by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 7th 2013 12:49pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 7th 2013 11:42am
from the what-are-they-smoking? dept
Our client is requesting all Internet Protocol addresses (including the date and time of that access in Universal Coordinated Time) that accessed the blogs located at dietrolldie.com and fightcopyrighttrolls.com between January 1, 2011 through the present. Please provide this information in an Excel spreadsheet.The subpoena is from Paul Duffy, so it's a bit ridiculous to claim "our client" since he is the client. This seems like a pretty clear abuse of the subpoena process, though, coming from Prenda Law, whose specialty is doing anything it possibly can to get IP addresses, perhaps it's no surprise. The subpoena was issued in association with the original claim that was filed in state court. The cases have all been removed to federal court, and hopefully the lawyers at Wordpress know better than to just cough up this info like that. Even more ridiculously, Duffy tries to claim that this is an "emergency" so they shouldn't waste any time in handing over the info:
Due to the emergency nature of the requested information, it is imperative that your organization responds to the subpoena immediately. The requested information is perishable and vital to the claims asserted in a complaint alleging widespread and systematic defamation.What hogwash. They're looking for data going back to January of 2011. If Wordpress has logs going back that far, it's not like they're suddenly going to disappear. And, of course, the "widespread and systematic defamation" claims are already pretty questionable.
It's not difficult to look at this and see a likely attempt at creating chilling effects to try to scare people off from visiting those sites. Considering that Prenda has been collecting all sorts of IP addresses in its various copyright trolling lawsuits, can you imagine what they might do if they can cross reference IP addresses of visitors to those sites with the IP addresses they've already sued over?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 1st 2013 3:07pm
Illinois Bill To Outlaw Online Anonymity Dropped Because People Got Pissed Off, Not Because It's Unconstitutional
from the that's-one-way-to-do-lawmaking dept
Silverstein has now pulled the bill, admitting that "the heat" the bill generated was too much, so he dropped it. But what's truly incredible is his apparent inability to understand why people were so upset. He doesn't seem particularly apologetic about it, though he does admit that he copied the NY bill, which he discovered while surfing the internet:
"I do a lot of reading, a lot of research, over break," he said. "And I came across this idea that had been suggested in New York (state) as a way to combat cyberbullying. Kids can be very mean on the Internet, and I thought this might be a way of controlling that."So it's another "save the children!" excuse, without, apparently, even attempting to think through the consequences (or constitutionality) of what he was proposing. For all the "reading" and "research" he did over break, you'd think he would have come across the complete tear downs of that same NY bill and why it was unconstitutional. I'm glad the bill was pulled, but it would be nicer if there was some flicker of recognition from Silverstein as to why the bill was so problematic in the first place.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 1st 2013 11:50am
Federal Judge Alex Kozinski Talks About Using Tor To Surf Silk Road & The Armory For Drugs, Weapons And Hitmen
from the don't-mess-with-alex dept
By far the most entertaining part of the evening was Kozinski sharing (with screenshots) his experience exploring the "hidden web." He claims that when he told his children about the topic of the talk, they told him he needed to explore the hidden web. So, "with some trepidation," he downloaded Tor and dove in, starting out at Silk Road, which still remains the most well known hidden website out there. As we've noted in the past, for all the excitement and press attention Silk Road has received for being a totally anonymous online marketplace used mainly for buying and selling drugs and other illicit goods, it still is a fairly small business. Still, Judge Kozinski detailed his exploration of the market, including checking out various drugs (including many he'd never heard of before). He also looked into the ability to buy forged documents and lots of counterfeit software.
He marveled at how much like regular online stores these sites were -- including things like seller ratings -- and compared it to his experiences with eBay. Of course, he also noted that it's entirely possible the whole thing is a front by the feds to track these kinds of things, but if so, he was impressed with the level of detail.
While much of this was entertaining, the point (I think!) was to highlight all of the kinds of things that anonymity enables -- but it wasn't in a necessarily negative or judgmental way (even if he's suggested his concerns in the past). Instead, it was more of a realist approach to what's happening out there and how there are interesting challenges presented concerning both anonymity and privacy -- which he notes are related but not the same thing. To show the difference, he discussed your neighbors across the way, where they may not be anonymous to you, but what they do in their bedroom is kept private from you. Yet, take a random couple in Times Square on New Years Eve doing the same thing -- and they may be "anonymous," but not private at all.
