Tag: sheriff

Law enforcement and NSA/FBI/CIA/SBI use corporations to skirt the Fourth Amendment

I don’t have much to say on this subject (there isn’t much to it in the first place) but this is a trend I’ve noticed for some time now and I wanted to bring it up in a post. I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take any of this as legal advice. Comments would be nice!

Law enforcement and investigative agencies seem to be increasingly using corporations to get around Constitutional protections against search and seizure. The logic most frequently used is that if a corporation takes something or collects something from you, a search warrant can be served on the corporation and your rights relating to those somethings don’t exist anymore, because the warrant was served on the corporation and it is that corporation’s rights which are engaged. It doesn’t matter how they end up with it or that it should be seen as yours; once a business takes something from you, it’s fair game for authorities and you have no recourse.

I have a major problem with this.

On one end, you could take the example of an employer noticing your bag of marijuana, taking it from you, and calling the police. On the other (less tangible) end, you could discuss law enforcement asking Google, Yahoo, or even a torrent tracker for a list of your searches. Either way, the company takes something from you and gives it to law enforcement, bypassing your rights against unlawful search and seizure and depriving you of most legal processes to fight the evidence after the fact. If a cop illegally searches your car and finds weed, you can challenge the search on fourth amendment grounds, but if a co-worker or manager does the same thing and then hands it off to the cops, there is almost nothing you can do about the search. The Google search hand-off is practically the same thing in virtual space.

I would (at a minimum) like to see the law changed to explicitly extend fourth amendment protections to cover situations where a third party is used as a proxy in the seizure. I have no idea how this would work out in practice, but I’m hoping someone who happens upon this will show up with some insightful comments.