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two, and I'm not putting up with it. It's too late to save her. She's a gonner." John notifies the operator and forwards a copy of this note, requesting that the operator notify the local police in Sally's home town (since John has no way of knowing where Sally lives).
Issue: Obligation to Notify Authorities of Death Threats
Panel members generally agreed that authorities should be notified of the threat in Scenario 1, although they expressed different views on the legal ramifications and requirements.
Speaking from the perspective of the common carriers, Kenneth R. Raymond, director of Technology Strategies Analysis for NYNEX Telesector Resources Group, noted that telephone users complaining of annoyance or threatening telephone calls are given a special telephone company telephone number and then referred to local law enforcement authorities. Law enforcement officers provide the paperwork needed to obtain information from the telephone company. "In this way, the common carrier provides the referral and the information required by law enforcement authorities, placing the issue squarely in the hands of those that are best able to deal with it."
Although Raymond acknowledged that "Scenario 1 is somewhat different, in that two end users are communicating through a third party," he asserted that authorities still need to be notified; the question is, What information can be obtained in a timely manner? Basic notification of police is required in New York, where state law requires that telephone operators who overhear certain types of communications, such as those involving fraud or threats, report them to law enforcement authorities, he said. Thus, said Raymond, the telephone operator's duty to notify police is not a question here. Rather, the question is whether others have a duty, need, or requirement to facilitate the provision of information to help save Sally.
James E. Tobin, vice president for international consumer affairs at American Express Company, agreed with Raymond that authorities need to be notified in Scenario 1. He said the network operator can set up the expectation that information will be kept private unless certain events occur, but "pragmatism tends to override. In fact, I would say that, as important as privacy is, it would be difficult to argue that a life is subservient to that important right of privacy. And I think, leaving legalities aside, there are moral questions that come into play."
Tobin argued that John is the recipient and "owner" of the message2