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  • Nov 13th, 2017 @ 11:57am

    (untitled comment)

    Civil asset forfeiture is the government saying, "Remember all that happy talk about due process and innocent-until-proven-guilty? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

    Civil asset forfeiture should not be a tool of law enforcement. Full stop. If someone has broken the law, then gather the evidence, arrest them, prove it in court, and then a judge decides whether the state can confiscate their ill-gotten gains. That's criminal asset forfeiture. It's typically hard to argue against, which is why Rosenstein is trying to conflate it with what he's defending. Skipping the first three steps (and, in so doing, calling into question the critical "ill-gotten" part of the last step) is civil asset forfeiture and it is an affront to anything one could call justice.

    The deceptions and outright lies Rosenstein makes are a reflection of how desperate the pro-theft crowd have gotten. They know that, in the end, arguing that government should be able to take people's stuff without a trial is a loser. Everytime they have a compelling example of an actual bad guy, the obvious response is, "So, why not convict him, so we can take his stuff and get him off the street?" Every other example is one of either potential or obvious abuse, where they have a hard time showing there was ever an actual bad guy.

  • Nov 9th, 2017 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Attitudes incompatible with good policing

    And... the strawman cometh.

    No one said they were the bring-me-a-glass-of-water kind servant. And, frankly, it's difficult to believe anyone reading is biased enough to think that is what was meant. The idea that public servants should understand that they serve the public simply cannot be that hard to grasp.

    BTW, if someone tells an officer to get him a glass of water and the officer responds by punching that person in the face, the officer should be arrested for assault and fired, just as would be appropriate for anyone else who reacted that way. I certainly hope that any poster here who thinks that sort of violent response to a minor verbal indignity is appropriate for a police officer doesn't have a badge.

  • Nov 8th, 2017 @ 10:27pm

    Re: When will...

    When will the age of politicians exhibiting a solid understanding of anything (aside from politics itself) actually reach politics? The best evidence seems to indicate: never. Seriously, politicians routinely demonstrate a deeply flawed understanding of economics, medicine, law enforcement, science, etc. I would love it if things were somehow different with high-tech fields, but I don't see why they would be.

    The real question is: Why do we trust politicians to deal with these issues and clamor for government to "fix" problems the people running it know so little about?

  • Nov 8th, 2017 @ 10:11pm


    There are others. For instance, Rand Paul is one of those who is usually on the right side of the issues that get attention on Techdirt (e.g. on the side against passing a stupid law that will make things worse). But, these issues seem to be Wyden's bread and butter. And, thank goodness for that. I don't honestly know Wyden's opinion on most issues. But, I have come to expect that, on technology-related issues, I am thrilled that he is out there.

  • Nov 8th, 2017 @ 9:37pm

    Attitudes incompatible with good policing

    Two things. First, someone sincerely claiming that he feared for his safety when "attacked" by a twelve-pound rat terrier isn't suited for police work. Full stop. Policing is a job where officers need to respond with restraint to serious threats. Responding with deadly force to a minuscule (in every since) threat like this shows a disqualifying inability to assess threats.

    [Some would doubt that the tiny-dog-killing cop was sincere. Perhaps so. There are certainly people with an irrational fear of dogs. But, it's also true that cops are trained to put certain words in a police report when they have discharged a weapon. Either way (irrationally fearful of commonplace things or lying in a police report), they should be fired.]

    Second, what attitude did this cop have when he did this? For certain, his attitude was not, "I work for these people and this is their pet." In other words, the "Serve" part of Protect and Serve was missing from his attitude.

    This I'm-in-charge attitude is too commonplace at all levels of government, from law enforcement to politicians. They forget our fundamental civics: In America, we elect our servants, not our rulers. The same is true for non-elected public servants; we are paying these people to serve us, not to be our bosses. They think that the badge signifies that they are in charge in any situation and that everyone else is supposed to obey them, making with the yessirs and nosirs. Except in cases where a serious threat exists (which was not the case here), those servants have it reversed. Until people wake up and demand that their servants act the part, the dog-killings, the beatings, the forced cavity searches, the head stompings, etc. will continue.

  • Nov 2nd, 2017 @ 11:40pm

    How far will they go with these fantasy crime convictions?

    These convictions based on the idea that there was no actual crime, but the defendant thought that there was are almost too surreal. I wonder how the courts would rule if the feds stole (forfeited) someone's car, had it repainted, and then convinced the owner that the car is someone else's, but that he should steal it because his was stolen and this one is the same model. Would it be ok to convict that person of grand theft auto for stealing his own car? Would the AFT (gasoline is combustible, so I'm sure they consider this part of their bailiwick) be on board with the scam? No? What if the target were tricked into bringing a gun along (provided by the feds, of course) to the "robbery"? What if the target were told there was $1,000,000 of cocaine in the trunk? And kiddie porn?

