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Paul Merrell

Court upholds NSA snooping | TheHill - 0 views

  • A district court in California has issued a ruling in favor of the National Security Agency in a long-running case over the spy agency’s collection of Internet records.The challenge against the controversial Upstream program was tossed out because additional defense from the government would have required “impermissible disclosure of state secret information,” Judge Jeffrey White wrote in his decision.ADVERTISEMENTUnder the program — details of which were revealed through leaks from Edward Snowden and others — the NSA taps into the fiber cables that make up the backbone of the Internet and gathers information about people's online and phone communications. The agency then filters out communications of U.S. citizens, whose data is protected with legal defenses not extended to foreigners, and searches for “selectors” tied to a terrorist or other target.In 2008, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the government over the program on behalf of five AT&T customers, who said that the collection violated the constitutional protections to privacy and free speech.
  • But “substantial details” about the program still remain classified, White, an appointee under former President George W. Bush, wrote in his decision. Moving forward with the merits of a trial would risk “exceptionally grave damage to national security,” he added. <A HREF="http://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?rt=tf_mfw&ServiceVersion=20070822&MarketPlace=US&ID=V20070822%2FUS%2Fthehill07-20%2F8001%2Fdffbe72d-f425-4b83-b07e-357ae9d405f6&Operation=NoScript">Amazon.com Widgets</A> The government has been “persuasive” in using its state secrets privilege, he continued, which allows it to withhold evidence from a case that could severely jeopardize national security.   In addition to saying that the program appeared constitutional, the judge also found that the AT&T customers did not even have the standing to sue the NSA over its data gathering.While they may be AT&T customers, White wrote that the evidence presented to the court was “insufficient to establish that the Upstream collection process operates in the manner” that they say it does, which makes it impossible to tell if their information was indeed collected in the NSA program.  The decision is a stinging rebuke to critics of the NSA, who have seen public interest in their cause slowly fade in the months since Snowden’s revelations.
  • The EFF on Tuesday evening said that it was considering next steps and noted that the court focused on just one program, not the totality of the NSA’s controversial operations.“It would be a travesty of justice if our clients are denied their day in court over the ‘secrecy’ of a program that has been front-page news for nearly a decade,” the group said in a statement.“We will continue to fight to end NSA mass surveillance.”The name of the case is Jewel v. NSA. 
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    The article should have mentioned that the decision was on cross-motions for *partial* summary judgment. The Jewel case will proceed on other plaintiff claims. 
Paul Merrell

News from The Associated Press - 0 views

  • (AP) -- Federal regulators are urging consumers to go through their phone bills line by line after they accused T-Mobile US of wrongly charging customers for premium services, like horoscope texts and quirky ringtones, the customers never authorized. The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it is suing T-Mobile in a federal court in Seattle with the goal of making sure every unfairly charged customer sees a full refund. The lawsuit, the first of its kind against a mobile provider, is the result of months of stalled negotiations with T-Mobile, which says it is already offering refunds. "It's wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent," FTC Chair Edith Ramirez in a statement.
  • The practice is called "cramming": A third party stuffs a customer's bill with bogus charges such as $10-per-month horoscopes or updates on celebrity gossip. In this case, the FTC said, T-Mobile was working with third-party vendors being investigated by regulators and known to be the subject of numerous customer complaints. T-Mobile then made it difficult for customers to notice the added charge to their bill and pocketed up to 40 percent of the total, according to the FTC.
  • The FTC told reporters in a conference call Tuesday that it had been in negotiations with T-Mobile for months in an attempt to guarantee refunds would be provided to customers but that the two sides couldn't reach an agreement. T-Mobile appears to have been laying the groundwork to head off the federal complaint. Last November, the company announced that it would no longer allow premium text services because they were waning in popularity and not all vendors had acted responsibly. In June, it announced it would reach out to consumers to provide refunds. But the FTC says that in many cases, the refunds are only partial and T-Mobile often refers customer complaints to the third-party vendors.
Paul Merrell

