Wednesday, September 15, 2010

As datasets grow larger and more closely integrated, what is the electronic equivalent of “in plain sight?”

EFF: Revised Opinion in Privacy Case Blurs Clear Limits to Digital Search and Seizure

September 15, 2010 by Dissent

Lee Tien of EFF comments on the recent Ninth Circuit revised opinion in United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing (the BALCO decision). The general public will remember the case as the one in which the government swooped in and grabbed everything that wasn’t nailed done in searching for evidence that 10 major league baseball players had used steroids. Many other players, who were not named as targets of the investigation, found their drug testing records in the hands of the government who then viewed everything as being in “plain view” and usable. In response, the courts had criticized the government for misrepresenting risks to judges and over-reaching, and had established procedures for searching and seizing digital evidence that might be aggregated with other data. In doing so, the court had established new Ninth Circuit guidelines going forward that updated and replaced its current standards established in the pre-digital age in the Tamara decision.

Lee writes, in part:

The Ninth Circuit had in its earlier en banc decision [579 F.3d 989 (9th Cir. 2009)] set forth guidelines meant to ensure that even otherwise lawful warrants authorizing the search and seizure of computers do not give officers too much access to private data that might be intermingled with evidence of a crime: (1) the government must waive the “plain view” rule, meaning it must agree to only use evidence of the crime or crimes that led to obtaining the warrant, and not to use evidence of other crimes; (2) the government must wall off the forensic experts who search the hard drive from the agents investigating the case; (3) the government must explain the “actual risks of destruction of information” they would face if they weren’t allowed to seize entire computers; (4) the government must use a search protocol to designate what information they can give to the investigating agents; and (5) the government must destroy or return non-responsive data.

The government, however, challenged these guidelines by seeking “super” en banc rehearing by the full Ninth Circuit (in the Ninth Circuit, ordinary en banc review is done by a panel of 11 judges).

Sadly, while yesterday’s decision reached the same, correct result in this case and denied super en banc rehearing, the revised majority opinion now omits the privacy-protective guidelines. Instead, those guidelines are now part of a 5-judge concurrence and are not binding on magistrate judges issuing warrants.

We’re disappointed. True, the Ninth Circuit recognized that government agents have “a powerful incentive . . . to seize more rather than less” (the opinion archly characterizes the government’s view as “Let’s take everything back to the lab, have a good look around and see what we might stumble upon.”). And eliminating the guidelines might avoid Supreme Court review.

Still, if the Ninth Circuit wanted “to avoid turning a limited search for particular information into a general search of office file systems and computer databases,” it would have been far better off with its original, binding rules.

Many civil libertarians are understandably upset by the revised opinion for walking back the guidelines. Slapping the government on the wrist or ripping into them in an opinion isn’t the same as establishing binding guidelines or rules for how we demand the government conduct itself. When the court had the opportunity to re-assert Fourth Amendment principles and apply them to a digital world, they ceded to government pressure. What will stop the government the next time, then?

Another interesting topic for debate...

Article: The Number is Me: Why Internet Protocol (IP) Addresses Should Be Protected as Personally Identifiable Information

Not bad enough they give you a ticket, now they snap on the rubber gloves and ask you to bend over?

California: Meter Maids to Search Motorists For Documentation

September 14, 2010 by Dissent

Meter maids employed by a for-profit, foreign company are confronting motorists and seizing disabled parking permits at the direction of the city of West Hollywood, California. Earlier this month, officials announced a “crack down” on the abuse of restricted-use parking spaces by having meter maids determine whether the users of disabled parking permits are legitimately handicapped.

“Under a program initiated by the city of West Hollywood’s Parking Division, drivers displaying disabled placards may be randomly approached to provide proof of placard ownership,” a city press release explained. “Failure to provide the required identification card will result in the confiscation of the disabled placard and a parking citation for misuse, which carries a $500 fine.”


So now we have employees of a foreign company demanding “Papers, Please” from our own citizens? Seriously, folks?

Interesting video

Cops on Camera (video)

September 14, 2010 by Dissent

Cato Institute has uploaded a really good video about video and audiotaping law enforcement in the performance of their duties:

No different than fingerprints? Is DNA treated like fingerprints?

9th Circuit rules DNA testing can be required before release on bail

September 14, 2010 by Dissent

Denny Walsh writes:

In the first decision of its kind in the nation, an appellate court has ruled in a Sacramento case that DNA testing is a legitimate condition of release on bail for a federal defendant not yet convicted.

Before a federal felony can be charged, there must be probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, a three-judge panel of the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in Tuesday’s 47-page opinion.

Under those circumstances, the panel ruled, the government’s interest in definitively identifying the defendant “outweighs the defendant’s privacy interest in giving a DNA sample as a condition of pre-trial release.”


Related: Opinion (pdf)

Getting to a “No means no” world.

