From the turnabout-is-fair-play dept., we bring you this brilliant demonstration of why the law should recognize an expectation of privacy in our trash when we put it out at the curb. NOTE: the report originally was published in 2002, but was updated in December, 2017.
Chris Lydgate and Nick Budnick report for the Willamette Week. Exercising what Portland Police had said was legal conduct, they went sorting through the trash of some Multnomah County officials who had firmly claimed that if you put your garbage at the curb, it’s fair game/publicly available to police (and anyone else, for that matter).
Now keep in mind, that not everyone agrees with that proposition, including a a judge who – – pardon the pun – rubbished that claim by ruling that scrutinizing garbage is an invasion of privacy and that police must obtain a search warrant before seizing and/or searching it.
“Personal and business correspondence, photographs, personal financial information, political mail, items related to health concerns and sexual practices are all routinely found in garbage receptacles,” Maurer wrote. The fact that a person has put these items out for pick-up, she said, “does not suggest an invitation to others to examine them.”
Yeah, what she said. Except that there’s no expectation of privacy in public, remember?
So she ruled in a pro-privacy direction, and the D.A. intends to challenge the ruling. And in the meantime, the local press decided to provide a useful demonstration to augment the public discussion.
After much debate, we resolved to turn the tables on three of our esteemed public officials. We embarked on an unauthorized sightseeing tour of their garbage, to make a point about how invasive a “garbage pull” really is–and to highlight the government’s ongoing erosion of people’s privacy.
We chose District Attorney Mike Schrunk because his office is the most vocal defender of the proposition that your garbage is up for grabs. We chose Police Chief Mark Kroeker because he runs the bureau. And we chose Mayor Vera Katz because, as police commissioner, she gives the chief his marching orders.
Read what happened next on Willamette Weekly. The reporters spare no details about what they found in their inspection of trash from these individuals. It’s gorgeous.
h/t, Brad Heath