​EU admonishes US for overseas data requests - RT News - 0 views

  • The EU has slammed the US for its demand that Microsoft surrender overseas data – emails held on Irish servers – saying that the move could contravene international law. The US attempt to make Microsoft provide the emails prompted Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission, to offer support to Microsoft and openly criticize the loss of personal information it could potentially involve. “The commission’s concern is that the extraterritorial application of foreign laws [and orders to companies based thereon] may be in breach of international law,” Reding wrote last week in a letter responding to questions from Dutch MEP Sophia in't Veld, reported the Financial Times on Monday. The move would “hurt the competitiveness of US cloud providers in general,” Microsoft said, adding that: “Microsoft and US technology companies have faced growing mistrust and concern about their ability to protect the privacy of personal information located outside the US.”
  • Reding added that the US “may impede the attainment of the protection of individuals guaranteed” under EU law. Her statement further echoes arguments laid out by Apple, Cisco, AT&T, and Verizon, which supported Microsoft against the US warrant. At the beginning of June, Microsoft compared the warrant to an authorization for federal agents ‘to break down the doors’ of its Dublin facility. Reding said the US should have leaned away from coercion and instead depended on mutual legal assistance treaties that facilitate law enforcement agency cooperation.
  • “Companies bound by EU data protection law who receive such a court order are caught in the middle of such situations where there is, as you say in your letter, a conflict of laws,” Reding wrote.
Paul Merrell

ISPs take GCHQ to court in UK over mass surveillance | World news | theguardian.com - 0 views

  • Internet service providers from around the world are lodging formal complaints against the UK government's monitoring service, GCHQ, alleging that it uses "malicious software" to break into their networks.The claims from seven organisations based in six countries – the UK, Netherlands, US, South Korea, Germany and Zimbabwe – will add to international pressure on the British government following Edward Snowden's revelations about mass surveillance of the internet by UK and US intelligence agencies.The claims are being filed with the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), the court in London that assesses complaints about the agencies' activities and misuse of surveillance by government organisations. Most of its hearings are held at least partially in secret.
  • The IPT is already considering a number of related submissions. Later this month it will investigate complaints by human rights groups about the way social media sites have been targeted by GCHQ.The government has defended the security services, pointing out that online searches are often routed overseas and those deemed "external communications" can be monitored without the need for an individual warrant. Critics say that such a legal interpretation sidesteps the need for traditional intercept safeguards.The latest claim is against both GCHQ, located near Cheltenham, and the Foreign Office. It is based on articles published earlier this year in the German magazine Der Spiegel. That report alleged that GCHQ had carried out an attack, codenamed Operation Socialist, on the Belgian telecoms group, Belgacom, targeting individual employees with "malware (malicious software)".One of the techniques was a "man in the middle" attack, which, according to the documents filed at the IPT, bypasses modern encryption software and "operates by interposing the attacker [GCHQ] between two computers that believe that they are securely communicating with each other. In fact, each is communicating with GCHQ, who collect the communications, as well as relaying them in the hope that the interference will be undetected."The complaint alleges that the attacks were a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and an interference with the privacy rights of the employees under the European convention of human rights.
  • The organisations targeted, the submission states, were all "responsible and professional internet service providers". The claimants are: GreenNet Ltd, based in the UK, Riseup Networks in Seattle, Mango Email Service in Zimbabwe, Jinbonet in South Korea, Greenhost in the Netherlands, May First/People Link in New York and the Chaos Computer Club in Hamburg.
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  • Among the programs said to have been operating were Turbine, which automates the injection of data and can infect millions of machines and Warrior Pride, which enables microphones on iPhones and Android devices to be remotely activated.
Paul Merrell

Between the Lines of the Cellphone Privacy Ruling - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • In a pathbreaking case on Fourth Amendment privacy rights and modern technology, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the police must obtain warrants before searching the digital contents of cellphones taken from people who are placed under arrest. Here are some key points in the opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and a concurrence by Justice Samuel Alito.
Paul Merrell

Supreme Court Says Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.“This is a bold opinion,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”
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    It is now beyond doubt that the Supreme Court is declining to authorize an Orwellian government surveillance future for the U.S. This sweeping, unanimous ruling definitely has broad application beyond cellphones, in no small part because the court recognized that cellphones of today are more like desktop computers and a host of other computerized devices than they are like the telephones of yesteryear. Hence, almost everything the court said afterward about the privacy rights in cellphones applies equally to all personal use computers. 
Paul Merrell

