Posts tagged as:

surveillance

A step too far for the surveillance state? And has it even been authorized by Texas law? [Dave Lieber, Dallas Morning News and more via Jon Cassidy, Watchdog.org]

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  • “Emails show feds asking Florida cops to deceive judges by calling Stingrays ‘confidential sources.’” [Wired]
  • Trial penalty: mortgage fraud defendants in study fared far worse if they insisted on process of law to which they are notionally entitled under Constitution [Wes Oliver at Daniel Fisher's; more on joint Duquesne Law/Pittsburgh Post Gazette study from reporter Rich Lord, first, second]
  • “‘Florida’s Worst Cop’ Finally Convicted of Something, May Be Headed to Jail” [Ed Krayewski, Reason, earlier]
  • “Plans to expand scope of license-plate readers alarm privacy advocates” [Center for Investigative Reporting, earlier here, here, here, here, here] But at least our sensitive personal information will be safe with the government! [Lowering the Bar]
  • “Challenges to ‘shaken baby’ convictions mounting” [Wisconsin State Journal, earlier]
  • A Pavlik Morozov for the Drug War? “Brave” Minnesota 9-year-old hailed for turning in parents on pot rap [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, background on Soviet youth hero]
  • “Police SWAT teams in Massachusetts form private corporations, then claim immunity from disclosure laws” [Radley Balko via @gabrielroth, more from ACLU report on police militarization]

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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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And that may spell legal trouble for emerging wearable consumer technologies that enable the user to foil facial-recognition-surveillance systems in public places [Leslie Katz, CNet via Tyler Cowen]

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It is now legally safer to record Illinois public servants generally, as well as cops in particular, as they go about their public duties. [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]

“The National Security Agency was involved in the surveillance of an American law firm while it represented a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States, The New York Times reported in a story based on a top-secret document obtained by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.” [AP] This would be big news if true: the way it works is that lawyers are supposed to mess with your privacy, not the other way around. However, writes Orin Kerr, “the story ends up delivering considerably less than it promises.” [Volokh]

  • “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]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on January 18, 2014

Legislature’s back in session and no citizen’s liberties are safe:

  • SB 65 (Benson) would require gas station dealers to maintain operational video cameras and retain footage for 45 days [Maryland Legislative Watch]
  • HB 20 (GOP Del. Cluster) would require all public schools to hire cops [Gazette, MLW]
  • SB 28 (Frosh) would lower burden of proof for final domestic protective orders from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of the evidence” [MLW, ABA] One problem with that is that orders already tag family members as presumed abusers in the absence of real evidence, are routinely used as a “tactical leverage device” in divorces, and trip up unwary targets with serious criminal penalties for trying to do things like see their kids;
  • Driving while suspected of gun ownership: what unarmed Florida motorist went through at hands of Maryland law enforcement [Tampa Bay Online] 2014 session in Annapolis can hardly be worse for gun rights than 2013, so it stands to reason it’ll be better [Hendershot's]
  • State begins very aggressive experiment in hospital cost controls: “I am glad there is an experiment, but I’m also glad I live in Virginia.” [Tyler Cowen]
  • Scenes from inside the failed Maryland Obamacare exchange [Baltimore Sun] Lt. Gov.: now’s not the time to audit or investigate the failed launch because that’d just distract us from it [WBAL]
  • Corridors run pink as Montgomery County school cafeterias battle scourge of strawberry milk [Brian Griffiths, Baltimore Sun]
  • Plus: A left-right alliance on surveillance and privacy in the legislature [my new Cato at Liberty post]
  • How did Maryland same-sex marriage advocates win last year against seemingly long odds? [Stephen Richer, Purple Elephant Republicans citing Carrie Evans, Cardozo JLG; thanks to @ToddEberly as well as Carrie and Stephen for kind words]

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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]

How tort law harms privacy

by Walter Olson on December 2, 2013

Per Eugene Volokh‘s new article, a wide range of actors from landlords to employers to colleges to product manufacturers correctly see themselves as being at legal risk if they don’t surveill, probe, and share information about those they deal with:

Gathering or disclosing information about people’s backgrounds, tendencies, and actions is increasingly inexpensive, and increasingly effective at helping avoid, interrupt, or deter harm. …Failure to take those precautions thus becomes negligent. … Failure to provide camera surveillance is now a common claim in negligence cases.

An especially fertile source of such incentives is the duty (much expanded by modern developments in liability law) to take reasonable precautions against criminal acts by others. It will soon be feasible at low cost, if it is not already, for automakers to install electronic components in new cars that send a warning communication — to police monitors, for example — when a motorist tries to drive at very high speed. What will happen after automakers begin to be sued after accidents for not installing such components?

