Privacy of One’s Wallet

The People v Long case cited in today’s earlier Stop & Identify post was superseded by a later appellate decision (People v Long, 189 Cal. App. 3d 377 (1987)), but its treatment of the constitutional propriety of requiring Long to produce identification was not changed.  Police conducting a premises check of a bar spotted what appeared to be a minor female with Long.  He told police his name but denied having identification on him. “Officer Luca noticed a wallet-sized bulge in his rear pants pocket. He then asked defendant for written identification. Defendant said he had none. The officer then directed defendant to look through his wallet, believing it must have contained identification.”  When defendant turned away from Officer Luca to look in his wallet Luca “turned him back so he could see what he was doing” and observed “several open, clear, plastic baggies or bindles he recognized as common methamphetamine packaging.”  The trial court denied Long’s motion to suppress the evidence seized from his wallet.  The appellate court reviewed “the constitutional propriety of the police officer’s directive to defendant, a lawfully detained person, that he produce written identification”–an issue on which there was then no direct federal or California decision.  The court “recognize[d] there exists a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of one’s wallet, including identifying information.”  In the context of a Terry stop that reasonable expectation of privacy is balanced by legitimate state interests:

The voluntary display of identification is a routine experience for most of us. Measured against the obvious and substantial need for police recording the identity of a person suspected of having committed a crime, we find reasonable the minimal intrusion involved here in requiring the production of identification. In addition, defendant’s oral statement of his name was suspect when he insisted he had no identification while appearing to carry a wallet and, in addition, he seemed intoxicated.

The court upheld the constitutionality of the police requiring Long to produce his identification.  Note again that this issue arose during a Terry stop, absent which the police have no right to temporarily detain and question anyone.

Recently, in Internet law . . .

Here’s the First Commandment for the Study of Internet Law:  What the Internet was is not what the Internet shall always be.  A few more stories echoing the last post’s theme:

  • France’s Constitutional Council rejected the legislature’s attempt to thwart digital piracy by terminating Internet access for alleged illegal downloaders.  Under the legislative proposal “a newly created agency, acting on the recommendations of copyright owners, would have been able to order Internet service providers to shut down the accounts of copyright cheats who ignored two warnings to stop.”  The Council held the proposal violated French constitutional principles including the presumption of innocence and freedom of speech.
  • The on-again, off-again Italian trial of four Google executives on criminal defamation and privacy charges arising from Google’s failure to remove a YouTube video of the bullying of an autistic boy in Turin started again this week–and then stopped after one day, when a translator failed to appear.  The prosecution claims “that Google should have acted to prevent the broadcast of the footage and that by failing to do so it breached the disabled boy’s privacy.”  Google, in turn, claims it has no legal liability to monitor content posted by third-parties and that “seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open internet.”  The charges, which carry potential prison terms of three years, underscore the profound difference between U.S. and European Union privacy law and the importance of ISP liability immunity provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
  • NetChoice published its Internet Advocates Watchlist for Ugly Laws–“iAwful” to publicize “ the top ten worst proposed laws affecting ecommerce and open communications. . . . [The list’s] primary focus is on laws that will affect business, particularly by increasing taxes or dictating standards and practices that the group thinks are unworkable.”

Monitoring Employees

This report from The Guardian presents the results of a survey of British employment managers concerning Internet usage:

The survey found 65% of organisations monitored usage, rising to 86% in local government and 88% in the police. This led 65% of employers to block access to “inappropriate” sites, rising to 89% in local government and 90% in the utilities. Eighteen per cent of employers limited internet access to certain times of day, rising to 38% in the insurance industry.

The survey notes a generation gap concerning Internet usage.  Older managers considered the Internet “a massive timewaster” and “most young managers wanted to use the internet for research, professional development and other aspects of getting the job done.”

Maybe those older managers need more Facebook friends.