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Canadian Supreme Court - No Privacy Rights in Trash

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An article on April 10th by Kirk Makin of the Toronto-based Globe and Mail reports that the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that governments have the right to sift through personal garbage once it reaches your property line, concluding a classic contest over property rights. 

The court concluded that rubbish is fair game for police, tax investigators or any other government investigators.

Such decisions are not without precedent.  In 1988 the United States Supreme Court reached a similar ruling in California v. Greenwood. In Greenwood, under circumstances that virtually mirror the incident resulting in the recent Canadian ruling, the majority wrote, “The bags were unprotected and within easy reach of anyone walking by in the public alley way, including street people, bottle pickers, urban foragers, nosey neighbours and mischievous children, not to mention dogs and assorted wildlife, as well as the garbage collectors and the police.”

According to NAID Executive Director Bob Johnson, who remembers the US Supreme Court decision, “The only thing different in this case is that the Canadian decision was unanimous.  In California v. Greenwood the decision was 6-2.”  Johnson continues, “I think it is a sign of the times.  People, including Supreme Court Justices, now know that casual disposal is not secure and there should be no expectation that it is.” 

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