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Showing posts from 2013

Where's Our 86.4%?

Over the past few weeks as the scope and nature of the government's surveillance activities have been revealed, citizens have been nothing less than outraged. Or have they? A recent Pew Research survey shows a majority of Americans find the NSA's surveillance of phone records to be acceptable, while a substantial minority go the other way. As Tim Cushing explains on TechDirt, a Rasmussen poll covering the same period showed that only 26% of Americans approved. Cushing notes that the differences may reflect the phrasing of questions in each poll, or potentially unawareness or ambivalence of the severity of what's been going on. A recent Gallup poll also supports the view that most of us have had enough.

As scholars and activists have reminded us for years, "if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to worry about" is just a slippery slope to a loss of fundamental freedoms and merely leaves us vulnerable. While reading a draft of the forthcoming article

Mapping out the Rosen Docket

Federal prosecutors in D.C. typically provide notice to a person after receiving court approval to track them with geolocation data. However, after obtaining a warrant to search journalist James Rosen's Gmail account in May 2010, the government argued it did not have any obligation to provide the same notice to the customer/subscriber when it comes to email and ultimately won. The difference comes down to the different provisions under ECPA and other procedural rules under which the government obtains warrants for the different types of information. Check out the ACLU's post for an overview, or this link for my summary of the arguments contained in the recently unsealed documents. Keep in mind that the issue here is the ECPA language applied to the government's disclosure obligations, not the service provider's, although the latter is often prohibited from giving the user notice.

Weekend Project

After first setting out to create something along the lines of Click-That-Hood with legal information about different jurisdictions, I decided to create a slightly more robust document management system to help keep track of existing and developing legal issues related to privacy law in U.S. states and/or nationwide. As someone frequently collecting references, annotating documents, bookmarking pages, etc, I wanted to bring things together in a way that also lets me play around more in Drupal 7. I intend to add features like news/API feeds, map enhancements and maybe even calendar reminders (for when a law takes effect, for example). There are some great tools out their to do similar things but I see this potentially turning into somewhere between a reference manager, CMS and task manager. You know, because none of those have been made before :) You can take a peek at how it's coming along here.

A Bright Line in a Blurry Landscape

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The law is in a state of flux regarding the government's ability to search the contents of an arrestee's cell phone without a warrant. Should a higher standard apply given the breadth of information stored or one's expectation of privacy? Is it really that different from poking through the contents of a wallet? What if it's not password-protected?

The First Circuit recently parted ways with most other courts by announcing a very bright line rule in United States v. Wurie. The court decided that an officer's viewing of a suspect's call log after seeing "my house" calling constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. (HT @slashdot) Without needing a password, the police looked up "my house" and matched it to a house where they later found Wurie's name on the mailbox. The police then obtained a warrant to search the property and eventually found crack, marijuana, ammunition, drug paraphernalia and more. The issue is whether the warrantle…

Appropriation FTW

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The Second Circuit recently published its decision in Cariou v. Prince, a case involving appropriation artist Richard Prince's use of photos from photographer Patrick Cariou's book Yes Rasta. Both the art and copyright communities were watching closely, with the decision having potential implications on everyone in the art food chain (collector and gallery owner Larry Gagosian is also a defendant), technology companies and others. An analysis of some of the amicus briefs can be found here. OK, let's draw some lines. Consider whether you think Prince's Graduation (right) should be considered a fair use of Cariou's original:

Now, how about James Brown Disco Ball, which takes from multiple Cariou photographs among other places:
After a detailed description of Cariou's and Prince's works, the court begins its discussion of fair use and rejects the District Court's rule:
"The law imposes no requirement that a work comment on the original or its author i…

Gandhi's Copyright Pragmatism

Earlier today, Carl Malamud tweeted a link to a fascinating paper about the evolution and reasons for Gandhi's prescient views and use of copyright law during his life. The combination of historical narrative, interdisciplinary research and discussion, and copyright was enough to take over the start of my Sunday afternoon. Read the abstract and download the full paper by Professor Shyamkrishna Balganesh here.

The paper traces Gandhi's views during his most prolific writing periods, and anchors its analysis with examples showing three key phases: personal rejection [of copyright], reluctant engagement and strategic deployment. The first phase largely coincides with Gandhi's rejection of utilitarian philosophy primarily out of concern that minority voices would be drowned out or ignored, along with other reasons. The second is illustrated by the example of granting US and UK rights to a publisher for an autobiographical work, which Gandhi perceived as an appropriate compromi…

Here Come the New gTLDs

On March 13, the deadline for filing objections to applications in ICANN's initial rollout phase of new gTLD's passed. Currently, there are 22 generic top-level domains, such as .com or .net, and 280 ccTLD's, or country code top level-domain names like .uk, in the top-level namespace. Now any entity with the money and demonstrated technical expertise can apply for .anything-you-want. As of today, 1,410 new TLDs strings have been applied for by 1,930 applicants (data). Some have been withdrawn. They've come in for everything from .blog to .book, so get ready for url's like "http://www.indianajones.movie". 
Since its announcement, the new gTLD program has raised speech-related concerns for governments, competition claims by book publishers and both phantom and real nightmares for trademark owners, among others. The objection and dispute resolution procedures for challenging the introduction of new gTLDs can be found here. ICANN "intends to publish a l…

Drupal Workflow with Drush, Git and git-ftp

As I prepare to upgrade some sites to Drupal 7, it seemed like a good time to document my workflow. I'd used Drush for local development on Drupal 6 sites and it eliminated the time spent manually downloading modules and updates. In Drupal 7, module updating isn't nearly as painful - in fact, it's built right into the admin pages (though you'll probably want to do this on a local or staging server first, just in case). A few sites I'm working on are hosted with a cPanel-based host that doesn't allow ssh access, so I can't just set up a git remote and push to the production server. Moving them to another host also isn't the best option right now. Git-ftp to the rescue.

tl:dr Set up your site and Drush locally, commit changes to git, test then use git-ftp to push them to the production server

Here's how I set up things up:
Set up your site locally. For OS X, I go with MAMPInstall Drush and git-ftp on your machine.Initialize a git repo in your site dir…

Song-Beverly and PII

Last week, the California Supreme Court decided a case (pdf) involving application of the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act, California Civil Code 1747, to the collection of telephone numbers and addresses by Apple during the sale of iTunes downloads. The majority reached a narrow, fact-based holding that there's no support in the legislative intent or statutory scheme to apply the Act to electronic transactions involving downloads. Three justices signed on to two written dissents expressing myriad concerns with the majority's difficult reading of the statute.

Section 1747.08 of the Act prohibits retailers from collecting "personal identification information" or requiring it to be written on transaction forms for credit card transactions. The Act defines PII as “information concerning the cardholder, other than information set forth on the credit card, and including, but not limited to, the cardholder’s address and telephone number.” The majority acknowledges ambiguity in…

Learning Patterns

I've always spent a lot of time thinking about how I learn. Topics like how long it takes to fully grasp something, whether it's something I need to passively take in or actively work with to understand, structuring unstructured time for analysis, etc. Most of this developed during my years obsessively practicing the guitar and much of it still holds true. Maybe it's more superstition than science at this point but it seems to be working! For example, before diving into writing, research or coding (or before the coffee kicks in in the morning), I'm pretty particular about warming up my brain. I'll look over my calendar or to do list(s), then play a quick game of Sudoku and read a longer form newspaper article while the to do items simmer. If I need to learn a new topic, the progression and type of analysis is essential - usually starting with an encyclopedia, reading a few articles by different authors on the same sub-topic to gain perspective, browsing academic sy…