Oregon Women File Privacy Complaint Against Police
EUGENE, OR — Two women who say their privacy was violated when Eugene police demanded their Social Security numbers will file a formal complaint with the city, the Oregonian reported today.
After being stopped by an officer in January for a bicycle infraction, one woman said she gave the officer her driver’s license when it was requested. But when he asked for her Social Security number, she relented only when she felt threatened and after the officer had called for backup officers, she told the paper.
The woman, who was not cited during that incident, said she thought now that under the federal Privacy Act she was not required to give the officer her number at all. That act states that it is unlawful to deny an individual’s rights because of that person’s refusal to disclose a Social Security number, the Oregonian said.
Polly Nelson, the southern district coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, concurred and told the Oregonian that she is troubled by the growing trend of relying on Social Security numbers as a form of identification. She said she knows of no particular statute that gives police the right to ask for numbers.
“The police need to cite exactly what their authority is for asking,” she told the paper.
Nelson said the ACLU has long felt uncomfortable about the wide use of Social Security numbers.
“They’re used so often for what they weren’t intended for,” she said. “The public has become complacent and doesn’t object when they’re asked to give over that number.”
The second woman filing a complaint told the paper that she decided to come forward over a late July incident with Eugene police when she recently realized that she had the right not to disclose her Social Security number.
She was one of about 40 bicycle riders participating in the summer Critical Mass ride, and was stopped by a police officer who demanded her number, the Oregonian reported.
When she refused, she was hand-cuffed and placed in a patrol car. About 10 minutes later, she told the paper that the officer said she would be released if she consented to being fingerprinted. After giving a print, Johnson was cited for failure to obtain a parade permit.
Source: The Oregonian, February 19, 1999
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