This week on “The Impact”:
Washington state Chief Privacy Officer Alex Alben voices serious privacy concerns associated with expanding surveillance and biometric identification technology. License plate readers are one topic of discussion.
“You know the overall law is that if you take something out in public either yourself or your vehicle, that it’s fair game, but what I think isn’t fair game in terms of photography, is storing records about where you were at a particular place in time because if you keep that over a long enough time period, that allows somebody to profile where you’ve been. So I understand the concern that we need to have security and that we need to be safe in our public places and that photography does play a role, but the idea that this stuff is kept so long that you can have a detailed profile of your whereabouts I think needs to be really carefully, carefully scrutinized,” said Alex Alben, Chief Privacy Officer, Office of Privacy and Data Protection.
Another point of discussion centers on the collection of biometric data which can be used to identify people by their fingerprints, the way they walk, their eyes, their voiceprint or even their heartbeat. Alben says the development and widespread deployment of this type of technology raises important questions. He points to a data breach at the Office of Personnel Management in which 5.6 million fingerprints were compromised and a concert in Europe where a crowd was scanned and 90% of the people were identified through facial recognition technology.
“People should be concerned about the types of information that are being collected and kept,” said Alben. “If it gets into the wrong hands it’s going to last forever.”
The former tech industry insider tells us he doesn’t think privacy’s dead, but adds:
“I think privacy’s under siege and we can take it back. We can take it back by being better consumers of the things that we buy and we put in our homes. And we can also have our lawmakers say there are certain circumstances where people need to be protected,” said Alben.
Later in the show law professors at the University of Washington School of Law and Seattle University School of Law answer questions about a potential federal crackdown on state legalized marijuana.
“The federal government can enforce the law if it chooses. It could today, it could tomorrow, but the federal government doesn’t have the resources to do very much enforcement around the country and also the federal government can’t force the state to do anything positively to help the feds out. That’s called commandeering under our federal system,” said Acting Professor Hugh Spitzer, University of Washington School of Law. “We’d go back to the old system where it’s kind of quasi underground. The state’s not enforcing the law. The feds do it at random.”
“I think that we don’t have any sort of constitutional challenge to federal drug law. States even states that have chosen to act in ways inconsistent to federal drug law. I don’t see a constitutional challenge,” said Associate Professor Deborah Ahrens, Seattle University School of Law. “I think that primarily it’s a political decision as opposed to a legal decision whether or not to proceed with prosecutions.”
We also cover the controversy over steep car tab tax increases connected to the major transit expansion project ST3.
Then we highlight the Senate Law & Justice Committee with its Republican Chair, Senator Mike Padden and Ranking Democratic Member, Senator Jamie Pedersen. They discuss a range of legal issues including the use of deadly force by law enforcement, firearm related legislation, a bill to make a fourth DUI conviction an automatic felony, an effort to repeal the death penalty, and more.