Tag Archives: fourth amendment

CEI Podcast for March 10, 2011: Keeping Private Data Private

Have a listen here.

Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia talks about how to prevent data privacy violations in the Internet age. Your data may be safe if it’s stored on your personal hard drive. But if it’s in the cloud, as with Gmail or Dropbox accounts, you can’t count on the Fourth Amendment to protect you against unreasonable search and seizure. Radia suggests some reforms to outdated laws to better reflect today’s technological realities.

Regulation of the Day 152: Locking Your Car Door

Most car thefts happen to unlocked cars. The government of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, thinks it can help. It plans to issue $25 fines to people who forget to lock their cars. First-time violators get off with a warning.

Bear in mind that enforcing this policy involves police systematically trying to break into peoples’ cars. First, that’s inherently creepy. Second, that’s a significant privacy violation. It’s also a Fourth Amendment issue. If an officer stumbles upon something illegal and decides to prosecute, he has performed a warrantless search.

It’s also a safety issue. If a thief decides to play dress-up and look like an officer, he could very easily steal valuables from parked cars in broad daylight and no one would be the wiser.

One more problem to add to the pile is corruption. A legitimate officer might be tempted to give himself a quick pay raise at a forgetful car owner’s expense. Policing for profit is all too common.

Better for the government to stay out of this one.

When TSA Agents Attack

For most people, the TSA is merely an annoyance. We grudgingly play our part in security theater so we can get where we’re going. But for Kathy Parker, the TSA is something far more serious (via Steve Horwitz):

“Everything in my purse was out, including my wallet and my checkbook. I had two prescriptions in there. One was diet pills. This was embarrassing. A TSA officer said, ‘Hey, I’ve always been curious about these. Do they work?’

“I was just so taken aback, I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

What happened next, she says, was more than embarrassing. It was infuriating.

That same screener started emptying her wallet. “He was taking out the receipts and looking at them,” she said.

“I understand that TSA is tasked with strengthening national security but [it] surely does not need to know what I purchased at Kohl’s or Wal-Mart,” she wrote in her complaint, which she sent me last week.

She says she asked what he was looking for and he replied, “Razor blades.” She wondered, “Wouldn’t that have shown up on the metal detector?”

In a side pocket she had tucked a deposit slip and seven checks made out to her and her husband, worth about $8,000.

Her thought: “Oh, my God, this is none of his business.”

Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.

“It’s an indication you’ve embezzled these checks,” she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn’t before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. “That’s my money,” she remembers saying. The officer’s reply? “It’s not your money.”

Read the whole thing. If the Fourth Amendment had any force anymore, the TSA would have been abolished years ago. It is well past time for President Obama and Congress to consider that step. It would certainly do wonders for them in the polls.