Do you have a right to privacy in your address?
By Kristin Hall
When it comes to privacy, we know that the home is a sacred space. But is your address sacred as well? How about your ZIP code? Recent litigation in Massachusetts, California, and Pennsylvania is signaling that the answer to that question may depend on where you live.
Massachusetts: ZIP Codes Protected Under Privacy Interests
Massachusetts and a handful of other states (including, notably, California) have made it unlawful for retailers to collect “personal identification information” (or “PII”) from consumers who pay using a credit card. Under those statutes, PII can mean a customer’s phone number or address (or components thereof). A customer, Melissa Tyler, sued Michaels Stores in federal court in Massachusetts, claiming that Michaels illegally requested her ZIP code prior to completing several transactions, and that Michaels used that information to look up her street address and send her marketing materials.
After the federal court dismissed Tyler’s case, she asked the state’s high court to weigh in. In a surprising turn,
California: Limited Privacy Protection for ZIP Codes
The Massachusetts high court’s interpretation is somewhat aligned with the California Supreme Court’s view on its version of the ZIP code law, the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act.
The state of play with regard to home address privacy may soon change in California. In County of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission, Case No. S191944, the Court will address whether public employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their personal contact information.
The case arose in the context of a 2006 labor negotiation, in which a union asked Los Angeles County to hand over the names, addresses and home phone numbers of county employees the union nominally represented, but who had not formally joined the union. The union claimed it needed the information in order to contact the employees with required annual notices, and for recruitment purposes.
Pennsylvania: Residential Addresses Not Protected Under the State Constitution
Whether registering to vote, applying for a driver’s license, applying for a job, opening a bank account, paying taxes, etc., it is all but impossible to live in our current society without repeated disclosure of one’s name and address, both privately and publicly. There is nothing nefarious in such disclosures. An individual’s name and address, by themselves, reveal nothing about one’s personal, private affairs.
What do you think—did the Pennsylvania court get it right? Perhaps a more appropriate question is: would you rather live in Massachusetts, California, or Pennsylvania?
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