This post was also written by John Hines, and Frederick Lah.

Just how much privacy are we entitled to in public places, such as public highways and buses, classrooms, restaurants, or even on the Internet? While we expect to lose some sense of privacy when we move into public spaces, does this mean that we should be subject to being recorded (and subsequently publicized on a site like YouTube) anytime we are in public? Two recent cases involving the recording of police officers highlight the debate surrounding these questions.

Back in April 2010, motorcyclist Anthony Graber was charged with violating Maryland’s wiretapping laws after he used a camera in his helmet to videotape a state trooper brandish his gun while stopping Graber for speeding. To see the YouTube Video, please click here.  The Maryland court dismissed the charges, providing that “[i]n this rapid information technology era in which we live, it is hard to imagine that either an offender or an officer would have any reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to what is said between them in a traffic stop on a public highway.”

Later, in March 2011, the ACLU, on behalf of Khaliah Fitchette, filed a complaint against the City of Newark, N.J. after Fitchette was handcuffed and detained for using her smart phone to record two police officers deal with a disorderly man on a bus. Fitchette was allegedly detained for two hours in the back of the squad car but no charges were filed against her. Fitchette’s phone was seized by the police and the video was deleted. The complaint alleges violations of the Fourth Amendment and Fitchette’s First Amendment right to record and disseminate the video. A decision has not yet been made on the case.Continue Reading Does “Public” Privacy Exist?

This post was also written by Chris Cwalina and Frederick Lah.

In VPR Internationale v. Does 1-1017 (C.D. Ill.), Judge Baker opined that Internet Protocol (“IP”) addresses do not — by themselves — qualify as personal information, capable of accurately identifying an individual. While this decision is a landmark ruling for the mass-BitTorrent lawsuits in that it may spell the end of the “pay-up-or-else-schemes”, it may have broader data privacy implications.

In VPR, plaintiff sought to sue over a thousand alleged copyright infringers. The plaintiff did not know the name of these Doe defendants. The plaintiff only knew the defendants by the IP address from which each defendant came. Plaintiff sought to subpoena the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) associated with each IP to learn the identity of each defendant. The court rejected this demand for expedited discovery.Continue Reading Judge Rules IP Address Does Not Identify User

This post was also written by Frederick Lah.

Standards for determining whether an employee has privacy rights with respect to an employer-issued communications device continue to develop. The analysis continues to be grounded in a detailed, fact-specific analysis of what the employee has been told, and permitted to do, by the employer. Recently, the Court of Appeals for Ontario found that a high school teacher had a reasonable expectation of privacy in personal information stored on his work computer based on the facts presented.

A high school teacher was issued a laptop by the school to take home and use on weekends for his exclusive personal use. In addition to keeping some personal files on the laptop — which was protected by a password determined by the teacher — the teacher allegedly possessed sexually explicit photos of a student at the high school where he was employed. When one of the school’s computer technicians noticed an unusual volume of activity on the teacher’s laptop, he investigated the teacher’s computer as part of his duties and found the photos. Upon informing the school’s principal of the photos, the school then handed the laptop over to the police who took a mirror image of the laptop’s hard drive without obtaining a warrant. The officer believed that any data, including personal data, on the school’s laptop belonged to the school. The teacher was arrested thereafter.Continue Reading Canadian Court Finds Reasonable Expectation of Privacy on Work Computers