  • Oct 13th, 2017 @ 10:24am

    So, what does NBC do now?

    It seems like NBC would have more than a leg to stand on if it chose to go after Trump in court. Will it do so?

    On the one hand, it would be useful NBC went to the mat and won. Some folks have never quite accepted that Trump is actually the president, and they spend (too) much of their time fantasizing about the scandal that will finally boot him from office. I have no such illusions that something like this will end the Trump presidency. But, a court ruling against him in a matter like this might make him do something he doesn't seem to do now: Think for half a second about what it means for the President to say something publicly before he says it. And, just maybe, not say it.

    On the other hand, why try to fix Trump? His directness and unfiltered comments are part of why his supporters like him. But, they are also how he reveals himself as a boob much of the time*. Would we be better off if he thought all of these silly things and didn't say them? It would be less annoying and possibly less embarrassing. But, we might be better off with these constant reminders that, in many respects (not all), the President is an idiot.

    (* But also cunning. He knows that his opposition's obsession with his every controversial tweet means that they waste time on those tweets instead of paying attention to his actual policy initiatives. He knows they can't resist screaming when he pokes them, so he pokes them and goes on to do something else.)

  • Oct 13th, 2017 @ 10:06am

    Mr. Masnick really likes Owedi v. Molinari

    I like it, too. But, I don't think I have ever quoted the same identical paragraph from it twice. ;-)

  • Sep 19th, 2017 @ 5:05pm

    (untitled comment)


    Someone needs to give us what a better bill looks like.

    So, someone needs to give Blumenthal a blowjob before he can understand that someone else is kicking him in the nuts. Bonehead.

  • Sep 11th, 2017 @ 11:07am

    Maybe crowdfund to increase exposure instead

    The $30,000 in crowdfunding for the vendor is impressive. But, I wonder if that sort of fundraising would be better spent maintaining an ongoing advertising and media presence for this issue. Billboards with a still of the cop grabbing the cash and a caption saying, "We pay police to clean up the streets, not to clean out vendors' wallets" and social media links to the video with the message "If the 'policy' says this is okay, then the policy needs to change" and so on might actually prompt some change.

  • Sep 1st, 2017 @ 9:35am

    (untitled comment)

    You would have thought that farmers would welcome the ability to shape local agricultural laws according to local needs and local factors like weather, water and soil.

    Actually, farmers don't see things that way because that's not how it works. The ability of cities or counties to pass their own regulations on X doesn't mean that the state or feds won't also regulate X. So, that ability encourages regulations at every level, meaning more regulations overall, not just locally tailored ones.

    Additionally, in many areas, those local politicians and bureaucrats passing new rules on how to use seeds or whatever aren't farmers, don't know anything about agriculture, and are reacting to volatile public opinion. Should a biased article in Rolling Stone about bee apocalypse prompt local panic and new regulations about planting "bad" seeds? What sort of local laws might come about from internet rumors that cell phones are killing bees? I can see how a state-level law to prevent such local legislation might be favored by farmers.

    This isn't saying I think the state-level legislation in question is necessarily a good thing. But, the idea that the nominal "local control" aspect of the current system would be appealing to farmers just doesn't reflect reality.

  • Aug 22nd, 2017 @ 11:14am

    So many bad consequences to come...

    Keep in mind 2 things: 1) The government can demand data for a whole host of legal reasons, none of which require a conviction. So, we are talking about the data of people who are still presumed innocent. Don't be fooled into thinking the targets will only be "bad" people who have committed what most of us might consider a serious crime. Like every other overly broad legal tool, this will eventually be used by some cop to check if his girlfriend is cheating on him or to see what secret files some celebrity is keeping. 2) If our government can do it, so can the governments of Russia, Iran, China, etc. Will they hesitate to demand the data that any company (not just Google) has on someone they want to target? E.g. a business competitor, a suspected undercover/counter-terrorism operative, etc? Of course they won't.

    Keep in mind that it seems like the only relevant standard the court is really enforcing here is that there is someone in the U.S. to whom law enforcement can hand a court order and that said someone can get access the data from here, whether or not the data itself is currently here. That's basically any data stored by a company that has a U.S. office.

    At the end of the day, this encourages companies to off-shore not just some of their data for efficiency purposes, but also their headquarters and any offices so that this can't happen. Odd-sounding notions like businesses incorporated on floating private island nations that aren't subject to traditional national jurisdiction are typically met with lots of outrage by people who disdain all things corporate. But, here is potentially a good civil rights reason for such places.

  • Aug 15th, 2017 @ 4:57pm

    (untitled comment)

    But that is a failure of a good idea gone too far, not of the idea of supercharging the fame of horrible people itself being bad.

