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cellphones

September 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 12, 2014

  • ObamaCare, Common Core, EPA policy all raise specter of federal commandeering of state governments [Richard Epstein and Mario Loyola, The Atlantic] Vocally supporting Common Core, William Bennett provides new reasons to be queasy about it [Neal McCluskey, Cato]
  • Mom lets six-year-old play within sight of his own front door. Then Child Protective Services arrives [Haiku of the Day]
  • Study finds no evidence California cellphone ban reduced accidents [The Newspaper]
  • Or maybe if you’ve been in good health for 13 years it’s okay to let the grievance slide: pols, union leaders urge unimpaired WTC rescuers to enroll for possible future compensation [AP/WCBS]
  • “Thomson Reuters Thinks Not Responding To Their Email Means You’ve Freely Licensed All Your Content” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
  • New frontiers in urban expropriation: San Francisco imposes crushing new “relocation assistance” burden on rental owners [Pacific Legal Foundation]
  • A lesson in standing up for individual liberty, and not being discouraged by setbacks [my Cato Institute piece on Lillian Gobitis Klose's flag-pledge case, Donald Boudreaux/Cafe Hayek]

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July 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 3, 2014

  • As Brooklyn changes, so do its juries: “more sophisticated people… they don’t believe [plaintiffs] should be awarded millions of dollars for nothing.” [NY Post quoting plaintiff's lawyer Charen Kim]
  • Richard Epstein: Massachusetts buffer zone statute “should have been upheld, not struck down” [Hoover Institution, earlier on McCullen v. Coakley, my related comment]
  • “Runners” as in client-chasing for injury work: “Arkansas AG Files Suit Against Chiropractic ‘Runners’” [AP]
  • Fox, henhouse: 2012 law says local transit agencies must sit on boards helping set their own funding [Randal O'Toole, Cato]
  • No-good, terrible, really bad idea: occupational licensure for software professionals [Ira Stoll]
  • More proliferation of legally required video surveillance [Volokh; guns, cellphone sales]
  • How do you expect the IRS to back up headquarters emails when we throttle its IT budget down to a mere $2.4 billion? [Chris Edwards, Cato]

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Riley’s best line

by Walter Olson on June 28, 2014

“The United States asserts that a search of all data stored on a cell phone is ‘materially indistinguishable’ from searches of [a wallet or purse] … That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon. Both are ways of getting from point A to point B, but little else justifies lumping them together.” — Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the Court in Riley v. California, in which the Justices unanimously disallowed warrantless police searches of arrestees’ cell phones.

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The urge to regulate distracted driving could reach down into your smartphone [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason; Marc Scribner, CEI]

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May 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 30, 2014

  • “Live or travel within 100 miles of a US Border? America’s Internal Checkpoints” [Wes Kimbell, Reason]
  • EFF, ACLU sue Los Angeles seeking disclosure of how automatic license plate readers [ALPRs] are used to track motorists [The Newspaper]
  • Would cops run unauthorized background checks on someone appointed to a police oversight board? [Ed Krayewski/Reason, St. Louis County, Mo.]
  • “How the NSA bulk data seizure program is like gun registration” [Randy Barnett]
  • Text sent to Kiev protesters points up downside of cellphone location signaling: “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.” [NY Times]
  • As New York AG Schneiderman pursues AirBnB, privacy is collateral damage [Ilya Shapiro and Gabriel Latner, Daily Caller]
  • Oops! California Obamacare exchange passed along visitors’ personal info to insurance agents without permission [L.A. Times]

“Should we have a federal law against talking on the phone in restaurants? … If the flying public hates phone calls so much, airlines can be expected to prohibit them. The government does not need to get involved.” [Josh Barro, Business Insider; Ira Stoll]

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Surveillance roundup

by Walter Olson on December 12, 2013

  • “That Thing They Said They’re Not Doing? They’re Totally Doing.” [Daily Show with Jon Stewart] “Exactly What the State Says to Deceive You About Surveillance” [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • “Warrantless Cellphone ‘Tower Dumps’ Becoming Go-To Tool For Law Enforcement” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post; David Kravets, Wired; USA Today (local law enforcement using, not just federal)]
  • Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, LinkedIn, but telecoms absent: “U.S. Tech Industry Calls for Surveillance Reform” [Corporate Counsel, EFF, Marvin Ammori/USA Today]
  • New Federalist Society symposium on NSA/FISA surveillance and bulk data collection includes names like Randy Barnett, Jim Harper, Jeremy Rabkin, Stewart Baker, Grover Joseph Rees [Engage, Randy Barnett]
  • Nowadays “law enforcement can feel free to admit their traffic stops are pretextual” Thanks, Drug War! [Popehat] “Sobriety Checkpoints Paved Path to NSA Email Spying” [Wired]
  • FATCA, the intrusive overseas tax enforcement law, isn’t couched in public controversy as a federal data-snooping issue, but it should be [Radley Balko, McClatchy]

Intellectual property roundup

by Walter Olson on September 18, 2013

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In a blockbuster new report, the New York Times reveals that for years AT&T has willingly enlisted as a partner with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to hand over on request data on all calls that go through AT&T switches (which includes some calls not placed by or to its own customers). Included is data on the location of cellphone users, which goes beyond what the government has been known to have at its fingertips through routine-access, unresisted “administrative subpoenas” not disclosed to the surveillance target. More: Guardian, Daily Dot, Business Insider; James Joyner on warrant-dodging “administrative subpoenas”.

