In "'Don't Touch My Junk' Sneaks Into the Supreme Court" at the New Republic, privacy scholar Jeffrey Rosen explains why the two "dog cases," Florida v. Jardines and Florida v. Harris, argued last week before the U.S. Supreme Court, implicate airport security measures, and more:
Drug-sniffing dogs are far less reliable than Harvard Medical School doctors, but the stakes in the Harris case go far beyond the canines. As the Electronic Privacy Information Center points on in an amicus brief, lower courts are struggling to evaluate the constitutionality of a series of dizzying new privacy-invading technologies designed to detect contraband, including not only naked body scanners but Terahertz Wave Reflection Spectroscopy machines, used to identify drugs from a distance based on their recognized molecular “fingerprint,” or email scanning programs like “Carnivore” that can read millions of innocent communications in the course of searching for suspicious evidence of drug deals.
The reasonableness of these technologies depends on their accuracy and intrusiveness: if they truly are designed like blob machines rather than naked machines, and only reveal contraband but no other embarrassing information, they should be upheld; if they prove to be highly inaccurate and therefore highly intrusive, they should be closely regulated. That’s why it’s not enough to for the justices to hold that the police can’t bring Franky onto the front porch. Let’s hope they also hold that Franky can’t be used at all unless his nose is as good as his trainers insist.