    Well, the innocent guy was threatened due to the actions of self-righteous internet tough guys who were more than happy to be thugs when they could hide behind a thin veneer of moral outrage. And, that result was actually an inevitable consequence of the let's-shame-these-moral-degenerates-into-hell idea, since internet mobs like this can never be counted on to do this sort of thing carefully and with diligence. So, in practice the distinction between "good idea gone too far" and "bad idea" is pretty much tissue thin here.

    Not that I think there should be any legal prohibition on this sort of thing. But, cheering it on is BS. If people don't see the irony in innocent people being f*cked with by others who have ignorantly decided that they are morally inferior, ...

  • Jul 31st, 2017 @ 3:51pm

    (untitled comment)

    1. The government's third party doctrine argument is garbage and it always has been. It is nonsense that somehow the Constitutional requirements for trolling through your information go out the window because some third-party with whom you have a private agreement holds that information. It's frankly ridiculous that the courts have ever thought otherwise.

    2. The Court's reasoning about a mobile user's expectation of privacy is silly and doesn't withstand the simplest analogy. That is, everyone also knows that when you're listening to for instance an FM radio that when you go out of range will you lose the signal. But no one thinks that the FM radio stations are tracking you. But, as has been pointed out, it's really the third party doctrine that encourages finding these sorts of loopholes.

  • Jul 24th, 2017 @ 11:20am

    Re: Playing devil's advocate

    Seems like that would apply to any valuables in checked luggage, wouldn't it? I have to assume the airlines have some protocol for dealing with such claims. Whatever it is, I very much doubt they are any more legally exposed when the claim involves comic books than when it involves jewelry, antiques, etc.

  • Jun 28th, 2017 @ 10:50am


    From the last paragraph...

    If so, the fallout from the [Snowden] leaks is still causing harm to US companies, years down the road.

    Let me clarify that a tad

    If so, the fallout from US companies' participation in US government surveillance programs is still causing harm to US companies, years down the road.

  • Jun 5th, 2017 @ 12:12pm

    BS Lawsuit Over BS Tweet

    Seems like there are a couple layers of "there's no there there" in this case. What the target of the lawsuit said was nonsense. Nevertheless, the plaintiff likely knows there is negligible basis for her suit.

    Having never heard of the unnamed plaintiff in this article, I looked her up briefly. In terms of media and freedom of speech issues, it seems odd to me that a strong Trump supporter is also a critic of police authority, particularly with regard to photographing the police. If I hadn't heard about her in this lawsuit context, I might have thought that she was cast in a vaguely similar mold as Radley Balko or Carlos Miller. Live and learn.

  • Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:41am

    Re: Re: Re: analog analogy

    Except that no one is claiming any obligation to preserve people's abandoned objects or any data on them. If your thing is melting down locked objects from junkyards, knock yourself out. Similarly, re-using or recycling various media isn't in relevant to the discussion here, since the government isn't searching the items as part of any recycling process.

    The question is whether the government should treat any object that it can claim as "abandoned" as an opportunity for a fishing expedition. Keep two things in mind. First, the objects in question were locked and were understood (incorrectly in this case) to not have retrievable data on them. Second, this incentivizes government claims that something was abandoned whether or not they knew that it really was.

  • Jun 2nd, 2017 @ 10:01am

    (untitled comment)

    Some folks (including the courts) seem to be taking a hard-line view against when it's reasonable to expect privacy in this case, often ignoring that the defendant "abandoned" his phone only after he thought that the phone was locked and then ruined because of water damage, which he assumed made data on it inaccessible and possibly gone. Obviously, his assumptions about technology were incorrect, but was he really wrong to expect that his data would remain private?

    In other words, if one thinks the media is effectively destroyed, doesn't that mean one can reasonably expect that no one can access the data on it? This isn't a trivial issue and people's ignorance and misconceptions about technology play an important role here. The fact that Techdirt readers are more technically aware than average doesn't mean that the law shouldn't make some allowance for the average person's technical sophistication, or lack thereof.

    Meanwhile, what data is recoverable from "abandoned" media changes with technology. Do you shred your paper documents? Is that enough? I am certain that software either exists or could be written that would take high resolution images of appropriately spread out shreddings and reassemble them into a document. So, when the cops troll through someone's trash without a warrant and use that software to recreate a document that is used against someone in court, are we going to be so quick to say that the lack of warrant was okay because the document was abandoned and there is no expectation of privacy for it?

    Similarly, there is technology that can recover or partially recover erased data from magnetic media, even when it has been overwritten. If you toss out an old laptop, even after long formatting its drive, is it okay for the court to rule that you had no expectation of privacy and that the government didn't need a warrant to fish for evidence on your old device?

  • Jun 1st, 2017 @ 10:17pm

    Re: analog analogy

    An important distinction is that he thought that the information on the phone was inaccessible anyway. The analogy is more along the lines of: If the owner thought that the contents of the locked safe had caught fire and burned up, is he obligated to keep the safe indefinitely to maintain his expectation of privacy?

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