A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: invasion of privacy

The Ghost of Public Records

By Alex Noble

Let’s face it – we’ve all done things we’re not proud of. But what happens when your past follows you everywhere, because it is a matter of public record? That’s what’s happening to Yasmin Rahman, a 27 year-old New Yorker who says that as a consequence of trying to commit suicide 12 years ago, today she can’t land a job.

Yasmin Rahman was 15 years old when she tried to kill herself by jumping from a crowded subway platform in front of an oncoming train. The NYPD saved her life that day – they rescued her from the tracks and she spent six months recovering in the hospital. She learned to cope with her mental health issues, finished high school, enrolled in and completed college —  and says that 39 employers have refused to hire her because they found detailed reports of her suicide attempt when they searched her name in the public records.

If you ask Ms. Rahman, this is unfair. And since she can’t erase the past, she has settled on the next best thing – filing a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the NYPD for releasing her information to the public in the first place. Yes, this is the very same department whose officers saved her life. And yes, Ms. Rahman is suing for invasion of privacy though she tried to kill herself in one of the most public ways imaginable.

But before you gather a posse with torches and pitchforks, remember that Ms. Rahman was a minor at the time, and that a person’s mental illness is a personal and very confidential matter.

Several media outlets have reported the facts behind Rahman’s lawsuit, but only LASIS explores the merits of her claim.

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The Definition of Chutzpah?

By Zachary Edelman

The prospect of having a second, third or fourth home is alien to many of us on tight budgets. But get this, there are gorgeous mansions sitting on acres upon acres of land all across the country that sit furnished, vacant and vulnerable for months of the year.

Some teenagers must have wondered what it would be like see life as Jay Gatsby, even if just for a few hours, because on August 31 former NFL Lineman Brian Holloway, who was at his home in Lutz, Florida, was alerted to a party going on at his rural vacation home in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. And what a party it was. Walls inside the house were spray-painted, the floor was peed on, furniture was broken and personal possessions were stolen, causing up to $40,000 in damages.

For a country outraged over revelations that the NSA tracks our every move, we sure don’t make it difficult for the government (or anyone else) to see exactly what we are up to; we broadcast to the world our every moment via one social media site or another. The teens who ransacked Mr. Holloway’s home were no different, taking and posting and tweeting and Instagram-ing dozens of photos of themselves cavorting and drinking and drugging inside Mr. Holloway’s (extra) house.

Mr. Holloway was angry, as any homeowner in his situation would be, and created a website aggregating all the evidence of revelry that evening adding the partiers names to the tweets and pictures. Mr. Holloway, who has worked with the substance abuse prevention program D.A.R.E., lists one main objective on his website– to turn the incident into a force for good by allowing the still impressionable youths to redeem themselves and reject the path of drinking, drugs, crime and violence.

Mr. Holloway must have suffered a concussion or two during his NFL career, because he is delusional if he thinks teenagers who break into a vacant house to party are going to change their ways as the result of a website. His invitation to the hellions to help him clean his house fell on mostly deaf ears; only five teens — of nearly 300 –showed up to help him clean the mess.

If you’re thinking the kids didn’t show up because they were grounded, think again. In fact, their parents are mad – even livid. But not at them. At Mr. Holloway. The indignant parents have threatened to hurt Mr. Holloway; at the very least, they are threatening to sue. (Some people might call this the very definition of “chutzpah”). Reposting the photos and identifying the culprits, they say, could “ruin their kids’ college plans.”

Lots of reports out there, but no analysis of the merits of the potential lawsuits against Mr. Holloway.  LASIS investigates.

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The Legal Lowdown on LoJack

By Meghan Lalonde and Ryan Morrison

Chances are if you have Internet access (which you almost certainly do if you are reading this article), you spend a decent amount of time watching videos on your computer. How would you feel, though, if you found out your computer was also watching you? Cheesy plot to a horror film? Yes actually… but for one 52 year old widow this storyline was a reality.

Our story begins when Susan Clements-Jeffrey, a long-term substitute teacher, bought a non-functioning laptop for $60 from one of her students.. Although at first wiped of all software, the computer was restored to working condition by a fellow teacher at the school. Ms. Clements-Jeffrey claims she believed she had received an amazing deal and did not consider for even one second that she’d purchased stolen goods.

The substitute teacher used the laptop for a number of standard purposes, and some not-so standard, including intimate webcam conversations with her boyfriend, which she conducted in the nude. Her audience was larger than she anticipated.

Because the computer had the popular security software Lojack for Laptops installed, after it was reported missing by its owners, the Clark County School District, LoJack employees were monitoring its web activity.  Screenshots of the video were taken and turned over to Springfield Police who identified her.   She was arrested for possession of stolen property, though the charges were soon after dismissed.

But in 2009 Ms. Clement-Jeffrey sued the computer software company and  the Springfield Police Department in Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio alleging violations of her Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and the Fourth Amendment.

The Associated Press reported that Ms. Clements-Jeffrey recently accepted a settlement of an undisclosed sum with the software developers so we’ll never know how a trial would have played out.  But though we can’t hear you from your computer (we don’t work for LoJack) we’ll just assume you’re curious about a legal analysis of the case.   Here goes.   (more…)

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