While he did express some concerns about where all this leads, including a dig at anonymous comments online, his biggest concern appeared to be about government abuse thanks to technology. He spent a fair bit of time on the NSA's infamous spy center in Utah, which is supposedly storing a ridiculous amount of information on us all. He pointed out that having that much information in the hands of government is dangerous, and suggested it's likely to be abused. As an example, he pointed to the story from all the way back in 2001 when he and other federal judges discovered that the feds were monitoring their internet usage, something the judges had never been told about.
He explained that the software had been put on the computers to protect the judiciary intranet from being attacked by hackers from China or whatever, but most of the time they weren't doing anything at all, so it wasn't long before the scope began to creep, and someone realized that, hey, if that monitoring software is on those computers, it could also be used to spy on what sites judges were surfing. The judges only found out about it when a judge was called out for his inappropriate surfing habits.
While he didn't say anything explicitly about it, it seems like this should be a pretty clear warning to folks who are supporting laws like CISPA. When you increase information sharing to the government for one purpose, you can almost guarantee that there will be scope creep over time. Someone will point out that "hey, we're already doing this for security, so why not for spying on people...."
Similarly, Kozinski is worried about how all this number crunching and data collection by governments means that people are going to be "targeted" for heightened scrutiny based on some algorithms, even if their activity is perfectly legal. He even noted that he's assuming that his own decision to download Tor and check out Silk Road and other sites probably means that he set off some alarms and may be in for heightened scrutiny. When asked about that later during the Q&A, he admitted that it might just be his own paranoia, but he wouldn't be surprised if it was true.
When asked about how to push back on all this government surveillance, he said that everyone keeps pointing to the courts, and saying that it's their responsibility to limit the government's powers, but suggested that the courts are limited, because it's not clear that anonymity and privacy are really Constitutional issues. Or, he said, if there is a basis for them in the Constitution, it's fairly weak, and could easily be overcome by "other concerns." Personally, I think that he downplayed both the First Amendment's protection of anonymity as confirmed by the Supreme Court, as well as the 4th Amendment's (too often ignored) protection of privacy. Still, he seemed to think that this was really an issue where it was up to Congress to prevent abuses. That's kind of depressing if you remember Congress' recent "debate" and subsequent rubberstamping of the FISA Amendments Act, giving the NSA much more power to spy on Americans with little oversight.
One other bit of useful info: he seemed fairly convinced by Justice Sotomayor's statements on the 3rd party doctrine in the US v. Jones case about GPS tracking. If you don't recall, the 3rd party doctrine basically says that you don't have privacy rights in information that you've left in the control of a third party. That's obviously quite problematic in an age of cloud computing, where all your data is probably in the hands of third parties. The government has been relying on this fact to access all sorts of data with little oversight for quite some time. It's good to see Kozinski hint at the idea that the 3rd party doctrine just isn't reasonable any more in the information era.
There were plenty of other tidbits, but basically it was an interesting discussion of privacy and anonymity, with a strong focus in how the government is collecting way too much information on us all these days. There was also some brief talk of how much information companies are collecting too -- including his apparent uncomfortableness with things like Google Maps' Street View and Satellite View (he joked about how you can see him sunbathing nude if you can find his house). But, for the most part, he seemed to think that this was an area where the government was doing a better job keeping companies somewhat in check.
Oh yeah, and one other amusing tidbit: in talking about how easy it is to track us all due to our mobile phones, he asked how many people had smartphones (or, more specifically, "phones with email on them") and noted that when he talks to lawyers, they all do. He noted that lawyers always had their email near them to respond to clients quickly, because otherwise you get fired, but this cool tool "given to you by work" just shackles you while also denting your privacy. And then he claimed that when work gives him a smartphone, he gets it without a sim and then sells the device on eBay. Maybe he should try selling it on Silk Road next time...
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 19th 2013 11:57am
from the is-anonymity-good-or-bad? dept
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.It would appear that Illinois State Senator Ira I. Silverstein needs a refresher course on this basic concept, as he's recently introduced an almost identical bill to the New York one. Seriously. The wording is about as close to identical as you could imagine. Here's the Illinois wording.
Creates the Internet Posting Removal Act. Provides that a web site administrator shall, upon request, remove any posted comments posted by an anonymous poster unless the anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate.Here's the widely mocked NY wording:
A WEB SITE ADMINISTRATOR UPON REQUEST SHALL REMOVE ANY COMMENTS POSTED ON HIS OR HER WEB SITE BY AN ANONYMOUS POSTER UNLESS SUCH ANONYMOUS POSTER AGREES TO ATTACH HIS OR HER NAME TO THE POST AND CONFIRMS THAT HIS OR HER IP ADDRESS, LEGAL NAME, AND HOME ADDRESS ARE ACCURATE. ALL WEB SITE ADMINISTRATORS SHALL HAVE A CONTACT NUMBER OR E-MAIL ADDRESS POSTED FOR SUCH REMOVAL REQUESTS, CLEARLY VISIBLE IN ANY SECTIONS WHERE COMMENTS ARE POSTED.It kind of makes me wonder who is going around giving state politicians this language.
Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis notes the ultimate irony that the very same Ira I. Silverstein, just days after introducing that bill to effectively ban internet anonymity, proposed another bill to keep gun owner info anonymous, amending the freedom of information act to exempt firearms ownership data from being available to the public.
Whatever you might believe about anonymous comments and/or gun ownership, it's difficult to put both of these laws together and not see some sort of extreme hypocrisy.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 24th 2013 8:00pm
from the treat-your-community-right dept
So I was actually surprised a few years ago when TechCrunch moved to switch all of its comments to Facebook comments, claiming that one of the good things about it was that it required you to provide your real name. Apparently that wasn't actually such a good thing for lots and lots of commenters -- as after nearly two years, TechCrunch has dumped Facebook comments and is pleading for commenters to come back.
Our comments are obviously far from perfect, but we've never been at a loss for having spirited discussions on nearly all of our posts. There's just something awesome about the community that likes to really dig into the various stories. That's part of why we've always viewed this site as a discussion site, rather than a "news" or "reporting site." We post stuff with our opinion because we expect people to respond -- good or bad, agree or disagree -- in the comments, and for some sort of discussion to ensue. That doesn't mean that we like to encourage trollish behavior, but we recognize that encouraging a real community has its benefits, and one key aspect to that is keeping the barrier low. Too many other sites seem to think the best way to deal with the messiness of some annoying commenters is to make it more difficult to comment. However, as TechCrunch has discovered, like chemotherapy, it's a solution that can kill off many of the "good" cells along with the "bad."
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Jan 22nd 2013 2:47pm
from the question-of-trust dept
WikiLeaks currently finds itself in a difficult position. Funds are trickling in because of a questionable financial blockade against it, and Julian Assange is stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. So it's understandable that it should want to take every opportunity to remind people that it is still around and keen to continue publishing highly-sensitive documents in a confidential fashion. But I do wonder if this series of tweets disclosing that Aaron Swartz was involved with WikiLeaks is the best way of doing that:
Due to the investigation into the Secret Service involvement with #AaronSwartz we have decided to disclose the following facts (1-3)
There are a number of issues here. First, WikiLeaks is revealing the name of one of its sources -- surely something it should never do under any circumstances if it wants to retain the confidence of future whistleblowers. Worse, it's not even sure Aaron Swartz was a contributor, but is making the claim anyway. That matters because it may encourage the US authorities to start investigating others in his circle as possible WikiLeaks contributors. At best, that could be awkward for them, and at worst, extremely dangerous given what has happened to the alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning.
1. Aaron Swartz assisted WikiLeaks #aaronswartz (1/3)
2. Aaron Swartz was in communication with Julian Assange, including during 2010 and 2011
3. We have strong reasons to believe, but cannot prove, that Aaron Swartz was a WikiLeaks source. #aaronswartz
It's hard to see what WikiLeaks thought it would gain from making these statements, other than some quick publicity, perhaps. But that seems a very transient gain in the face of the long-term dangers it may have exposed others to. Moreover, those four tweets may also have compromised its credibility with potential sources, who must now be asking themselves whether WikiLeaks can really be trusted again.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 15th 2013 2:44am
from the getting-beyond-the-moral-panic dept
Proposition 35 would force individuals to provide law enforcement with information about online accounts that are wholly unrelated to criminal activity – such as political discussion groups, book review sites, or blogs. In today's online world, users may set up accounts on websites to communicate with family members, discuss medical conditions, participate in political advocacy, or even listen to Internet radio. An individual on the registered sex offender list would be forced to report each of these accounts to law enforcement within 24 hours of setting it up – or find themselves in jail. This will have a powerful chilling effect on free speech rights of tens of thousands of Californians.Basically, no more anonymity, if you happen to be on the list.
