Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Expectation of privacy" -- going, going....

Congress is on a path to use colleges and universities to eliminate any expectation of privacy in using one's computer in doing one's school work, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, and ultimately ending any meaningful concept of "expectation of privacy."

To prevent cheating and plagiarism, the Higher Education Act, (versions of which have passed both the House and Senate) will have students mount surveillance cameras on their computers to record them and their keystrokes as they think, research, and write.

Of course, such cameras in students' rooms will often inevitably view a student's bed or closet. Unless they are "turned off," and how can we know if they are ever really off, they would record students' most intimate behavior. This is a foreseeable and inevitable result. We are about to move from lamenting the exhibitionism of students posing before video cams to requiring it.

From the perspective of the protections of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, circumstances in which a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy are not subject to the constitutional warrant requirement to precede a search (Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347, 88 S.Ct. 507 (1967), Justice Harlan, concurring). Once no one really thinks that they have any privacy in a place, then whether they are observed or not does not really matter for the purposes of arguing that no warrant is required.

Oh, and for all those occasions in which the video camera is simply on? Think about how much it easier it will be to conduct investigations and prosecutions for underage drinking or possession and consumption of prohibited drugs, etc. Instead of hilarious instances of "jackasses" who videotape their transgressions, many transgressions -- minor and major-- will now be unintentionally observed, transmitted and recorded.

Of course with all the intimate activity unintentionally being put on line, it will be easier to be a "peeping Tom." A significant fraction of distance learning students are high school students taking college-level courses. For child pornography purposes, a person is a child until he or she turns 18 years old (18 U.S.C. 2256(1)). This is good news for the courts (NOT). Prosecutors will have many more opportunities to bring child pornography prosecutions once this is required.

Do you think Congress has thought about any of this?

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Privacy in dormitory hall ways?

Do college students have a reasonable expectation of privacy for Fourth Amendment purposes in the hallway of their dormitory outside their dorm room?

A panel of the Court of Appeals for the State of Washington (Division III) ruled that they do. State of Washington v. Jacob Sterling Houvenor, No. 25332-5-III, June 26, 2008.

The story was reported in the Wenatchee (WA) World on July 9.

Sphere: Related Content