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  • 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?

  • Mar 30th, 2017 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Re: Another Perspective

    I think slowgreenturtle's point is that telecom service is among the types of goods and services that charities could effectively subsidize for the truly needy. (Many would say that federal courts or a national military organization are examples of things that would be difficult to effectively fund by charity.)

    Whether or not you agree with his point, taking that to imply that all taxpayer-funded government services should be funded charitably is a stretch. Not that I have any idea where slowgreenturtle stands on that, but that isn't what he said. There are certainly plenty of people who look at SS, Medicaid, and other federal systems funded by taxpayers and conclude that they are bad ideas in the long-term. There are certainly economists who don't think that the funding for those things can continue the way it has, since projected outlays outpace projected revenue by tens of trillions of dollars over the next few decades.

  • Mar 30th, 2017 @ 9:46am

    Federal Government No Less Immune to Regulatory Capture than State Governments

    Even if one agrees that this new federal appointee is an asshat who isn't doing his job (and perhaps thinks that his job shouldn't exist), what's going on here is not a big surprise. Regulatory capture isn't solely an affliction of state or local governments and it never has been. Regulatory capture is an affliction that affects whichever body is doing the regulating, at any level of government.

    One can justifiably bemoan examples of telecom regulatory capture at the state level. But, let's not pretend that putting the feds in charge of more things will mitigate the issue. Despite the fact that Pai's actual intention may be to undermine this telecom welfare program by kicking regulation down to the states, there is actually a better chance for states to respond to voters than the feds. To be clear, many states have slipped sweetheart legislation through for the telecoms. But, with some public attention, the states can fix that and I suspect the fact that they haven't is largely due to the fact that the public remains largely unaware that their politicians have been bought off in this way. If it became a campaign issue, then the practice would stop and could potentially be reversed.

    If this hasn't become a campaign issue in state elections, I would be betting it's because both incumbent and challenging candidates are happy to take donations from AT&T, Comcast, etc. and let them "contribute" to the legislative process while they are in office. If this issue gets enough sunlight, that is less likely to be the case. In other words, when a politician thinks, "I can run an ad accusing my opponent of taking money from Comcast and then sponsoring legislation written by Comcast that raised voters' Internet bills!" then there is a chance to roll back some of this nonsense.

    But, rest assured that this is far less likely to become a campaign issue at the federal level. For one thing, no senator or representative is going to be held accountable for what Pai does. And, the same is true of the president. Among the vast majority of voters, no one knows who the FCC chairman is or what he does and no one is going to vote for or not vote for the president based on what his FCC chair did regarding some program that most people haven't heard of and don't care about.

    Expecting politicians to be more responsive to voters at the federal level than at state or local levels is a mistake.

  • Mar 28th, 2017 @ 2:59pm

    Does the bill's author know...

    Does Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), the bill's author know that his bill runs afoul of the 1st amendment and he just does not care, is he cynically just posturing, or is he woefully ignorant of the free speech issue?

    For those who don't know assemblymember Chau is an attorney and ran a law firm for some time before his election to the legislature. So, draw any conclusions with that in mind.

  • Mar 16th, 2017 @ 4:28pm

    (untitled comment)

    By the way, if the government is doing something that seems like it might be unconstitutional, then the default view of the courts should be that the government cannot do it, not the other way around. A court "deferring" to the government about what the government can do and what it can keep secret makes a joke of the whole idea of checks and balances between the branches.

    The court seems to be saying it doesn't know enough to judge whether something the government is doing is legitimate. How does that translate into "the government wins"? If the court doesn't know enough to decide, then the government has not succeeded in making its case. If I am accused of some misbehavior and I tell the court, "Well, you don't know enough about my secret activities to judge them and I refuse to explain them to you because they are secret," what are my odds of winning that case?

  • Mar 16th, 2017 @ 8:59am

    (untitled comment)

    The court seems to be saying, essentially, it's okay to gather phone records and otherwise surveil citizens without a warrant (NSLs) by claiming "national security". When asked to detail how it choses to use this surveillance authority, it says, "We can tell you because... national security." Just as bad, the court decides that it won't review whether or not the national security claim is legitimate. Allowing the government to avoid scrutiny by using "national security" as a win button at every level of challenge is judicial folly.

    Whether or not the government is using surveillance properly in any given case, the fact that it knows it can hide what it is doing by chanting "national security" whenever its actions are questioned means that abuses will go undetected. The fact that the government knows its abuses will go undetected guarantees that they will happen. Its pretty much a textbook example of why we value transparency in government: It's not that the government is necessarily always abusing its authority, it's that if it knows it can abuse its authority and not be caught, then it definitely will abuse its authority.

  • Mar 11th, 2017 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Need more tasers

    The problem with tasers (or at least _one_ problem) is that they are a physical assault, but they aren't thought of that way by police or by most citizens. Basically, using a taser on someone should be considered in the same light as a take-down hold or a punch in the face. As long as officers consider the taser to be an "easy button" for compliance, it will be abused.

    BTW, as with many things, a good way to determine how to think about a particular police procedure (tasing, choke holds, etc.) is to answer how the police would see it (i.e. what would the charges be) if a non-LEO used it on an officer.

  • Mar 10th, 2017 @ 3:29pm

    (untitled comment)

    The more effective, technologically simpler, more robust, and ultimately cheaper solution is to simply have the camera always on. That way we (mostly) obviate police statements like, "Sure, the video seems to show the officer yelling at and then shooting an unarmed suspect. But, we should believe the officer when he claims that, seconds before the camera started rolling, the suspect was acting in a deadly and life-threatening manner."

    And, fine, let there be a button that the cop can push that turns off the camera for five minutes for potty breaks. As long as the rule is clear that it's grounds for termination to use said button when responding to a call, talking to a witness/suspect, etc.

  • Mar 7th, 2017 @ 11:29am


    Or the Institute for Justice which has helped victims of asset forfeiture before. I assume that Justice Thomas' invitation to challenge these laws on constitutional grounds (instead of the mostly procedural grounds that seem more typical) has IJ and similar organizations salivating.

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