General Question

ibstubro's avatar

How much do you agree or disagree with this premise: "Americans do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when on public property."?

Asked by ibstubro (18765points) February 13th, 2015

Do you believe that when you are on public property, you have no expectation of privacy? That anything you are displaying or transmitting is fair game for law enforcement.

Derived from this op/ed piece: Your location data is your life, and police want it all.

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33 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Good reason to live in Canada, EH.
I’ve worked high security conditions in Engineering and Manufacturing. We always assumed that all phone calls were tapped and e-mails were being intercepted. My vehicle was logged in and out of areas, that was many years ago.

jca's avatar

I feel that when I’m out in public, anything I do can and may be used by others, including law enforcement and anyone with a camera. If I don’t want to be seen doing something, I don’t do it in public.

flutherother's avatar

If you are in a public place you can expect that the public can see you. How can you expect privacy?

rojo's avatar

I think that the authorities are using the old “If you are not doing anything wrong then why are you worried?” argument.

Many, if not most citizens take the opposite tack that nothing they do is the governments business UNLESS they am doing something illegal Unless, of course, when whipped into a frenzy of fear by the government with tacit assistance from the media it ain’t news unless you can sensationalize it

Coloma's avatar

Honestly, I don’t even think about it as I have nothing to hide, publicly or privately.
I suppose I wouldn’t whip out my sex toys in a public place though or light up a wee bi o’ the herbal essence. At home, well…that’s my biz. lol

sahID's avatar

Great answer, @Coloma, and one I completely agree with. When I am out & about I simply ignore anyone who might be watching. Of course, in virtually any store these days, from the time you approach the doors until after you leave, you are being surveilled, whether the cameras are visible or not.

Extending this slightly, it has been reported multiple times that store loyalty cards allow the store to link everything you purchase to you by name. Whether that is true or not is a question I have no clue about. Even if it is true, that possibility still does not stop me from buying whatever I want. After all, I am not into buying illegal substances or items, so there is nothing for me to worry about. Is there?

Coloma's avatar

@sahID You know, I think that is true, I saw a murder documentary recently, like a Dateline or 48 Hours and they tracked this guy at a Home Depot on the surveillience cameras and were able to link his purchase with his name and debit/credit card. He was buying like a shovel, duct tape, rope and garbage bags. haha Uh…do you think he killed his wife? lol

livelaughlove21's avatar

Considering “in public” is the opposite of “in private,” I’d say that’s it’s a safe assumption to make that things you do in public are not private.

JLeslie's avatar

Transmitting? What does that mean?

I know I don’t have privacy on public property, but I do kind of expect a quiet conversation I have with someone on a park bench isn’t being recorded.

ibstubro's avatar

Here’s an example I thought of this morning:

I live in an area that is know for a high rate of meth and other drug production.

I have a friend of mine that regularly (once a week or so) travels the two lane highways to a college town an hour and ½ half south. He leaves here loaded with like-sized boxes and comes back empty. There’s no record of delivery or transaction of any kind. After a short stint on the interstate he turns onto a rural, 2 lane road. A couple of hours later, he turns back home and retraces his route.
Now, if there are license plate readers recording traffic along the route, would he not be a likely suspect for a drug stop? Suspicious behavior?

In fact he’s delivering junk to an antique mall. There’s no record of transaction because he rents a spot and gets a check once a month.

In case you missed this sub-link in the story cites above.

“The appeals court that heard the GPS tracking case said it best :
A person who knows all of another’s travels can deduce whether he is a weekly churchgoer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.
Location data isn’t some hazy abstraction of your life; it is your life, and the government has no business recording it without a warrant.”

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

These days I expect that my movements will be monitored. If I drive on a public road, cameras will pick up where I’ve been. If I walk on the street, again, cameras are likely to capture my movements. I also know that government authorities do monitor and log people’s activities for all sorts of reasons. I’ve read through people’s ASIO files and seen the data they collected 30 years ago so I know there is much more being collected now. I don’t agree with such monitoring but it’s happening and I expect it.

However, I don’t agree with private conversations between myself and someone having coffee to be recorded. I don’t think messages I transmit on my phone should be recorded. However, what I expect or think is reasonable and what happens are two different things. Communications made on my phone might be intercepted and recorded and legislation currently being proposed in Australia will make this almost a certainty. I don’t think that’s appropriate but it’s happening.

anniereborn's avatar

Pretty much unless I am in my own home or that of a family member or close friends, I feel vulnerable. A lot of that has to do with social media though. And I am not doing anything illegal to even worry about, but it still feels weird. I am not of the “everything phone” generation, that takes pics and records videos and can be uploaded to anywhere on the internet.

