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Current Topic: Internet Civil Liberties

Bill proposes ISPs, Wi-Fi keep logs for police | Politics and Law - CNET News
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 4:46 pm EST, Feb 22, 2009

Republican politicians on Thursday called for a sweeping new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.

Lamar Smith is at it again.

Opponents of the bill say it's an invasion of privacy, but that's not the case. The government can only access subscriber information as part of a criminal investigation.

Actually, all kinds of people can get access to the information in lots of difference contexts, and thats legally - nothing about breaches.

How many times have we seen TV detectives seek call logs of a suspect in order to determine who he has been talking to? What if the telephone companies simply said to the detectives, "Sorry, we get rid of that information after 24 hours?"

That would be called a payphone.

The police could constantly surveil everything that everyone ever does all the time so that in the event that a crime is committed they can find out what happened. They could require that tracking devices and surveillance systems be installed all over the place. This sort of data retention is a part of that puzzle. The advocates of this sort of practice constantly act as if the next piece of this total surviellance infrastructure that they want to erect is no big deal... It is a big deal and it is an invasion of privacy... in aggregate it is a huge deal and these people have absolutely no idea where they would draw the line.

Our society needs to have a reasonable conception of when it does and does not make sense for the government to force people to collect information specifically for the benefit of litigants. In my view it never makes sense. Litigants should be able to access, with lawful authorization, evidence that naturally exists, but the government should not force wholesale collection of new evidence, targeted at everyone in our society. That is the only reasonable place to draw a line.

Bill proposes ISPs, Wi-Fi keep logs for police | Politics and Law - CNET News

An observation on the Jury system
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 5:49 pm EST, Dec  2, 2008

"The thing that really bothered me was that her attorney kept claiming that nobody reads the terms of service," she said. "I always read the terms of service....If you choose to be lazy and not go through that entire agreement or contract of agreement, then absolutely you should be held liable."

Wow, really?? Is this person really representative of normal people and their opinions? I think she is either lying or confused or crazy, or she doesn't really use computers. Carefully reading every TOS or shinkwrap agreement you encounter on the Internet is completely impractical. Reasonable people might think you responsible, on some level, for abiding by those terms anyway, but the question is HOW responsible? Responsible enough to go to prison for violating the terms? Here an affirmative answer is given by someone who cannot possibly be living up to the standard she professes to.

An observation on the Jury system

RConversation: Studying Chinese blog censorship
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 4:29 pm EST, Dec  2, 2008

My conversation with Liu inspired a systematic study of how blog-hosting companies serving mainland China censor their users' content. All Chinese blog-hosting companies are required by government regulators to censor their users' content in order to keep their business licenses. But as Liu discovered, they all make different choices not only about how to implement censorship requirements, but also how to treat the users who get censored.

The attached presentation is quite interesting.

RConversation: Studying Chinese blog censorship

Former Justice Dept. Prosecutor Joins Defense in MySpace Suicide Case | Threat Level
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 1:01 am EDT, Oct 22, 2008

A former federal prosecutor has decided to take on his ex-employer in defending a woman against charges that she violated federal laws in allegedly creating a MySpace account used to bully a teenage girl who committed suicide.

Orin Kerr, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, was a criminal trial attorney in the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at the Department of Justice as well as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Kerr wrote on the Volokh Conspiracy blog that the government was essentially charging Drew with criminal trespassing on MySpace's server for allegedly providing false information to open a MySpace account under the false identity of a nonexistent teenage boy. Kerr said this essentially made it a federal crime to violate any online terms of service contract.

1. I'm sympathetic to Kerr's perspective on this... it would be better for everyone if TOS violations did not create criminal liability.

2. I think the DOJ is only prosecuting this because the mob demands it and I think they pulled this strategy out of a hat because its plausible enough to litigate but they intend to loose. If they intended to win they would have chosen something less radical to charge this woman with. Lets hope they don't accidentally win.

3. I agree with one of the comments in the attached thread... that if an adult man created a MySpace account posing as a teenage boy and made false romatic advances toward a teenage girl, and that girl committed suicide, that man would be prosecuted under some sort of sex crimes/child predation statute such as attempted child molestation with huge prison sentences and permanent sex offender registry associated with it. The fact that the exact same crime is treated in a completely different way because the perpetrator is a woman speaks to the absurdity of our political response to these issues on the whole.

