Habeas Data: Comparative Constitutional Interventions from Latin America Against Neoliberal States of Insecurity and Surveillance
32 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2015
Date Written: 2015
To cultivate the next twenty years of LatCrit theory, praxis, and community, the afterword looks back to LatCrit’s Critical Global Classroom (2003-04) (CGC), an ABA-accredited summer study-abroad program. The CGC invited U.S. law students to study comparative constitutionalism, law and society, and truth and reconciliation movements while sojourning Chile, Argentina, and South Africa under the question: “Shall the recent history of the Global South become the imminent fate of the Global North?” While enrolled in the 2004 CGC, the author learned about the extraordinary constitutional writ of habeas data, which various Latin American countries adopted as they reconstituted their democracies from the wreckage of the fascist military dictatorships that terrorized their peoples in the second half of the twentieth century.
Habeas data enables individuals to petition their government, and certain private entities, to learn what information has been kept on them and for what purposes, as well as to challenge, rectify, and even delete such information. With the recent revelations of the National Security Agency’s massive electronic surveillance of people throughout and beyond the United States, learning about habeas data could constitute a vital intervention for the discourse of U.S.-based legal scholars writing in English, as well as for the community of critical socio-legal scholars who affiliate with LatCrit. To both constituencies, the afterword urges attending carefully to the terrible histories that birthed habeas data, while being cognizant of their continuities with today’s “neoliberal states of insecurity and surveillance,” in order to fashion a strategic alliance capable of grounding habeas data rights within the United States Constitution.
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