This seemed way over-broad, but it still passed with 81% of the public vote. The EFF and the ACLU quickly got a temporary injunction. Thankfully, now, the judge has gone slightly further with a preliminary injunction, noting that it clearly goes way too far, and suggesting that the bill is unlikely to be found Constitutional:
The challenged provisions have some nexus with the government's legitimate purpose of combating online sex offenses and human trafficking, but the government may not regulate expression in such a manner that a substantial portion of the burden on speech does not serve to advance its goals.Stopping sex offenders is a noble and worthy goal. But willy nilly removal of anonymity across the board, with no exploration into the reasonableness of the situation, or the actual offense, goes way too far in taking away someone's rights, while doing little to nothing to actually keep anyone protected.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 12th 2012 12:42pm
from the join-us dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 6th 2012 1:31pm
California Ballot Measure Will Likely Ban Anonymous Speech If You Were Arrested For Urinating In Public
from the that's-not-constitutional dept
Increases prison sentences and fines for human trafficking convictions. Requires convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders. Requires registered sex offenders to disclose Internet activities and identities. Fiscal Impact: Costs of a few million dollars annually to state and local governments for addressing human trafficking offenses. Potential increased annual fine revenue of a similar amount, dedicated primarily for human trafficking victims.Human trafficking is certainly a big concern. However, there are a lot of details here. That "disclose Internet activities and identities" part is already a concern. And, many of us have heard the horror stories of how states put all sorts of people on "sex offenders" lists for things that aren't sex offenses -- things like urinating in public or (perhaps slightly more controversial) two teenagers engaging in consensual sexual activity.
It turns out that the internet stuff in this bill is massively problematic. Unfortunately, some "voter guides" completely ignore the issue. A popular California voting guide from KCET barely mentions the internet part of the measure, and positions it as something of a no-brainer to support. But, if you look at the details, they're pretty scary:
Proposition 35 would force individuals to provide law enforcement with information about online accounts that are wholly unrelated to criminal activity – such as political discussion groups, book review sites, or blogs. In today’s online world, users may set up accounts on websites to communicate with family members, discuss medical conditions, participate in political advocacy, or even listen to Internet radio. An individual on the registered sex offender list would be forced to report each of these accounts to law enforcement within 24 hours of setting it up – or find themselves in jail. This will have a powerful chilling effect on free speech rights of tens of thousands of Californians.The LA Times posted a forceful editorial against the provision, noting that it's all about punching emotional buttons rather than a legitimate law enforcement issue:
While Proposition 35 facilitates government monitoring of certain online accounts, it doesn’t add safeguards for civil liberties or privacy. The proposition leaves unclear who will be tasked with reviewing these lists of online accounts for accuracy and completeness, and there are few limits on how the data could be used. There is substantial risk that law enforcement will subject these accounts to additional monitoring, and that officials might turn these lists of accounts over to ISPs or popular web services and solicit the assistance of these intermediaries in monitoring users’ online behavior. For example, if an individual on the registered sex offender list participates in an online political forum, will law enforcement actively monitor these discussion groups? Will other individuals on that forum face increased scrutiny because one of the forum members is on the registry? There are also risks to online accounts that are shared between household members – such as joint Netflix accounts – which will be subject to the same rules of reporting to the police, thus implicating the data of individuals who have committed no crime other than sharing an account with someone on the registry.
It punches most of the usual emotional buttons, appealing to voters' sympathy for victims and disgust with perpetrators who are the closest thing the United States has to modern-day slavers. And in calling for longer sentences, it follows the same assumptions as other tough-on-crime initiatives born in fear or anger rather than thought: Punish people more severely and they will offend less. Merely by being on the ballot, the measure implies that the Legislature would not or could not deal with the issue.The ACLU has stepped up and tried to remind people that it's likely unconstitutional in that it removes the right to speak anonymously over issues completely unrelated to any crime:
That's false. Lawmakers became convinced in 2005 that state and federal laws dealing with kidnapping, extortion and other crimes were not keeping up with human trafficking, and they adopted a law that was painstakingly crafted with input from law enforcement, victims, advocates and others. That law has been fine-tuned more than a dozen times over the last seven years as experience was gained, people were prosecuted and legal holes were discovered and plugged. Proposition 35 would subvert that work and substitute a web of poorly drafted laws that expand the sex offender registry, divert resources from victims and, most important, could not be adjusted to keep up with changing circumstances without yet another ballot measure.
The Supreme Court has long held that the First Amendment protects the right to speak anonymously. The initiative infringes on that right of registrants to speak anonymously on the Internet, because it means a person who is convicted decades ago of a relatively minor sex offense, such as indecent exposure, or a crime that has absolutely nothing to do with either children or the use of the Internet, must now inform the police of any name he or she uses in any sort of online discussion group.Unfortunately, because this is an emotional issue, it's likely going to pass, and then there's going to be a huge mess as it's put into practice, followed almost certainly by lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the provision. Emotionally driven issues tend to make bad law, and it seems like this is no exception.