Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A right to anonymity

Bill would allow police to seek citizen IDs if actions are suspect | LJWorld.com:
A legislative committee Monday endorsed a bill that would require citizens to identify themselves to authorities under certain circumstances.

“I think the committee actually at this point is only going to make one recommendation,” said Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, vice chairman of the House-Senate Kansas Security Committee.

“What we’re talking about is a bill that deals with stopping suspects … to seek identification if there’s reason to believe that they are committing, have committed or are about to be engaged in criminal activities,” Emler said.

Current law allows suspects to conceal their identities in some circumstances, he said.

“Right now, if you’re stopped, you don’t have to say who you are. You can give John Doe as your name when it’s really Jim Smith,” Emler said.

“What this requires is that you say who you are.”
But why should you be obliged to give ID? I know the Constitution doesn't give any explicit right to anonymity in walking down the street, but I feel like any penumbral right to privacy includes the right to refuse to identify yourself.

This sort of issue is fairly low intensity, but important for preserving simple civil liberties.

The problem is, while the officer is supposed to have to have cause, who's to check?

Emler offers this example:
If a guy is standing in front of a pawn shop window with a brick in his hand, that would be something suspicious and you could stop and ask him for identification. If the guy is standing there looking at rings in the pawn shop window then (police can’t) try and get his identification.
What if the cop doesn't like the political buttons the guy is wearing, and decides that, in his mind, this character is about to punch through the window? Is that legit or not?

If the cop thinks the guy is acting suspicious, let him get a warrant, or hold the guy for questioning.

This sort of thing is subject to abuse. It's an easy way to harass protesters or anyone else a given cop doesn't care for.

This is something that, if you feel strongly about your privacy and don't relish the day when "May I see your papers, please?" comes to America, contact your reps and state senators.