Department Stores, Computer Forensics, and the Private Police

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4 Responses

  1. JP says:

    Interesting. I haven’t read the Sklansky article, but I’m curious as to why any Constitutional references are necessary. Isn’t common law civil liability (e.g., conversion, false imprisonment) intended to protect against this type of conduct? The corresponding criminal laws could be applicable against the security officers and corporations as well.

    Also, the stores might in some cases be more interested in large-scale detection and prevention of future fraud or shoplifting than in ensuring convictions on a few individual counts of shoplifting or check fraud.

  2. Cathy says:

    The Target guy might have issues doing what he does in Michigan:

    (Michigan apparently has just passed a law requiring computer forensics technicians be licensed as private investigators in light of the MediaSentry nonsense regarding the RIAA lawsuits.)

  3. Paul Ohm says:


    I haven’t done the Sklansky article justice. He doesn’t say that Constitutional remedies are necessary–in fact, he disagrees with others who had argued for extending the state action doctrine to cover the private police. Instead, he uses the spread and prevalence of private policing to engage in some interesting ruminations about the state action doctrine and equal protection.

  4. Danielle Citron says:

    Paul, Thanks for that excellent post. Law enforcement’s move here is part of a broader trend of privitization of government, which has a host of problems now including your terrific point. Do controls exist to ensure that the third-party contractors processing data (including individuals’ SSNs and other sensitive personal information) for agencies adhere to the Privacy Act? Not that I know of. And my favorite topic–the automated decision-making systems often built by vendors who encode policy, get it wrong, and no one knows until after lives are affected? Your post really got me thinking–thanks so much!