  • Why license plate scanning is an up-and-coming front in the surveillance wars [Radley Balko]
  • Prosecutor whose lapse sent innocent man to prison for 25 years will go to jail — for ten days [Adler, Shackford]
  • “Nurse fights charges she helped father commit suicide” [Phil. Inq., Barbara Mancini case, via @maxkennerly]
  • California inmates released, crime rates jump: a Brown v. Plata trainwreck? [Tamara Tabo, Heather Mac Donald/City Journal]
  • Driver arrested under Ohio’s new law banning hidden compartments in cars even though he had nothing illicit in the compartment [Shackford] Tenaha, Tex. traffic stops, cont’d: “Give Us Cash or Lose Your Kids and Face Felony Charges: Don’t Cops Have Better Things to Do?” [Ted Balaker/Reason, earlier]
  • Arizona Republic series on prosecutorial misconduct [4-parter]
  • Few act as if they care about Mr. Martin-Oguike’s fate at hands of a false accuser [Scott Greenfield]

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“Prosecutors claim Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio was guilty of insider trading, and that his prosecution had nothing to do with his refusal to allow spying on his customers without the permission of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But to this day, Nacchio insists that his prosecution was retaliation for refusing to break the law on the NSA’s behalf.” [Andrea Peterson, WaPo; earlier here, here]

Also on surveillance: “One NSA analyst was recreationally surveilling women for 5 years, until a girlfriend realized he was wiretapping her.” [Kevin Poulsen, Wired] “To boldly snoop where no snoop has snooped before” [Lowering the Bar on NSA grandiosity] No, it’s not creepy at all for the British government to put up big peeping-eyes posters to remind taxpayers they’re being watched [Telegraph last November]

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September 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 15, 2013

  • Falling tree limb injures woman, jury orders city of Savannah to pay $12 million [Insurance Journal]
  • Dept. of Interior mulls lowering threshold for federal recognition of Indian tribes [AP]
  • Section 230: “The Law that Gave Us the Modern Internet, and the Campaign to Kill It” [Derek Khanna, The Atlantic]
  • Interview with false-memory expert Elizabeth Loftus [Slate]
  • “No meaningful costs or downsides” to the Microsoft antitrust case? Really? [Tom Bowden]
  • NSA covertly intervened in standards making process to weaken encryption standards [Mike Masnick, TechDirt] After being rebuffed by public opinion in quest for dragnet surveillance programs, NSA quietly put programs in place through other channels [Jack Shafer; related, Ken at Popehat]
  • Given the limitations of litigation, better not to lament the shortcomings of the NFL concussion settlement [Howard Wasserman]

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September 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 3, 2013

  • The bureaucracy in India brings Gilbert & Sullivan to life: “He has been corresponding with himself for the last 26 days as an officer wearing different hats.” [Deccan Chronicle via @tylercowen]
  • “Certificate of Need” laws: “You Shouldn’t Have to Ask Your Competitors for Permission to Start a Business” [Ilya Shapiro]
  • No massive shift to arbitration clauses in franchise world since SCOTUS rulings [Peter Rutledge and Christopher Drahozal via Alison Frankel; Andrew Trask]
  • Evergreen headline in slightly varying forms: “Anti-abuse group’s director quits after arrest in assault” [Sacramento Bee; related here, here, etc.]
  • Economic liberalization increases growth [Alex Tabarrok]
  • “With Auto Amber Alerts, We’re Opted In By Default To A ‘Little Brother’ Surveillance Society” [Kashmir Hill]
  • How Florida trial lawyers plan to crack the tobacco-verdict vault [Daniel Fisher]

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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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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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We are supposed to be reassured that this kind of abuse is rare because only about one NSA employee a year gets disciplined over it. But is there good reason to think all the instances of this abuse get caught and result in employee discipline? [WSJ, Bloomberg]

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Chilling effects of the surveillance state [Glyn Moody, ComputerWorld UK]:

Groklaw is shutting down, as a direct result of the revelations that the world’s communications – including our emails – are being spied upon by the NSA and GCHQ. That’s a huge loss for the open source world: Groklaw played an immensely important part in fighting off the absurd but dangerous SCO attack on free software. Alongside that main work it has conducted countless legal analyses of various other attempts to use patents and copyright to undermine open source. And it has done it applying the open source method of collaboration, a significant achievement in itself.

But the guiding force behind Groklaw, PJ, feels she can’t go on when something so fundamental as the privacy of her communications can no longer be taken for granted. In her final post, she compares the feeling to an earlier one when her flat was broken into, and someone went through all her belongings.

More: Brian Barrett, Gizmodo. We’ve cited Groklaw a number of times in this space.

Not unrelated: “What Should, and Should Not, Be in NSA Surveillance Reform Legislation” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]

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