Recent Lawsuits Challenge Use of Flash Cookies to Track Online Behavior

September 14, 2010 by Dissent

Robert D. Forbes writes:

Four recent lawsuits filed against some of the Web’s biggest media companies challenge the alleged use of Flash cookies capable of circumventing a user’s ability to prevent the tracking of online behavior.

The four complaints (available here, here, here, and here) center around the defendants’ alleged tracking of consumers’ online behavior through the use of cookies installed through Adobe’s Flash video player, the Web’s most popular online video program. Each of the complaints seeks class action status.

Named as defendants are Clearspring Technologies, Inc., Quantcast Corporation, and Specific Media, Inc., three of the leading companies involved in targeted online advertising. Also named are numerous media companies that have allegedly used these companies’ technologies on their Web sites.

Read more on Proskauer.

If you don't consider the reaction of the people you 'govern,' they will certainly point out your error.

NY: Town Stops Using Google Earth To Spot Illegal Pools

September 14, 2010 by Dissent

The town of Riverhead on Long Island voted last week to stop using Google Earth satellite images to find homeowners who do not have permits for their backyard pools. The town had actually been using the eye in the sky approach for over a year, but after media coverage of it last month, they got a lot of negative feedback — mostly from people who didn’t have permits. Read more on NPR.

Via @adamshostack

For my Data Mining and Data Analytics students.

The Big Promise of 'Big Data'

Posted by CmdrTaco on Tuesday September 14, @02:35PM

"InfoWorld's Frank Ohlhorst discusses how virtualization, commodity hardware, and 'Big Data' tools like Hadoop are enabling IT organizations to mine vast volumes of corporate and external data — a trend fueled increasingly by companies' desire to finally unlock critical insights from thus far largely untapped data stores. 'As costs fall and companies think of new ways to correlate data, Big Data analytics will become more commonplace, perhaps providing the growth mechanism for a small company to become a large one. Consider that Google, Yahoo, and Facebook were all once small companies that leveraged their data and understanding of the relationships in that data to grow significantly. It's no accident that many of the underpinnings of Big Data came from the methods these very businesses developed. But today, these methods are widely available through Hadoop and other tools for enterprises such as yours.'"

[From the article:

The New York Times has used Big Data tools for text analysis and Web mining, while Disney uses them to correlate and understand customer behavior across its stores, theme parks, and Web properties.

Big Data plays another role in today's businesses: Large organizations increasingly face the need to maintain massive amounts of structured and unstructured data -- from transaction information in data warehouses to employee tweets, from supplier records to regulatory filings -- to comply with government regulations. That need has been driven even more by recent court cases that have encouraged companies to keep large quantities of documents, email messages, and other electronic communications such as instant messaging and IP telephony that may be required for e-discovery if they face litigation.

If this doesn't point to a business opportunity, I don't know what does...

Why Broadband Prices Haven't Decreased

Posted by CmdrTaco on Tuesday September 14, @11:45AM

"After a new technology is introduced to the market, there is usually a predictable decrease in price as it becomes more common. Laptops experienced precipitous price drops during the past decade. Digital cameras, personal computers, and computer chips all followed similar steep declines in price. Has the price of broadband Internet followed the same model? Shane Greenstein decided to look into it. "

[From the article:

Greenstein says that a 2003 decision to leave regulation up to the broadband companies themselves has caused much of the stagnation in broadband service prices.

… “So if you were in such a market as a supplier, why would you initiate a price war?” Greenstein asks. With no new entries on the market, suppliers can compete by slowly increasing quality but keeping prices the same.

Interesting tech. From the photo, the scanner is much smaller than the card itself.

Square producing 10,000 card readers a day

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's latest project, Square, which plugs into mobile devices and allows users to process payments, is getting bigger.

During an interview with VentureBeat's founder Matt Marshall as part of this year's Demo Fall conference here, Dorsey explained that the company was now producing some 10,000 scanner units a day, which allow Square users with a smartphone and the Square software (which is free) to run credit card payments from just about anywhere.

Supply and Demand in the technology field.

Google Fights Back In Battle For Talent, But May Be Creating A Worse Problem For Itself

Earlier this month I wrote about the extraordinary steps Google is taking to retain talent.

… What’s Google offering? An immediate response for starters. They have put policies in place to ensure that an employee gets a response within 24 hours, we’ve confirmed from sources close to Google. Raises of 15% – 20% aren’t uncommon, as are new restricted stock grants ranging up to $500,000 in value. Employees are also often offered a different job, a move into a managerial role, etc.

Dilbert continues to examine “Social Media”

(Related) Some statistics...

Twitter Seeing 90 Million Tweets Per Day, 25 Percent Contain Links

… Williams also said that since the beginning of the year Twitter users on mobile devices are up 250%, with 16% of new users starting to use the service on mobile devices. And there are on average 370,000 new sign-ups per day overall.

No comments: