Big Brother of King Country

I rank the “third-party doctrine” as one of the gravest sins against the Constitution; and were I able, I would expressly repeal it via constitutional amendment.

Because otherwise you end up with stuff like this, where King County is using store loyalty card data to enforce pet licensing.


19 thoughts on “Big Brother of King Country”

  1. I’ve always felt that these kinds of “partnerships between business and government” were the very essence of fascism.

    Close to 70 years ago my father tried to raise mink — without a state license that he very honestly didn’t know he needed. The very first time he sent a few pelts to Sears & Roebuck, the Game Commission showed up at our door with a summons. Sears (in Chicago?) had dimed him out to the Game Commission in Pennsylvania.

    But that works both ways. When I first registered my business with the state, I started receiving mail and phone calls from people looking to scam new small businesses, at least a couple weeks before I received any acknowledgment from the government. They had sold my information to the junk mailers and callers as their first order of business, before processing it.

    I’d be tempted to say “ain’t capitalism grand?”, but of course I recognize that’s not really capitalism. It’s what I said first.

    1. And by pure coincidence there’s a movement to ban cash. In order to protect the public against “criminals and terrorists”.

  2. This is why I read the fine print before agreeing to any loyalty program.

    The two sections that apply here are the ones that describe how the businesses store and use your data (including your purchase history), and what legal/civil remedies you have if your data and trust are violated.

    Does their contract say they hold ALL data private and confidential, DO NOT use it for marketing purposes, and DO NOT share it with anyone except and unless served with a warrant? If so, then the findings that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy shouldn’t* apply; the contract’s plain language would affirm such an expectation.

    * – Yes, I know “shouldn’t” isn’t always the same as “doesn’t”, especially when it comes to the courts.

    1. Given the way the courts have been for the last 80 years, “shouldn’t” is generally taken to mean “should.”

      1. You could make the case, though, that if their contract says they will keep the information private unless served with a warrant, that you expected them to uphold their side of the contract.

        Not saying you’d win in court, but you could make the case.

  3. That is the reason I filled out the card with the name Johnny Cash, and gave the address of the local landfill.

    And yes, use cash. No one can steal your ID or personal information from a $20.

    1. It’s also a reason to use an out-of-service phone number.

      The number that virtually all my loyalty cards are tied to hasn’t been in service for around 5 years now.

  4. I bet most people are unaware of how loyalty card data is used. I think the merchants should be sued for failing to make clear with every purchase that your information will be sold to the Government and other third parties.

  5. You shouldn’t have to obfuscate your identity to buy pet food.

    (I don’t care that much about them selling my info to other private parties – I don’t have to answer the phone or door if Target calls. If John Law calls, though…)

  6. Here’s a little paranoia this discussion has inspired; I’m wondering if you guys have any opinion about it:

    Our county runs a “Veterans ID” program. Various state reps and other public officials sponsor events where veterans go with their DD 214s to sign up, and the county Recorder of Deeds officially records their 214s and then sends them a photo ID card. Participating county businesses will give small discounts to card holders.

    I sort of resisted that for a few years, because as a conscript I have held no enthusiasm for my “veteran” status, and I can afford to live without discounts for it. But eventually I succumbed to peer pressure from my buddies who wear their service hats, and got one.

    It seemed innocent enough, and probably the only motive is the incumbents’ campaign messages incorporated in the little booklet the Recorder of Deeds sends out, typically the week before election day. Yet I also got a sense the Recorder of Deeds was very anxious to record as many DD 214s as they could.

    Is there something awaiting that I hadn’t thought about?

    1. A Civil War is on the short-term menu of choices. Even if there was nothing nefarious with the program, it could be useful to know who the discharged veterans are, if it comes time to call up the unorganized militia locally.

      1. “if it comes time to call up the unorganized militia locally.”

        How will they know which side a discharged veteran will be on? ;-)

        1. All the more reason to keep tabs on them, then. Reduces the uncertainties…

          1. Yeah, I think it’d be more useful for someone looking to take out potential threats to a new and more responsible social order ™.

  7. This really isn’t much different than the county in Florida using google earth images to pinch people with pools who didn’t obtain a permit to build them, thus depriving the county of the tax revenue from a higher assessment. While I applaud the thinking outside the box by any employees, there’s a fine line when it comes to the government and privacy.

    1. There’s a distinction between the two examples:

      Google maps is publicly accessible without direct cost. You literally just go to the website from any computer with internet access and you look at satellite maps.

      On the other hand, loyalty card info is generally NOT accessible directly by the public, and the government either has to use public funds or the threat of violence in order to get it.

      There’s a big difference between the two.

    2. I tend to think of “overhead imagery,” at least at the resolution available via Google Maps, as not bearing a “reasonable expectation of privacy;” just as I don’t have a problem with the police using license plate scanners for automobile registration enforcement.

      OTOH, retaining the “locational” metadata from those license-plate scanners would disturb me, because that would be the police are, effectively, “maintaining a file” on everyone, without “reasonable suspicion.”

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