EFF to Court: U.S. Warrants Don't Apply to Overseas Emails | Electronic Frontier Founda... - 0 views

  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has urged a federal court to block a U.S. search warrant ordering Microsoft to turn over a customer's emails held in an overseas server, arguing that the case has dangerous privacy implications for Internet users everywhere. The case started in December of last year, when a magistrate judge in New York signed a search warrant seeking records and emails from a Microsoft account in connection with a criminal investigation. However, Microsoft determined that the emails the government sought were on a Microsoft server in Dublin, Ireland. Because a U.S. judge has no authority to issue warrants to search and seize property or data abroad, Microsoft refused to turn over the emails and asked the magistrate to quash the warrant. But the magistrate denied Microsoft's request, ruling there was no foreign search because the data would be reviewed by law enforcement agents in the U.S.
  • Microsoft appealed the decision. In an amicus brief in support of Microsoft, EFF argues the magistrate's rationale ignores the fact that copying the emails is a "seizure" that takes place in Ireland. "The Fourth Amendment protects from unreasonable search and seizure. You can't ignore the 'seizure' part just because the property is digital and not physical," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "Ignoring this basic point has dangerous implications – it could open the door to unfounded law enforcement access to and collection of data stored around the world."
  • For the full brief in this case:https://www.eff.org/document/eff-amicus-brief-support-microsoft
Paul Merrell

2nd Cir. Affirms That Creation of Full-Text Searchable Database of Works Is Fair Use | ... - 0 views

  • The fair use doctrine permits the unauthorized digitization of copyrighted works in order to create a full-text searchable database, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled June 10.Affirming summary judgment in favor of a consortium of university libraries, the court also ruled that the fair use doctrine permits the unauthorized conversion of those works into accessible formats for use by persons with disabilities, such as the blind.
  • The dispute is connected to the long-running conflict between Google Inc. and various authors of books that Google included in a mass digitization program. In 2004, Google began soliciting the participation of publishers in its Google Print for Publishers service, part of what was then called the Google Print project, aimed at making information available for free over the Internet.Subsequently, Google announced a new project, Google Print for Libraries. In 2005, Google Print was renamed Google Book Search and it is now known simply as Google Books. Under this program, Google made arrangements with several of the world's largest libraries to digitize the entire contents of their collections to create an online full-text searchable database.The announcement of this program triggered a copyright infringement action by the Authors Guild that continues to this day.
  • Part of the deal between Google and the libraries included an offer by Google to hand over to the libraries their own copies of the digitized versions of their collections.In 2011, a group of those libraries announced the establishment of a new service, called the HathiTrust digital library, to which the libraries would contribute their digitized collections. This database of copies is to be made available for full-text searching and preservation activities. Additionally, it is intended to offer free access to works to individuals who have “print disabilities.” For works under copyright protection, the search function would return only a list of page numbers that a search term appeared on and the frequency of such appearance.
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  • Turning to the fair use question, the court first concluded that the full-text search function of the Hathitrust Digital Library was a “quintessentially transformative use,” and thus constituted fair use. The court said:the result of a word search is different in purpose, character, expression, meaning, and message from the page (and the book) from which it is drawn. Indeed, we can discern little or no resemblance between the original text and the results of the HDL full-text search.There is no evidence that the Authors write with the purpose of enabling text searches of their books. Consequently, the full-text search function does not “supersede[ ] the objects [or purposes] of the original creation.”Turning to the fourth fair use factor—whether the use functions as a substitute for the original work—the court rejected the argument that such use represents lost sales to the extent that it prevents the future development of a market for licensing copies of works to be used in full-text searches.However, the court emphasized that the search function “does not serve as a substitute for the books that are being searched.”
  • The court also rejected the argument that the database represented a threat of a security breach that could result in the full text of all the books becoming available for anyone to access. The court concluded that Hathitrust's assertions of its security measures were unrebutted.Thus, the full-text search function was found to be protected as fair use.
  • The court also concluded that allowing those with print disabilities access to the full texts of the works collected in the Hathitrust database was protected as fair use. Support for this conclusion came from the legislative history of the Copyright Act's fair use provision, 17 U.S.C. §107.
Paul Merrell

US pushing local cops to stay mum on surveillance - Yahoo News - 0 views

  • WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned. Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment. Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.
  • One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray, an innovative way for law enforcement to track cellphones used by suspects and gather evidence. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners' account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company's tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers, such as Verizon or AT&T, and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message. But without more details about how the technology works and under what circumstances it's used, it's unclear whether the technology might violate a person's constitutional rights or whether it's a good investment of taxpayer dollars. Interviews, court records and public-records requests show the Obama administration is asking agencies to withhold common information about the equipment, such as how the technology is used and how to turn it on. That pushback has come in the form of FBI affidavits and consultation in local criminal cases.
  • "These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the release of these types of records. "If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them." Harris Corp., a key manufacturer of this equipment, built a secrecy element into its authorization agreement with the Federal Communications Commission in 2011. That authorization has an unusual requirement: that local law enforcement "coordinate with the FBI the acquisition and use of the equipment." Companies like Harris need FCC authorization in order to sell wireless equipment that could interfere with radio frequencies. A spokesman from Harris Corp. said the company will not discuss its products for the Defense Department and law enforcement agencies, although public filings showed government sales of communications systems such as the Stingray accounted for nearly one-third of its $5 billion in revenue. "As a government contractor, our solutions are regulated and their use is restricted," spokesman Jim Burke said.
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  • Local police agencies have been denying access to records about this surveillance equipment under state public records laws. Agencies in San Diego, Chicago and Oakland County, Michigan, for instance, declined to tell the AP what devices they purchased, how much they cost and with whom they shared information. San Diego police released a heavily censored purchasing document. Oakland officials said police-secrecy exemptions and attorney-client privilege keep their hands tied. It was unclear whether the Obama administration interfered in the AP requests. "It's troubling to think the FBI can just trump the state's open records law," said Ginger McCall, director of the open government project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. McCall suspects the surveillance would not pass constitutional muster. "The vast amount of information it sweeps in is totally irrelevant to the investigation," she said.
  • A court case challenging the public release of information from the Tucson Police Department includes an affidavit from an FBI special agent, Bradley Morrison, who said the disclosure would "result in the FBI's inability to protect the public from terrorism and other criminal activity because through public disclosures, this technology has been rendered essentially useless for future investigations." Morrison said revealing any information about the technology would violate a federal homeland security law about information-sharing and arms-control laws — legal arguments that that outside lawyers and transparency experts said are specious and don't comport with court cases on the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The FBI did not answer questions about its role in states' open records proceedings.
  • But a former Justice Department official said the federal government should be making this argument in federal court, not a state level where different public records laws apply. "The federal government appears to be attempting to assert a federal interest in the information being sought, but it's going about it the wrong way," said Dan Metcalfe, the former director of the Justice Department's office of information and privacy. Currently Metcalfe is the executive director of American University's law school Collaboration on Government Secrecy project. A criminal case in Tallahassee cites the same homeland security laws in Morrison's affidavit, court records show, and prosecutors told the court they consulted with the FBI to keep portions of a transcript sealed. That transcript, released earlier this month, revealed that Stingrays "force" cellphones to register their location and identifying information with the police device and enables officers to track calls whenever the phone is on.
  • One law enforcement official familiar with the Tucson lawsuit, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak about internal discussions, said federal lawyers told Tucson police they couldn't hand over a PowerPoint presentation made by local officers about how to operate the Stingray device. Federal officials forwarded Morrison's affidavit for use in the Tucson police department's reply to the lawsuit, rather than requesting the case be moved to federal court. In Sarasota, Florida, the U.S. Marshals Service confiscated local records on the use of the surveillance equipment, removing the documents from the reach of Florida's expansive open-records law after the ACLU asked under Florida law to see the documents. The ACLU has asked a judge to intervene. The Marshals Service said it deputized the officer as a federal agent and therefore the records weren't accessible under Florida law.
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    The Florida case is particularly interesting because Florida is within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has just ruled that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant from a court before using equipment to determine a cell phone's location.  
Paul Merrell