Buried at the end of the Times story is that although this extraordinarily intrusive snooping apparatus is rationalized as a Drug War measure, they use it against ordinary crime too:

The PowerPoint slides outline several “success stories” highlighting the program’s achievements and showing that it is used in investigating a range of crimes, not just drug violations. The slides emphasize the program’s value in tracing suspects who use replacement phones, sometimes called “burner” phones, who switch phone numbers or who are otherwise difficult to locate or identify.

In March 2013, for instance, Hemisphere found the new phone number and location of a man who impersonated a general at a San Diego Navy base and then ran over a Navy intelligence agent. A month earlier the program helped catch a South Carolina woman who had made a series of bomb threats.

Not really unrelatedly, it develops that analysts’ practice of using NSA surveillance to spy on their romantic interests — a practice common enough to have its own nickname, “LOVEINT” — comes to light mostly when voluntarily self-disclosed, not because some other safeguards are succeeding in catching it [Business Insider]

P.S. A couple of reactions on Twitter: “Old AT&T slogan was ‘Your world. Delivered’. More accurate to have said ‘Your world. Delivered straight to the DEA.’” [Catherine Crump] “I can’t seem to find the bit in AT&T’s privacy policy where they reveal they have been sharing 26 years worth of call data with the DEA.” [Christopher Sogloian] More: Matt Welch, Scott Greenfield.

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“In a case of first impression, a New Jersey appeals court has held that a remote texter can be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident,” if the third party has reason to know that the text will be read while driving. The court upheld a lower court ruling finding that not enough proof of such knowledge had been offered to defeat a motion for summary judgment. [ABA Journal, earlier here and here; related, Stoll] A different view: Eugene Volokh.

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Perhaps inevitably, following revelations that NSA surveillance data is being passed on to law enforcement for use against drug crimes and other non-terrorist offenses, criminal defense lawyers are demanding that the government turn over surveillance-obtained data and recordings that might help their clients’ case. And thus do telephone and online records that would once have been considered private wind up spilling out to wider circles of users for wider ranges of purposes. How long before we begin to see attempts to use them in civil suits? [Miami Herald]

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August 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2013

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It’s being covered everywhere (Ars Technica, CNet, Above the Law) but not all the stories have been quick to pick up on this potentially relevant detail: “Sevier’s license to practice law was placed on ‘disability inactive status’ in December of 2011,” the reason given being “mental infirmity or illness.” [Ryan Grenoble, HuffPo]

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  • “I’m looking at Sarge, like, ‘What am I writing him for?’ The sergeant said, ‘Blocking pedestrian traffic.’” [Brian Doherty]
  • “No one is innocent: I broke the law yesterday and again today and I will probably break the law tomorrow” [Alex Tabarrok, BLT]
  • Alabama officials reviewing NTSB-funded weekend roadblocks where motorists were asked for breath, blood and saliva samples [Montgomery Advertiser] “Maybe the NTSB should become a Common Rule agency” [i.e., subject to Human Subjects Research rules; @MichelleNMeyer]
  • New Jersey bill would require driver in some traffic mishaps to hand over cellphone to cop [S. 2783 (Holzapfel, Sen.) via @MeckReal]
  • “In Dubai airport, three poppy seeds from a bread roll fell in a Swiss man’s clothes and got him four years in prison” [@SanhoTree on BBC 2008 report]
  • “Hookup Shocker: The Sex Is Legal, but Talking About It Is a Felony!” [Jacob Sullum] “The Man Who Abused Me is Not on the Sex Offender List (The One who Saved Me Is)” [Free-Range Kids; related on registries, Michele Goodwin, Bill of Health]
  • “Senator Ervin, ‘No-Knock’ Warrants, and the Fight to Stop Cops from Smashing into Homes the Way Burglars Do” [Radley Balko guestblogging at ACLU; yesterday's post on Balko's new book, and more ("7 Ways The Obama Administration Has Accelerated Police Militarization")]

June 8 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 8, 2013

  • “They want us to run government more like a business? OK then, we’ll start dropping $10K fees each on ludicrous motivational speakers.” [me on Twitter, background on IRS]
  • Responding to scurrilous attacks on Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones [Ann Althouse and more, Tamara Tabo, Gerard Bradley, Bart Torvik]
  • As Hasan cites Taliban, Obama Administration’s claim that Fort Hood attack was “workplace violence” is looking brittle [Christian Science Monitor]
  • “The Good Wife’s bad politics and awful law” [Bainbridge]
  • Hey, it worked for Sheldon Silver: “Giving Albany bosses the power to block probes of themself in secret is laughably unworkable” [Bill Hammond, New York Daily News]
  • Per Mickey Kaus, immigration bill would allow retroactive EITC refunds for past years of unlawful residence [Daily Caller]
  • Someone’s getting rich off the federal cellphone program, but it’s not Mrs. Hale of Bethalto [KMOV]
  • “Goodnight stars. Goodnight moon. Goodnight spooks on iChat, peeking into my room. Goodnight PRISM. Goodnight cell. Goodnight Verizon. Goodnight, Orwell.” [Radley Balko]

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Lawyer in Apple’s law firm turns out to have been secretly advising and investing in patent-holding entity (repped by Hagens Berman) preparing a legal onslaught against Apple. “Why didn’t Morgan Lewis … see an ethical problem in letting one of its partners invest in a patent troll, especially one specially designed to target one of the firm’s big clients? And how many other big-firm lawyers are entwined with ‘start-ups’ that are actually holding companies, created to attack the very corporations they are supposed to be defending?” [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica via @tedfrank]

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“A Michigan judge whose smartphone disrupted a hearing in his own courtroom has held himself in contempt and paid $25 for the infraction.” [AP]

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