Archive for January 9th, 2005

“First They Came for the Drunks…”

Sunday, January 9th, 2005

I mentioned in an earlier post ("Are Police Watching Your Home? ") that police agencies, urged on by the the President’s Commission Against Drunk Driving, have begun to assign officers to stakeout the homes of individuals on probation for DUI — sometimes for days — waiting for them to violate their probation by driving.

Aside from the obvious objections, of course, the larger concern is that if police can watch the homes of those with DUI records today, what legally is to stop them from watching your home tommorrow? Do we really want police staking out our homes, waiting for us to make a mistake? Commenting upon this, Scott Henson has reported on his weblog the efforts of the federally-funded Center for Transportation Analysis to require cars to be equipped so they will not start without first inserting a valid driver’s license in an ignition interlock device. This is but one of many ideas proposed to deal with drunk drivers.

What is of greater interest, however, is the CTA representative’s explanation of how Americans’ "historical" concerns about invasion of privacy and Big Brother can be overcome — by initially demonstrating the technology on unsympathetic targets who "have fewer privacy ‘rights’ ":

"American society historically resists excessive government intervention and Big Brother programs that threaten to invade privacy," Hu says. "One of the biggest challenges to implementing electronic driver’s licenses will be to secure widespread public acceptance and community support." Hu thinks that the U.S. public will be more likely to accept this technology if it is first demonstrated on high-risk drivers. "Targeting a demonstration project at drivers who might have fewer privacy ‘rights,’ such as convicted DUI offenders, might reduce public concern about invasion of privacy," she says."

[Note: the quotes around the word "rights" have not been added.] As Mr. Henson paraphrased: "First they came for the drunks, but I was not a drunk so I did not speak up….."

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