Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking Second-Hand Sellers

September 21, 2011 -

A new proposal before the City Council of Madison, Wisconsin has some residents and civil rights groups up in arms this week. An effort to collect the personal information of individuals who sell various used items (books, DVD's, music CD's, iPods, games, and more). Under the proposed Madison city ordinance, if someone sells items to a second-hand store they will have to provide personal information and a photo will be entered into a police database. Local business owners, civil rights advocates and the public are not pleased.

The proposal is supposed to gather information to catch addicts and crooks who use second-hand stores and pawn shops to unload stolen goods. A provision in the proposal passed the city Public Safety Review Committee on Wednesday in a 4-1 vote - contains language that would include commonly sold items like CD's, movies, books on tape, games and other media. Besides giving law enforcement access to information they normally wouldn't have access to, the information, say opponents, could allow police to profile people based on what music they listen, what movies they watch, and what computer games they play.

"These are really big flags with the ACLU," says Stacy Harbaugh of the Madison chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.

Harbaugh points out that there is nothing in the new law that keeps the police from sharing the information collected with the FBI or other law enforcement agencies in the state.

"The ACLU's position is quite simply that we don't need another government database that's connected to our tastes and our choices for intellectual and entertainment options," she says. "We hope that the City Council will amend the ordinance -- that they'll take out the lines that include the expressive materials. And we hope that people will call their representatives and remind them to do that."

While the Madison proposal is controversial, similar systems exist in parts of the state such as Greenfield and Milwaukee. The difference, say opponents, is that most electronic media is exempt from the database records. Madison Alderman Mike Verveer, who authored the Madison proposal, says he's looking at ways to address the privacy concerns and will alter the ordinance before it goes to the council. That is expected to happen sometime next month.

Wisconsin state law does require second-hand sellers to keep paper records on hand about item purchases including textbooks, CDs and computer games and other media. The ordinance would maintain the current paper records system for textbooks, which second-hand shops must keep on hand for six months, but people selling other media would be entered into the database.

Dave Stanowski, owner of Madcity Music Exchange on Williamson Street, says the database will keep customers who want to sell something away because of the I.D requirement.

"We depend on revenue from people bringing in their products to sell to us, and that would effectively kill it," he says.

Sandi Torkildson, owner of A Room of One's Own bookstore, thinks the ordinance violates the First Amendment.

"I'm just a person who's passionate about what kind of information we allow the police to hold on us," she says. "This is not something I think is appropriate or necessary."

While she follows state law about keeping paper records, she says that she has no intention of ever giving that information to the authorities.

"I'll keep the records because I have to, but when you come to my store and ask me for that information you'll have to take me to jail because I'm not going to give them to you," she says.

Capt. Jim Wheeler, the head of the Police Department's investigative unit, says the paper system in place currently works against the investigative process.

"We need to work in a timely manner," he says. "Plus, we need to have a deterrent effect. People need to know that if they're going to take stolen goods someplace, the serial numbers are going into a database and this is going to be matched up with things that are reported stolen."

According to Wheeler, the police department tested databases at two local stores. This week investigators entered the names of three "heroin addicts" with criminal records into the system, and turned up one person who sold 47 Wii game controllers within a month.

"This is an example of what we would be able to get from the system," he says.

Source: The Capital Times


Comments

Re: Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking ...

Is it me, or is the ACLU getting better and better at assuming the worst of law enforcement officials?

Every time authorities want to get information regarding anything, in comes the ACLU assuming that the authorities want to use it for world domination or something. Knee-jerk, much?

Re: Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking ...

Well, Comrade Grif, I'm sure North Korea would be eager to welcome anyone who thinks the police should have unlimited power. Here in America, we limit the authority of the government as a matter of principle. It doesn't matter if we think they'll do anything wrong with it or not; the law of the land says they're not allowed to gather certain kinds of information without cause, period. Any system of broad-based monitoring in the hopes of maybe catching a few crooks in the net is a violation of the Constitution, period. If you don't like it, and you're allergic to kimchee, you can always petition Congress to amend the Constitution. (Or just say "It's to catch TERRORISTS!", which seems to be the same thing these days....)

Re: Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking ...

Not saying the police should have infinite power. No, far from it.  I'm simply saying that it seems foolhardy to automatically cry foul over giving the law enforcement officials a new tool to, well... enforce the law with.

Automatically assuming they're going to use everything they get for the forces of evil seems kind of cheesy to me.

It seems like a good idea to me, especially if Madison, Wisconsin is anything like the area I live in. We could use something like that here.

 

Re: Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking ...

Well, that is part of their job.