The Government Can No Longer Track Your Cell Phone Without a Warrant | Motherboard - 0 views

  • The government and police regularly use location data pulled off of cell phone towers to put criminals at the scenes of crimes—often without a warrant. Well, an appeals court ruled today that the practice is unconstitutional, in one of the strongest judicial defenses of technology privacy rights we've seen in a while.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the government illegally obtained and used Quartavious Davis's cell phone location data to help convict him in a string of armed robberies in Miami and unequivocally stated that cell phone location information is protected by the Fourth Amendment. "In short, we hold that cell site location information is within the subscriber’s reasonable expectation of privacy," the court ruled in an opinion written by Judge David Sentelle. "The obtaining of that data without a warrant is a Fourth Amendment violation."
  • In Davis's case, police used his cell phone's call history against him to put him at the scene of several armed robberies. They obtained a court order—which does not require the government to show probable cause—not a warrant, to do so. From now on, that'll be illegal. The decision applies only in the Eleventh Circuit, but sets a strong precedent for future cases.
  • Indeed, the decision alone is a huge privacy win, but Sentelle's strong language supporting cell phone users' privacy rights is perhaps the most important part of the opinion. Sentelle pushed back against several of the federal government's arguments, including one that suggested that, because cell phone location data based on a caller's closest cell tower isn't precise, it should be readily collectable.  "The United States further argues that cell site location information is less protected than GPS data because it is less precise. We are not sure why this should be significant. We do not doubt that there may be a difference in precision, but that is not to say that the difference in precision has constitutional significance," Sentelle wrote. "That information obtained by an invasion of privacy may not be entirely precise does not change the calculus as to whether obtaining it was in fact an invasion of privacy." The court also cited the infamous US v. Jones Supreme Court decision that held that attaching a GPS to a suspect's car is a "search" under the Fourth Amendment. Sentelle suggested a cell phone user has an even greater expectation of location privacy with his or her cell phone use than a driver does with his or her car. A car, Sentelle wrote, isn't always with a person, while a cell phone, these days, usually is.
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  • "One’s cell phone, unlike an automobile, can accompany its owner anywhere. Thus, the exposure of the cell site location information can convert what would otherwise be a private event into a public one," he wrote. "In that sense, cell site data is more like communications data than it is like GPS information. That is, it is private in nature rather than being public data that warrants privacy protection only when its collection creates a sufficient mosaic to expose that which would otherwise be private." Finally, the government argued that, because Davis made outgoing calls, he "voluntarily" gave up his location data. Sentelle rejected that, too, citing a prior decision by a Third Circuit Court. "The Third Circuit went on to observe that 'a cell phone customer has not ‘voluntarily’ shared his location information with a cellular provider in any meaningful way.' That circuit further noted that 'it is unlikely that cell phone customers are aware that their cell phone providers collect and store historical location information,'” Sentelle wrote.
  • "Therefore, as the Third Circuit concluded, 'when a cell phone user makes a call, the only information that is voluntarily and knowingly conveyed to the phone company is the number that is dialed, and there is no indication to the user that making that call will also locate the caller,'" he continued.
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    Another victory for civil libertarians against the surveillance state. Note that this is another decision drawing guidance from the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Jones, shortly before the Edward Snowden leaks came to light, that called for re-examination of the Third Party Doctrine, an older doctrine that data given to or generated by third parties is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.   
Paul Merrell

