I spent some time in September at the local landfill depositing the post modern garage sale furniture that used to furnish my world. This post from The Court caught my eye due to it’s engaging title.
An important issue in the case is the way that the privacy interest over Patrick’s garbage is characterized. The trial judge characterized the interest as informational in nature: the contents of one’s garbage may tend to reveal intimate details of one’s personal life choices. On appeal, however, the interest was characterized as territorial:
Patrick has a privacy interest in objects left in opaque plastic bags, and within the boundaries of his private property. In both cases, the courts were not convinced and ruled that any privacy interest Patrick may have had was abandoned when he left his garbage for pickup. Essential to the reasoning
endorsed by the Alberta Court of Appeal is the fact that garbage left at the edge of one’s property is exposed to and accessible by any member of the public. Dumpster divers, scavenging animals and garbage collectors may all have access to the contents of one’s garbage, so any privacy interest in its contents, the argument goes, is abandoned once left at the roadside
This case got some press in 2004 in the media and at the Canadian Privacy Law Blog in 2004. A quick search yields a collection of dumpster diving articles on the Spies Online site which has some interesting links including this 1997 article by Dr. Ronald Standler an attorney in Massachusetts.
I look forward to reading what the SCC has to say about one person’s trash being another person’s treasure.