There have been historical problems with mission creep, laws and powers written too broadly but with narrow intended focus slowly being used for more things or even personal vendettas.... so the ACLU pre-emptivly looks at laws and points out where the problems are.  So stopping abuse before it happens.

Re: Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking ...

While they're at it, why not just hand the data on the 2nd hand sale of video games to the companies that make them. Then the companies can personally go door to door bitching and whining about how used sales are ruining them.

Re: Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking ...

We had to fill out pawn slips for everything when Sacramento County Sheriffs wanted to make cash in fines.

Needless to say 18 months later they changed their tune when they got tired of dealing with paper work for $7 worth of used Playstation 2 games.

Re: Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking ...

As I recall such a system was attempted for dealing with scrap metal (since people have been stealing infrastructure to sell for scrap) but it has not done much good.

Re: Madison, WI. Officials Propose Database for Tracking ...

I know that you have to provide id and such if you sell gold and jewelery to prevent theft and it has been an effective method.  As for lower cost items like cds and books I have no idea how this would help though.

 
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MattsworknameWilson: how? Im still waiting for my upgrade notice07/29/2015 - 3:44am
Matthew WilsonI updated to a clean instill of windows 10.07/29/2015 - 2:36am
Mattsworknameargue that it's wrong, but then please admit it's wrong on ALL Fronts07/29/2015 - 2:06am
MattsworknameTechnoGeek: It's actually NOT, but it is a method used all across the specturm. See Rush limbaugh, MSNBC, Shawn hannity, etc etc, how many compagns have been brought up to try and shut them down by going after there advertisers. It's fine if you wanna07/29/2015 - 2:05am
Mattsworknamediscussed, while not what I liked and not the methods I wanted to see used, were , in a sense, the effort of thsoe game consuming masses to hold what they felt was supposed to be there press accountable for what many of them felt was Betrayal07/29/2015 - 2:03am
MattsworknameAs we say, the gamers are dead article set of a firestorm among the game consuming populace, who, ideally, were the intended audiance for sites like Kotaku, Polygon, Et all. As such, the turn about on them and the attacking of them, via the metods07/29/2015 - 2:03am
MattsworknameAndrew: Thats kind fo the issue at hand, Accountable is a matter of context. For a media group, it means accountable to its reader. to a goverment, to it's voters and tax payer, to a company, to it's share holders.07/29/2015 - 2:02am
Andrew EisenAnd again, you keep saying "accountable." What exactly does that mean? How is Gamasutra not accounting for the editorial it published?07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - I disagree with your 9:12 and 9:16 comment. There are myriad ways to address content you don't like. And they're far easier to execute in the online space.07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - Banning in the legal sense? Not that I'm aware but there have certainly been groups of gamers who have worked towards getting content they don't like removed.07/28/2015 - 11:45pm
DanJAlexander's editorial was and continues to be grossly misrepresented by her opponents. And if you don't like a site, you stop reading it - same as not watching a tv show. They get your first click, but not your second.07/28/2015 - 11:40pm
TechnogeekYes, because actively trying to convince advertisers to influence the editorial content of media is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, especially for a movement that's ostensibly about journalistic ethics.07/28/2015 - 11:02pm
Mattsworknameanother07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
Mattsworknameyou HAVE TO click on it. So they get the click revenue weather you like what it says or not. as such, the targeting of advertisers most likely seemed like a good course of action to those who wanted to hold those media groups accountable for one reason07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
MattsworknameBut, when you look at online media, it's completely different, with far more options, but far few ways to address issues that the consumers may have. In tv, you don't like what they show, you don't watch. But in order to see if you like something online07/28/2015 - 9:12pm
MattsworknameIn tv, and radio, ratings are how it works. your ratings determine how well you do and how much money you an charge.07/28/2015 - 9:02pm
Mattsworknameexpect to do so without someone wanting to hold you to task for it07/28/2015 - 9:00pm
MattsworknameMecha: I don't think anyone was asking for Editoral changes, what they wanted was to show those media groups that if they were gonna bash there own audiance, the audiance was not gonna take it sitting down. you can write what you want, but you can't07/28/2015 - 8:56pm
MattsworknameAndrew, Im asking as a practical question, Have gamers, as a group, ever asked for a game, or other item, to be banned. Im trying to see if theres any cases anyone else remembers cause I cant find or remember any.07/28/2015 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenAs mentioned, Gamasutra isn't a gaming site, it's a game industry site. I don't feel it's changed its focus at all. Also, I don't get the sense that the majority of the people who took issue with that one opinion piece were regular readers anyway.07/28/2015 - 8:43pm
 

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