause. The Third-Party Doctrine turns the limited perspective into an omniscient one. The doctrine takes apparently private conduct and classifies it as public, effectively treating the perspective of the “arresting officer” as if it could encompass large quantities of information, widely distributed in space and time.
The discussion here examines a recent defense of the Third-Party Doctrine that similarly collapses the limited and omniscient viewpoints. Then, after exploring the narrative analogy by reference to literary analyses of the omniscient narrator in Victorian fiction, the discussion ends by considering the analogy in relation to contemporary modes of omniscient narration.
Keywords: Third-Party Doctrine, Fourth Amendment, search and seizure, legal theory, common law, law and narrative, narratology, omniscient perspective
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation