Thursday, December 09, 2010

Nothing attracts lawyers sharks lawyers like blood in the water.

Judge Won’t Alter Award in Equifax ID Theft Case

December 8, 2010 by admin

Maria Dinzeo reports the latest development in what is probably one of the most well-known ID theft cases:

A cancer survivor who won more than $1 million from Equifax for improperly handling his identity theft report can keep the full award, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston rejected the credit reporting agency’s motions for a new trial or to set aside so-called “excessive” damages.

Eric Drew, who was twice referred to hospice care by hospitals that said they could not treat his cancer, had his identity stolen in 2003 by a phlebotomist working at the cancer center where he had undergone treatment.

Read more on Courthouse News, where you can also read the court’s order denying Equifax’s motion.

Note that Drew’s case is also somewhat famous for being the first criminal prosecution and conviction under HIPAA, although that was not at issue in this civil suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

(Related) OR (to mix a metaphor) has that ship sailed?

House and Senate Enact Amendment of FCRA, Limit Scope of Red Flags Rule

December 8, 2010 by admin

Boris Segalis writes:

The Blog of Legal Times is reporting that late on December 7, 2010 the House of Representatives passed a bill on a voice vote that amends the definition of “creditor” in the Fair and Accurate Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and, as a result, dramatically limits the scope of the Red Flags Rule. The House bill is identical to the legislation enacted by the Senate last week. We previously covered in detail on our blog both the House bill and the Senate bill.

Read more on InformationLawGroup.

Indeed, the House did pass the bill (S. 3987) on a voice vote, as the Congressional Record reflects.

[From the article:

The legislation has the effect of largely limiting the applicability of the Red Flags Rule to financial institutions and entities commonly understood to be "creditors".

… The legislation limits the definition of "creditor" under the FCRA to entities that:

  1. obtain or use consumer reports, [Not 'produce' Bob] directly or indirectly, in connection with a credit transaction;

  2. furnish information to consumer reporting agencies (see 15 U.S.C. 1681s-2) in connection with a credit transaction; or

  3. advance funds to or on behalf of a person (based on the person's obligation to repay the funds or repayable from property pledged by or on behalf of the person).

I think there are clearly conversations (sidebars?) and subjects (facts under some type of seal) that should not be part of a public record, but does a judge have a right to privacy in open court? Is this really “Wiretapping?”

The War on Cameras

December 9, 2010 by Dissent

Radley Balko has a terrific article on about an issue that has been mentioned a number of times on this blog: whether public servants such as the police have any right to privacy in the performance of their duties.

The question garnered a lot of public attention earlier this year after a motorcyclist, Anthony Graber, recorded being pulled over for a traffic stop and uploaded it to YouTube, but I’ve also covered other cases of that kind and the issues they raise.

Balko describes a case in an Illinois court that seems destined for follow-up. It’s a case where a judge claimed that a defendant who wanted a recording of the trial and who had been denied a court reporter, was told that not only couldn’t he record the proceedings himself, but that he broke a whole bunch of wiretapping laws. Balko writes:

Just after he walked through the courthouse door the next day, Allison says Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Kimbara Harrell asked him whether he had a tape recorder in his pocket. He said yes. Harrell then asked him if it was turned on. Allison said it was. Harrell then informed the defendant that he was in violation of the Illinois wiretapping law, which makes it a Class 1 felony to record someone without his consent. “You violated my right to privacy,” the judge said.

Allison responded that he had no idea it was illegal to record public officials during the course of their work, that there was no sign or notice barring tape recorders in the courtroom, and that he brought one only because his request for a court reporter had been denied. No matter: After Harrell found him guilty of violating the car ordinance, Allison, who had no prior criminal record, was hit with five counts of wiretapping, each punishable by four to 15 years in prison. Harrell threw him in jail, setting bail at $35,000.

The judge had a right to privacy in his official capacity in open court? Oh really? Read the Reason article, as it reviews a number of cases of the issue of privacy of public servants and various states’ laws.

Via Bert Knabe: Do public servants have right to privacy?


CO Medical Marijuana Rules: Law Enforcement Trumps Patient Privacy

By Dissent, December 8, 2010

Over on TalkLeft, Jeralyn writes:

One step forward, two steps back. Colorado’s proposed regulations on medical marijuana are 90 pages long. You can read them here.

As part of her discussion, she quotes (via Westword) the Cannabis Therapy Institute:

The Colorado constitution sets up a confidential registry run by the state health department,” she continues, “and the only reason law enforcement ever gets to question the registry is if they stop somebody or detain them — and then they can call the registry and ask if this person is on the registry. That’s as far as it’s supposed to go.

But they’re talking about replacing that with this monstrous database that’s shared by the Department of Revenue, the department of health and law enforcement that’s going to confirm not just that a person is a patient, but what medicine they bought, when they bought it and where they bought it.

And there’ll be a 24-7 video surveillance system of dispensaries and grow operations. Wherever medical marijuana is processed, cultivated or sold is going to be under surveillance accessible to law enforcement on demand. It’s going to be the most scrutinized substance on the planet.”