4. I think people care about this case because the media has drawn attention to it, and I think the only reason the media cares is because it has something to do with the Internet, and plays on fears that parents have about what their children are doing on the Internet. Bullies drive people to suicide every day in the United States. Literally several times a day. This case is not exceptional.

5. Are bullies legally culpable if they drive someone to suicide? I'm not sure how I feel about that question as a policy matter, but my understanding is that as a legal matter in general they are not. I don't see why the internet should change that. The internet has absolutely nothing to do with it. The same rules ought to apply whether this woman sent emails to her victim or she sent letters through the mail.

6. If we think bullies ought to be culpable when their victims commit suicide, than we need new state laws across the board. That means letting this one go, no matter how incensed the pitch fork carrying mob is. No Ex-Post Facto laws!

Note that this is different from my earlier read on this. I don't think this falls into the definition of what the law means by fraud because Drew did not cause economic harm.

Former Justice Dept. Prosecutor Joins Defense in MySpace Suicide Case | Threat Level

Bill Proposes Privacy for Americans' Laptops at Border | Threat Level from
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 1:25 am EDT, Oct  2, 2008

The so-called Travelers' Privacy Protection Act, introduced in the Senate by Democratic Senators Russ Feingold (WI) and Maria Cantwell (WA) on Monday, would roll back portions of the current policy, which gives border agents the right to search or seize anyone's laptop as if it were just another piece of luggage.

Bill Proposes Privacy for Americans' Laptops at Border | Threat Level from

Comcast: Comcast Joins NY's Anti-Newsgroup Crowd, Shuts Off Access
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 2:49 pm EDT, Sep 22, 2008

Comcast has joined pretty much every other ISP in New York by shutting off access to newsgroups, effective two days ago, although current users will still have access through October 25th.

The Cuomo crackdown continues.

Comcast: Comcast Joins NY's Anti-Newsgroup Crowd, Shuts Off Access

Federal judge halts Defcon talk on subway card hacking | The Register
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 8:01 pm EDT, Aug  9, 2008

A federal judge on Saturday gagged three Massachusetts Institute of Technology undergraduates from publicly presenting research at Defcon demonstrating gaping holes in the electronic payment systems of one of the nation's biggest transit agencies.

The US Court system continues to demonstrate that they have no respect for the right to freedom of speech when the interests of powerful organizations are concerned. Ultimately, this injunction won't be upheld, but it won't matter, because the conference will be over. It is therefore possible for any wealthy interest to suppress any arbitrary conference proceeding in the United States without any justification.

Federal judge halts Defcon talk on subway card hacking | The Register

Coders' Rights Project | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 4:45 pm EDT, Aug  7, 2008

The Coders Rights Project builds on EFF's longstanding work protecting researchers through education, legal defense, amicus briefs and involvement in the community with the goal of promoting innovation and safeguarding the rights of curious tinkerers and hackers on the digital frontier.

I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth but its about god damn time they did something like this.

Coders' Rights Project | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border -
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 4:27 pm EDT, Aug  1, 2008

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

"The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices.

I agree. The policies are linked from this CNET article. Consider this comment:

In the course of every border search, CBP will protect the rights of individuals against unreasonable search and seizure.

It is deeply insulting to see such an obviously frivolous and sarcastic reference made to constitutional rights in official policy. Literally every imaginable kind of search of electronic equipment is authorized by this policy without any individualized suspicion. Exactly what kind of unreasonable searches or seizures are CBP protecting individuals from in this context? The answer is that there are none, absolutely none, and the inclusion of this statement makes a mockery out of the idea!

Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said the efforts "do not infringe on Americans' privacy."

Its like these people don't even understand the meaning of the words they are saying.

Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border -

The Associated Press: `Public' online spaces don't carry speech, rights
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 8:44 am EDT, Jul  9, 2008

This is a particularly good story on private "speech codes" maintained by Internet companies and the impact they have on people's discourse.

Companies in charge of seemingly public spaces online wipe out content that's controversial but otherwise legal.

Dutch photographer Maarten Dors met the limits of free speech at Yahoo Inc.'s photo-sharing service, Flickr, when he posted an image of an early-adolescent boy with disheveled hair and a ragged T-shirt, staring blankly with a lit cigarette in his mouth.

Without prior notice, Yahoo deleted the photo on grounds it violated an unwritten ban on depicting children smoking. Dors eventually convinced a Yahoo manager that — far from promoting smoking — the photo had value as a statement on poverty and street life in Romania. Yet another employee deleted it again a few months later.

The Associated Press: `Public' online spaces don't carry speech, rights

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