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Author Topic: Privacy and Dumpsters  (Read 1509 times)

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Dave Freas

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Privacy and Dumpsters
« on: November 20, 2006, 02:08:05 PM »

Hi, all

Have a question I'm sure somebody here can answer.

Background:  I work in retail pharmacy, and as you all are aware, the big bad bogeyman in health care right now is patient privacy.  We all do our best to ensure none of our patient's critical healthcare information gets 'out there' for the rest of the world to examine, but because we are human, we do sometimes slip up.  Like most stores, our dumpsters sit on a paved area behind our store.  I know police have the right to search trash cans and dumpsters for evidence without a warrant (with certain restrictions), but a TV newsman (a Geraldo Rivera wannabee) in a nearby town has taken to  dumpster diving for Personal Health Information at some of my sister stores in that town under the guise of investigative reporting.

My question is: How legal is it for a civilian (such as the reporter) to dig in a dumpster for information?  If we see someone doing that, can we report them as tresspassing?   If he would be caught, what legal recourse would we have?

Okay, that's three questions.

Any feedback appreciated.

Dave
Dave
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JIM DOHERTY

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Re: Privacy and Dumpsters
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2006, 02:45:35 PM »

Dave,

I'm not absolutely sure of this, but the reason that garbage cans can be searched, if they are placed beyong the curtelage of a private residence, is that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.  That lack of a reasonable expectation of privacy would apply just as stongly, it seems to me, to a private person, say a PI or a journalist, as it would to cops.

This would be particularly true if the garbage can or dumpster was in a public parking lot or alley.

Lee Lofland

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Re: Privacy and Dumpsters
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2006, 06:32:46 PM »

David, I think there's a simple solution to your situation - padlock the dumpster until pick up time.There's a spot on them just for a lock. Companies do it all the time to prevent the public from filling the dumpsters with personal garbage. Cutting the lock would be a reportable crime.
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Dave Freas

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Re: Privacy and Dumpsters
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2006, 07:19:48 PM »

David, I think there's a simple solution to your situation - padlock the dumpster until pick up time.There's a spot on them just for a lock. Companies do it all the time to prevent the public from filling the dumpsters with personal garbage. Cutting the lock would be a reportable crime.

A good idea, Lee, but...the trash truck drivers won't empty the dumpsters if they're locked and they're too lazy (or impatient or pressed for time) to come into the store to ask us to unlock them.  And ninety percent of the time, after they empty them they set them down so close to the building we can't close the lids, or set them down with weight of the dumpster resting on the lids.

We haven't had the problem at my store, I was just curious if there was some recourse against the stupid antics of that Geraldo Rivera wannabee.

Thanks for the answer.

Dave
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Lee Lofland

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Re: Privacy and Dumpsters
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2006, 08:03:43 PM »

Well, it was a thought. I guess the places I've seen have an arrangement with the garbage company or maybe they just unlock them on trash day.

I don't believe there is any expectation of privacy as long as the dumpster is located on public property. Besides, dumpster diving/shopping is a sport in the south where I used to live years ago. People furnish entire houses by doing so. I've seen people leave a dumpster with more things than they deposited.
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