An interesting issue is emerging in a Seattle case involving the extent to which the police can use ploys to gather people’s DNA. According to a news story:
A story from Wired [link no longer available] describes the latest Internet shaming episode:
There have been some interesting discussions recently about people taking matters into their own hands and shaming others whom they witness committing crimes. A while back, I wrote about the shaming of the dog poop girl, whose picture and personal information were placed on a website after she failed to clean up her dog’s poop on the subway. Kaimi Wenger also had some interesting thoughts about the case here and here, as well as did Marcy Peek in a post about Internet vigilantism. Just the other day, Brooks Holland writes about a case involving the shaming of a NYC subway flasher, where a woman caught a picture of him on her cell phone camera and posted it online.
Cutler’s blog, written under the pseudonym Washingtonienne, was a daily diary of her sex life while working as a staffer for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio). It recounted, entertainingly and in considerable — sometimes embarrassing — detail, her ongoing relationships with six men, including [the] plaintiff. . . .
Although McClurg notes that the plaintiff “suffered a genuine wrong,” he also states that the law “appears to be against him” because he “does not allege that any of the statements about him are untrue.” McClurg notes that the plaintiff is suing under the public disclosure of private facts tort, which “provides a remedy when one publicizes private, embarrassing, non-newsworthy facts about a person in a manner that reasonable people would find highly offensive.” McClurg notes that “while Cutler’s actions may meet this standard, courts have long been hostile to such lawsuits because of a fear of inhibiting free speech.” McClurg continues:
In 1989 the court tossed out a lawsuit against a newspaper for publishing a rape victim’s name in violation of Florida law. While it stopped short of ruling that a state may never punish true speech, the test it adopted for when that can be done without violating the First Amendment is so stringent Justice Byron White lamented in dissent that the court had “obliterate[d]” the public disclosure tort.
Not so. Time after time the Supreme Court has explicitly carved out space for the public disclosure tort to exist. In the series of cases involving the First Amendment and privacy restrictions on true speech, the Court has always confined the First Amendment to speech about matters “of public significance.” The Court did this in Smith v. Daily Mail Pub. Co., 443 U.S. 97, 103 (1979) as well as its most recent case on the issue, Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001), where the Court held that “privacy concerns give way when balanced against the interest in publishing matters of public importance.” Id. at 534.
Two notable differences are: (1) the form from Citibank’s website has a toll free phone number you can call to opt out; the form in the letter does not; (2) the addresses of the processing centers where the opt out forms are to be sent are different.
So my friend then called Citibank to find out what was going on. Had a fraudster acquired a card in her name? Was the letter an elaborate fishing scheme?
My friend recounted the conversation the best she could so I could recreate it on this blog. This is reconstructed from her memory, so it’s not exact. Although the transcript below doesn’t contain the precise words spoken, it hopefully will capture the gist of the conversation.
Click on the continuation to read more.
According to the AP [link no longer available]:
Infants have been stopped from boarding planes at airports throughout the United States because their names are the same as or similar to those of possible terrorists on the government’s “no-fly list.”
It sounds like a joke, but it’s not funny to parents who miss flights while scrambling to have babies’ passports and other documents faxed.
Ingrid Sanden’s 1-year-old daughter was stopped in Phoenix, Arizona, before boarding a flight home to Washington at Thanksgiving.
“I completely understand the war on terrorism, and I completely understand people wanting to be safe when they fly,” Sanden said. “But focusing the target a little bit is probably a better use of resources.”
The government’s lists of people who are either barred from flying or require extra scrutiny before being allowed to board airplanes grew markedly since the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Critics including the American Civil Liberties Union say the government doesn’t provide enough information about the people on the lists, so innocent passengers can be caught up in the security sweep if they happen to have the same name as someone on the lists. . . .
But for now, airlines still have the duty to check passengers’ names against those supplied by the government.
That job has become more difficult — since the 2001 attacks the lists have swelled from a dozen or so names to more than 100,000 names, according to people in the aviation industry who are familiar with the issue. They asked not to be identified by name because the exact number is restricted information.
To nobody’s surprise, my colleague and electronic surveillance law expert extraordinaire Orin Kerr at the VC beat everybody to the punch in announcing that the 1st Circuit reversed the panel in United States v. Councilman. As Kerr concisely explains the panel decision in an earlier post:
This great cartoon by Tom Toles (Washington Post) captures what I’ve been blogging about (here, here, and here) with regard to national security, terrorism, and privacy. We’re spending tons of money on elaborate ways to detect terrorists, such as Secure Flight, data mining, searches of bags in NYC subways, and so on. Meanwhile, we’re not giving sufficient attention to an even greater threat — a potential bird flu pandemic.