Zaku's avatar

The “expectation of privacy” is a lie. It’s a misleading way to state what should be the question. It leads one to think, “heck, that’d be silly, to expect privacy in public”

It also makes it an issue of what we expect, rather than what we have a right to, or what we would like to have a right to.

As this is supposedly a democracy, I’d prefer to be asked, “Would you like to have a right to not be identified, tracked and recorded everywhere you go unless it is your own privately-owned property?” The answer is yes, I would.

Privacy is one thing. Being watched, photographed, recorded, having my movements and transactions put into a database for later possible (ab)use, is, in my opinion, horrible, stifling, and evil. And should not be allowed in a country that says it has a constitution that allows me life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It sucks some of my will to live to be monitored and tracked, it substantially impairs my liberty, and it sure as heck makes me unhappy, having been made to sing songs about the “land of liberty” when I was a kid.

Oh, so what do I have to hide? Only my utter contempt for my nation’s backslide into corruption, cowardice, world domination, police state bullshit, etc.

ibstubro's avatar

Increasingly, law enforcement is seeing your conversation in the park as fair game, @JLeslie. Not just eavesdropped on, but subject to recording and storage.

I don’t find it appropriate, either, @Earthbound_Misfit, but the US seems to be leading the pack on the Western World tracking and recording the daily actions of innocent citizens. What US law enforcement gets by with, the rest of the “civilized world” is tempted to try.

I think that ‘weird’ feeling is healthy, @anniereborn, and I think a lot of people with children should be considering the ramifications for their future more than the present state.

I’ll bow to your superior wording and description, @Zaku. It more nearly defines what I meant, but there’s such a fine line between common conversation and making common people’s eyes glaze over. I try to put my questions in a non-paranoid sounding format and hope that the links will raise people’s awareness.

By and large, that approach is not working.

JLeslie's avatar

I know it can be listened to and recorded, but my mind doesn’t think in terms of it actually happening. By contrast I am very aware anyone can take a photo of me.

anniereborn's avatar

I just always think that there can’t be anything that interesting about me that they would care about.

JLeslie's avatar

Unrelated, but related, my neighbor back 15 years ago came over to my house one day to tell me he can hear everything I say on the phone. His new phone had the same signal or something.

ibstubro's avatar

“Caring about” is the issue, @anniereborn.
Collecting and storing data on people that are ‘not interesting’ at the time and then trying to make suppositions based on the stored data is the problem.

Say you take your lunch every day and drive a couple blocks to eat at a bench in front of a small market. EZPass is recording your movements. Eventually the market is raided as a terrorist cell. Are you not going to be a ‘person of interest’?

ibstubro's avatar

I actually think I have the dimmest of memories of being on a party line, @JLeslie, when I was a wee tot.

JLeslie's avatar

When I was a kid lines would get “crossed” and I would hear other conversations. That was before portable phones. Party lines are a little before my time.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@ibstubro, when it comes to surveillance of its citizens, I think the UK has already taken the lead. London is reported to be the most surveilled city in the world. You can’t travel far in the UK without a camera picking your movements up.

JLeslie's avatar

I would say the UK probably is like that because they had such a consistent threat of terrorism during a time that all the camera and computer technology was developing. The timing was a perfect combination, and from what I can tell they have been focused on it, and the public has believed in threats longer than most other western countries. Whether it have started with IRA or Muslim extremists doesn’t matter.

ibstubro's avatar

Interesting, @Earthbound_Misfit.
Makes sense. The older parts of the city would be much easier to surveil than wider, more open cities. The American SW would be a nightmare to try to nail down.
Is this article accurate in that areas with cameras are posted? That would be a vast difference from what we’re talking about in the US. And someone, somewhere, [the US?] is writing software that can read and discern patterns via voice and face recognition (among other things) without human participation.