Another judge upholds NSA call tracking - POLITICO.com - 0 views

  • A federal judge in Idaho has upheld the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's program that gathers massive quanities of data on the telephone calls of Americans. The ruling Tuesday from U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill leaves the federal government with two wins in lawsuits decided since the program was revealed about a year ago by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In addition, one judge handling a criminal case ruled that the surveillance did not violate the Constitution. Opponents of the program have only one win: U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon's ruling in December that the program likely violates the Fourth Amendment. In the new decision, Winmill said binding precedent in the Ninth Circuit holds that call and email metadata are not protected by the Constitution and no warrant is needed to obtain it.
  • "The weight of the authority favors the NSA," wrote Winmill, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. Winmill took note of Leon's contrary decision and called it eloquent, but concluded it departs from current Supreme Court precedent — though perhaps not for long. "Judge Leon’s decision should serve as a template for a Supreme Court opinion. And it might yet," Winmill wrote as he threw out the lawsuit brought by an Idaho registered nurse who objected to the gathering of data on her phone calls. Winmill's opinion (posted here) does not address an argument put forward by some critics of the program, including some lawmakers: that the metadata program violates federal law because it does not fit squarely within the language of the statute used to authorize it.
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    A partial win for the public. The judge makes plain that he disagrees with pre-Snowden disclosure precedent and recommends that the Supreme Court adopt the reasoning of Judge Richard Leon's ruling that finds the NSA call-metadata violative of the Fourth Amendment. The judge says his hands are tied by prior decisions in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that gave an expansive reading to Smith v. Maryland.
Paul Merrell

Court Approves F.C.C. Plan to Subsidize Rural Broadband Service - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to convert its $4.5 billion program that pays for telephone service in rural parts of the country into one that subsidizes high-speed Internet service in high-cost areas.The program, known as Connect America, is the largest portion of the $8 billion Universal Service Fund, which pays for a variety of efforts to provide telecommunications links to schools, low-income families and others.In October 2011, the F.C.C. approved an overhaul of the fund. Soon after its approval, however, the effort was challenged in court by dozens of phone companies. Many were small carriers that provided service in rural areas and that stood to lose annual subsidies because of the changes.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver, rejected the phone companies’ arguments because their claims were “either unpersuasive or barred from judicial review.”
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Patent Litigation Cost US Business About A Trillion Dollars In A Quarter Century, Outwe... - 0 views

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    "from the trolls-strike-again dept Techdirt recently wrote about the ever-growing flood of patents being granted by the USPTO. As we've emphasized, more patents do not mean more innovation; nor do they necessarily lead to greater overall benefits for business."
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    "from the trolls-strike-again dept Techdirt recently wrote about the ever-growing flood of patents being granted by the USPTO. As we've emphasized, more patents do not mean more innovation; nor do they necessarily lead to greater overall benefits for business."
Paul Merrell

US judge slams surveillance requests as "repugnant to the Fourth Amendment" - World Soc... - 0 views

  • Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola denied a US government request earlier this month for a search and seizure warrant, targeting electronic data stored on Apple Inc. property. Facciola’s order, issued on March 7, 2014, rejected what it described as only the latest in a series of “overbroad search and seizure requests,” and “unconstitutional warrant applications” submitted by the US government to the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Facciola referred to the virtually unlimited warrant request submitted by the Justice Department as “repugnant to the Fourth Amendment.” The surveillance request sought information in relation to a “kickback investigation” of a defense contractor, details about which remain secret. It is significant, however, that the surveillance request denied by Facciola relates to a criminal investigation, unrelated to terrorism. This demonstrates that the use by the Obama administration of blanket warrants enabling them to seize all information on a person's Internet accounts is not limited to terrorism, as is frequently claimed, but is part of a program of general mass illegal spying on the American people.
  • Facciola’s ruling states in no uncertain terms that the Obama administration has aggressively and repeatedly sought expansive, unconstitutional warrants, ignoring the court’s insistence for specific, narrowly targeted surveillance requests. “The government continues to submit overly broad warrants and makes no effort to balance the law enforcement interest against the obvious expectation of privacy email account holders have in their communications…The government continues to ask for all electronically stored information in email accounts, irrespective of the relevance to the investigation,” wrote Judge Facciola. As stated in the ruling, the surveillance requests submitted to the court by the US government sought the following comprehensive, virtually limitless list of information about the target: “All records or other information stored by an individual using each account, including address books, contact and buddy lists, pictures, and files… All records or other information regarding the identification of the accounts, to include full name, physical address, telephone numbers and other identifies, records of session times and durations, the date on which each account was created, the length of service, the types of service utilized, the Internet Protocol (IP) address used to register each account, log-in IP addresses associated with session times and dates, account status, alternative email addresses provided during registration, methods of connecting, log files, and means of payment (including any credit or bank account number).”
  • Responding to these all-encompassing warrant requests, Judge Facciola ruled that evidence of probable cause was necessary for each specific item sought by the government. “This Court is increasingly concerned about the government’s applications for search warrants for electronic data. In essence, its applications ask for the entire universe of information tied to a particular account, even if it has established probable cause only for certain information,” Facciola wrote. “It is the Court’s duty to reject any applications for search warrants where the standard of probable cause has not been met… To follow the dictates of the Fourth Amendment and to avoid issuing a general warrant, a court must be careful to ensure that probable cause exists to seize each item specified in the warrant application… Any search of an electronic source has the potential to unearth tens or hundreds of thousands of individual documents, pictures, movies, or other constitutionally protected content.” Facciola also noted in the ruling that the government never reported the length of time it would keep the data, or whether it planned to destroy the data at any point.
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  • Facciola’s ruling represents a reversal from a previous ruling, in which a Kansas judge allowed the government to conduct such unlimited searches of Yahoo accounts.
  • In testimony, De and his deputy Brad Wiegmann rejected the privacy board’s advice that the agency limit its data mining to specific targets approved by specific warrants. “If you have to go back to court every time you look at the information in your custody, you can imagine that would be quite burdensome,” said Wiegmann. De further said on the topic, “That information is at the government’s disposal to review in the first instance.” As these statements indicate, the intelligence establishment rejects any restrictions on their prerogative to spy on every aspect of citizens lives at will, even the entirely cosmetic regulations proposed by the Obama administration-appointed PCLOB.
Paul Merrell