…not only is this an issue of violating the confidentiality requirement in the Colorado constitution, but it’s a question of medical-records privacy, which is a broader issue than just for medical marijuana patients. It’s giving law enforcement access to medical information on an unprecedented scale.

Read more on TalkLeft.

“We know he's guilty, we just need to figure out what he's guilty of...”

December 08, 2010

CRS: Criminal Prohibitions on the Publication of Classified Defense Information

Criminal Prohibitions on the Publication of Classified Defense Information, Jennifer K. Elsea, Legislative Attorney, December 6, 2010

  • "The recent online publication of classified defense documents and diplomatic cables by the organization WikiLeaks and subsequent reporting by the New York Times and other news media have focused attention on whether such publication violates U.S. criminal law. The Attorney General has reportedly stated that the Justice Department and Department of Defense are investigating the circumstances to determine whether any prosecutions will be undertaken in connection with the disclosure. This report identifies some criminal statutes that may apply, but notes that these have been used almost exclusively to prosecute individuals with access to classified information (and a corresponding obligation to protect it) who make it available to foreign agents, or to foreign agents who obtain classified information unlawfully while present in the United States. Leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction and whether suspected persons may be extradited to the United States under applicable treaty provisions."

Pretty simple. Makes me think this is more to educate teachers than students....

New teacher guide to promote Freedom of Information and protection of Privacy is headed for Ontario classrooms

December 9, 2010 by Dissent

Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, released a new grade 10 guide for Civics teachers, What Students Need to Know about Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy.

“Lessons in the guide should clearly demonstrate to students how material obtained through freedom of information requests can have a dramatic impact on their own lives,” said Commissioner Cavoukian. “One lesson includes a story that outlines how a reporter, who had become ill after eating at a Toronto restaurant, used FOI to obtain the results of health inspections at a large number of Toronto restaurants. A public outcry led the City of Toronto to start posting inspection results on a public website – a practice a number of other cities have since followed.”

The Cloud is coming!

December 08, 2010

Treasury Moves Website to Amazon Cloud

GCN: "The Treasury Department on Monday rolled out a new design of its website at, which incorporates a cloud computing infrastructure and other emerging technologies. “The new"> website is a major step forward in our efforts to improve the way citizens access the wealth of the data and information Treasury produces on a day-to-day basis,” said Dan Tangherlini, Treasury's assistant secretary for management, as well as the department's CFO and Chief Performance Officer. “For the first time, the new will use advanced technologies like cloud computing, an official blog, and data visualizations to better communicate and connect with citizens.” is providing new data visualizations, including interest rate data and Recovery Act data. The step into the cloud is the first from a cabinet-level U.S. Agency. Treasury is using Amazon’s EC2 cloud service to host the site and associated data applications."

(Related) Oh lookie. They are “the first” too!

December 08, 2010

USDA Moves 120,000 Users to Microsoft’s Cloud

News release: "The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it is moving its on-premises e-mail and productivity applications to Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, becoming the first cabinet-level federal agency to embrace the cloud. In one of the largest cloud federal government deployments ever, the USDA is moving its 120,000 users to Microsoft Online Services, consolidating 21 different messaging and collaboration systems into one, said Chris Smith, the USDA’s chief information officer. The USDA plans to start the shift within the next four weeks. “This is really about increasing collaboration and communications across the breadth of 120,000 users in 5,000 offices across the country and 100 countries around the globe to better deliver on the USDA’s mission,” he said. “For us a move to the cloud was a question of performance, service, and cost, and this solution will help us streamline our efforts and use taxpayer dollars efficiently.” The USDA will use Microsoft Exchange Online for messaging and calendaring, SharePoint Online for document collaboration, Office Communications Online for instant messaging, and Office Live Meeting for Web conferencing. Smith said that improvements in productivity and communication, such as the ability to see colleagues’ availability and choose whether they want to communicate via chat, voice, or mail, mean that employees will now be able to collaborate more efficiently."

Global Warming! Global Warming!

Doubling of CO2 Not So Tragic After All?

"The Register reports on a study from NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that claims that new climate models that account for the effects of increased CO2 levels on plant growth result on a 1,64 C increase for a doubling of CO2 concentrations, a far less gloomy scenario than previously considered."

Visualizing large collection of data

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Many Eyes - Many Ways to Make Data Visualizations

Many Eyes is an online data visualization tool developed by IBM. Many Eyes provides tools for creating a wide variety of data visualizations using your data sets or data sets hosted by IBM. If you're not interested in creating visualizations but just want to explore the visualizations created by others, you can do that on Many Eyes too.

… There are six categories of data visualization types offered by Many Eyes. Within each of those categories you will find three or four tools for creating visualizations. You will find common visualizations like line graphs, bar graphs, maps, and word clouds. You will also find some less commonly used and or more difficult-to-create data visualization displays like treemaps for comparison, block histograms, bubble charts, and phrase nets.

[Also see:

For students in my 9AM class

9 Free Online Alarm Clocks To Help You Wake Up

This could be really useful! Get rid of those services that were once useful but have morphed into “things I could easily live without”

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