Nullo's avatar

Anything that you do in public is automatically not private. Displays and broadcasts especially, since the formats are by their very natures one-to-many, unless you encrypt them.
The real issue, I think, lies with what people do with what they find – a cultural issue.
There certainly seems to be a tendency towards police militarism and paranoia that I would like to see reversed.

jca's avatar

Every day on the news (NYC news), there’s a crime committed where they show camera footage of the perpetrator’s face, asking the public if they have seen this man (or woman) and asking for the public’s help. Armed robberies, a pregnant woman who had a guy come up behind her, jump up and kick her in the back, knocking her over and taking her phone, the Hasidic kid who was walking home from school and was abducted and killed, the list goes on and on because it’s a daily occurrence. I find it comforting that there’s hope to catch criminals using this method. I know if I were the victim or a relative of the victim, I’d be especially happy knowing there’s a greater chance the criminal will be caught. To me, giving up some privacy for good work like this is worth the sacrifice.

ibstubro's avatar

I agree that video surveillance has become an almost necessary evil in urban settings, @jca. Where is the footage coming from? Government sources, government access to private sources, or a combination of the two? I suspect it’s a combination, and that’s as it should be. The premise that the government has the responsibility to track every citizen’s every move for the common good is the heart of the matter.

Where does it end, is the question. We’re in an age where the citizenry can be tracked by select video, by phone or any other electronic device, by car license plate. If you have a cam or a mic, they can be activated from remote location and voice recognition software can ‘understand’ and interpret your actions and conversations.
IMO everyone needs to be concerned about this intrusion. We’re at the time and place where limits and boundaries need to be set for the government to protect ourselves and future generations from unlimited intrusions into our daily lives.

They set guideline for drones this week. Or did they?
Draw a short line from your daughter to upskirting to legal personal drones.

Technology is far outstripping government guidelines for it’s use and restrictions and the common American is saying, “Meh. I don’t care. I’m not doing anything wrong.

Who is safeguarding you from the people who are intent to do harm, surreptitiously?

Zaku's avatar

Having the (corporate) “news” showing crimes from security cameras is a way to get people to accept having cameras everywhere. Sure it’s useful to catch actual harm being done to actual innocent people. But there is a less obvious and potentially much larger price.

@ibstubro “Almost necessary evil in urban settings”? What about the centuries where there have been urban settings before there were any security cameras?

ibstubro's avatar

Are you referring to the centuries prior to the last one and ½, where there were no semi-automatic weapons, electricity, automobiles, radio, telephone or television? If security cameras had been invented first, I have no doubt they would have been installed at that time, @Zaku.

Zaku's avatar

@ibstubro I’m referring to ever since people started putting video cameras all over the place. I suppose it started getting bad about the 1990’s when cheap computerized ones were available. That leaves almost all of the 20th Century for cities to have electricity, semi-automatic weapons, automobiles, and for most of it, radio telephones and TV. The cameras were not necessary then, and aren’t now.

Whether something can be done and should be done… should be two different things. When they’re not, life tends to suck more than it needs to.

ibstubro's avatar

I gave a scenario early in this thread that directly related to your post on my other privacy question, @Zaku, so I didn’t repeat it there. I do not disagree with you.

Here’s another scenario:
This Sunday we had an auction at our auction house that’s in what amounts to a trailer park in the sticks. There’s a 5000 sq ft building backed by lean-toos, under which we park hay wagons filled with stuff we’ll sell. About 8:30–9 we loaded a few ‘better’ things on the wagons…socket set, air compressor, etc. By 10:20 or so, the socket set and a number of other things had been stolen, and there was a car and truck backed up brazenly loading an air conditioner, the air compressor and other stuff in the truck. An employee caught them and in the heat of the moment they unloaded and left. No license number, no nothing. Caught red handed.
It’s a pretty safe bet that if you visit out auction two weeks from now, you’ll be on camera. The local farmer was telling us what a good deal he got on the cameras he had to buy to cut down on theft. There are too many ways to re-sell stolen goods today.

Zaku's avatar

@ibsturbo I understand that crime happens, and that security cameras can be useful for security, even by private likeable citizens. However I personally would prefer not to have cameras all over the place recording all sorts of stuff all the time (and especially not done by companies and governments with databases on them). I’d like it if when security cameras were used, they were supposed to be obvious, and would tend to automatically erase their records after a few days if nothing was found. Given the choice, I would prefer to live pre-recording, and have people provide live security when needed, and have more “bad people get away with more stuff” than to have everyone have to live with the expectation they may be recorded practically at any time.

ibstubro's avatar

Perhaps, @Zaku, your argument should be that anyone may install security cameras, but the video is only accessible to law enforcement for the investigation of a crime?

Security cameras in remote locations can not be obvious, or they will be destroyed.

Zaku's avatar

@ibstubro I would prefer such a law to the absence of one. But personally, I would prefer people have a right to destroy security cameras recording public areas without permission and warning, than that people have a right to operate security cameras in public areas, or the right to conceal security cameras. If my actions are being recorded, I think I should at least have a right to know it.

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