What all this means is that in addition to protecting ourselves against warrantless electronic surveillance by law enforcement, we must be careful of neighbors or random people in a shopping center peeking at what we do and turning is in. Plenty of unfortunate cases exist where an anonymous tip led law enforcement agents to bang on the door of a law-abiding person minding his own business.
For instance, a proud father recently took a photo of his 11 year old and posted it online. It was his boy’s birthday and his son passed their state’s firearms safety test and earned his hunting license. So, the father gave him a .22 rifle as a gift, took a photo of his happy son, and posted it on Facebook. A stranger ruined that happy day by making an anonymous call about the photo to the Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). Two social services workers and four local police officers visited the family’s home to investigate and search the home, all without a warrant. The father held his ground and refused them access to his gun safe to catalogue his guns. It’s alleged that the social services workers threatened to take away the child if he didn’t comply with their demands.
In the end, the family won a small battle because the social service workers and armed police escort left without incident. Problems like these can go even deeper. The use of informants is coming under scrutiny lately. Due to harsh mandatory minimum sentences, even for minor crimes, prosecutors offer plea bargains – do hard time or snitch. Loyola Law School professor Alexandra Natapoff says, “The use of criminal informants is often very helpful in penetrating organized crime, but that’s not how we use criminal informants in this country – we use them everywhere.”