The Government's Secret Plan to Shut Off Cellphones and the Internet, Explained | Conne... - 1 views

  • This month, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must make its plan to shut off the Internet and cellphone communications available to the American public. You, of course, may now be thinking: What plan?! Though President Barack Obama swiftly disapproved of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak turning off the Internet in his country (to quell widespread civil disobedience) in 2011, the US government has the authority to do the same sort of thing, under a plan that was devised during the George W. Bush administration. Many details of the government’s controversial “kill switch” authority have been classified, such as the conditions under which it can be implemented and how the switch can be used. But thanks to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), DHS has to reveal those details by December 12 — or mount an appeal. (The smart betting is on an appeal, since DHS has fought to release this information so far.) Yet here’s what we do know about the government’s “kill switch” plan:
  • What are the constitutional problems? Civil liberties advocates argue that kill switches violate the First Amendment and pose a problem because they aren’t subject to rigorous judicial and congressional oversight. “There is no court in the loop at all, at any stage in the SOP 303 process,” according to the Center for Democracy and Technology. ”The executive branch, untethered by the checks and balances of court oversight, clear instruction from Congress, or transparency to the public, is free to act as it will and in secret.” David Jacobs of EPIC says, “Cutting off communications imposes a prior restraint on speech, so the First Amendment imposes the strictest of limitations…We don’t know how DHS thinks [the kill switch] is consistent with the First Amendment.” He adds, “Such a policy, unbounded by clear rules and oversight, just invites abuse.”
Paul Merrell

EPIC - EPIC Prevails in FOIA Case About "Internet Kill Switch" - 0 views

  • In a Freedom of Information Act case brought by EPIC against the Department of Homeland Security, a federal court has ruled that the DHS may not withhold the agency's plan to deactivate wireless communications networks in a crisis. EPIC had sought "Standard Operating Procedure 303," also known as the "internet Kill Switch," to determine whether the agency's plan could adversely impact free speech or public safety. EPIC filed the FOIA lawsuit in 2012 after the the technique was used by police in San Francisco to shut down cell service for protesters at a BART station, who had gathered peacefully to object to police practices. The federal court determined that the agency wrongly claimed that it could withhold SOP 303 as a "technique for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions." The phrase, the court explained, "refers only to acts by law enforcement after or during the prevention of a crime, not crime prevention techniques." The court repeatedly emphasized that FOIA exemptions are to be read narrowly. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (SOP 303) and EPIC: FOIA.
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    Talk about a prior restraint of speech! The link at the bottom of the quoted portion takes you to a page with the relevant court records.
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