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privacy Tag

The former cop accused of being the notorious “Golden State Killer” made a dramatic first court appearance on Friday afternoon in a wheelchair.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was shackled to the chair with handcuffs as he confirmed his name but did not enter a plea. The balding, unshaven alleged serial killer appeared weak and struggled to answer the judge's questions.

A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court ruling was declassified and released this week. The ruling reveals that the Obama administration engaged in widespread violation of NSA surveillance rules. The Obama administration was reprimanded by the FISA court for illegal searches that constitute "very serious Fourth Amendment issue.” According to previously classified documents, this admission of methodical and long-term violations of Americans' Constitutional rights was made on October 26th of 2016.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Federal agents have persuaded police officers to scan license plates to gather information about gun-show customers, government emails show, raising questions about how officials monitor constitutionally protected activity." The activity revealed in the emails suggests that the known incidents are limited to border control and occurred in California in 2010. The WSJ continues:
Emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crafted a plan in 2010 to use license-plate readers—devices that record the plate numbers of all passing cars—at gun shows in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, not far from the Mexican border. Agents then compared that information to cars that crossed the border, hoping to find gun smugglers, according to the documents and interviews with law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the operation. The investigative tactic concerns privacy and guns-rights advocates, who call it an invasion of privacy. The law-enforcement officials say it is an important and legal tool for pursuing dangerous, hard-to-track illegal activity.

In August, I wrote about a proposed rule in Alabama whereby Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board wanted personal information on beer buyers.  The requirement that private citizens who buy beer for personal consumption provide their names, addresses, telephone numbers, and dates of birth was rejected; however, some troubling elements of the initial proposed rule stand. WAAY 31 reports:
For taprooms like Old Black Bear, the customer always comes first. So the idea of creating an extra burden for them at the register didn't seem right. "Just seemed like too much of a burden for them not to at least discuss it with somebody first to try and get our side of it," Owner Todd Seaton said. That burden was set to come in the form of a new requirement from the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board proposed earlier this month following a new law passed earlier this year. The law allowed breweries and brew pubs to sell beer for off-site consumption. The new rule would've required them to record the names, addresses, telephone numbers and birth dates for those looking to take beer off site for consumption. . . . .However after receiving a good bit of public comment, during a board meeting on Wednesday, the board decided against the rule . . . .

The Associated Press, Gannett Co., and Vice Media LLC have filed a suit against the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gather details how agents hacked into the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The Justice Department fought with Apple for over a month, trying to convince the company to allow the government into Syed Farook's iPhone after he and his wife Tashfeen Malik, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, killed 14 people in San Bernardino, CA, in December 2015. The FBI took Farrok's phone as evidence, but couldn't open it due to a passcode. Apple refused to help, saying it would risk privacy of other customers. Then somehow, call it a miracle, the FBI managed to crack into the iPhone all by themselves!

Back in March, Alabama's governor, Robert Bentley, signed into law legislation that will legalize brewers' direct sale of beer to customers for home consumption. Alabama.com reported at the time:
The new law will:
  • Allow breweries that make less than 60,000 barrels per year to directly sell up to 288 ounces of its beer per customer per day for off-premise consumption.
  • Allow breweries to deliver up to two donated kegs of its beer to a licensed charity event.
  • No longer require brewpubs to open only in historic buildings, historic districts or economically distressed areas.
That "288 ounces . . . per customer per day" limitation has resulted in a proposal from Alabama's alcohol regulators that has raised more than a few eyebrows.  They want breweries to require customers provide personal information so that the breweries can provide that, along with individual sales information, to Alabama's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board.

One day before Apple and prosecutors were to face off in court, the U.S. Department of Justice was granted a request to cancel the Tuesday hearing on whether Apple should assist the FBI in bypassing security measures in a locked iPhone used by a San Bernardino terrorist. The hearing was cancelled by U.S. Magistrate Sheri Pym at 5:30P.M. PDT. The earlier order requiring Apple to assist the FBI unlocking the phone was temporarily stayed. "On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook's iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook's iPhone," the government said in court documents filed on Monday. "If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. ("Apple") set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case." Department of Justice spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement that the government only learned of the unlocking method this past weekend. "We must first test this method to ensure it doesn't destroy the data on the phone, but we remain cautiously optimistic. That is why we have asked the court to give us some time to explore this option," Newman said to Ars Tecnica.

In the latest round of legal battles between Apple and the FBI over accessing data in an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists, Apple has fired back at the FBI with a scathing brief accusing the government of massive overreach in their efforts to get Apple's assistance in unlocking the phone. As Legal Insurrection reported last month, the iPhone 5C belonging to one of the shooters was seized as evidence by the FBI. The FBI obtained a warrant to search the contents of the iPhone, but ran into trouble with its passcode. The government wanted Apple to help them bypass the iPhone's security measures, but Apple refused, arguing that doing so would unacceptably put the privacy of other customers' iPhones at risk. The District Court of Central California issued an order for Apple to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone, and Apple objected. This set of several rounds of jousting, both in court and in the arena of public opinion. How a law from more than two centuries ago is governing a case about iPhone security

A legal fight between Apple and the FBI is highlighting some critically important issues in the debate between privacy and security. After the San Bernardino attacks, an iPhone 5C belonging to one of the two shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook, was among the evidence gathered by the FBI. The FBI obtained a warrant to search the contents of the iPhone, but Farook's iPhone, like most people's, is protected by a passcode that encrypts the data on the phone and prevents anyone without the code from accessing it. Apple's security systems are designed to prevent hacking attempts like "brute-force attacks" by requiring delays after wrong passcode guesses and an auto-delete function that is activated after ten incorrect attempts. The FBI went to court to obtain an order to get Apple to help them get around these security features and access the data on Farook's phone. Court orders Apple to help the FBI; Apple refuses to comply

Today, a controversial cybersecurity bill aimed at making it easier for corporations to prevent hacking attacks advanced in the Senate with bipartisan support. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) in its current form would make it possible for corporations to share information about cyberattacks with each other---or the goverment---without having to worry about fielding privacy-based lawsuits. The bill enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate---and has languished under bipartisan opposition, led by Kentucky Senator and Presidential hopeful Rand Paul. From Reuters:
But many privacy activists and a few lawmakers, including Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, vehemently oppose it. Several big tech companies also have come out against the measure, arguing that it fails to protect users' privacy and does too little to prevent cyber attacks.

Today the Senate voted 67-32 to pass the USA-FREEDOM Act, a piece of surveillance (read: privacy!) reform legislation meant to extend key provisions of the PATRIOT Act, which expired Sunday night. The USA-FA passed the House with supermajority, bipartisan support, but found a more hostile crowd waiting when it arrived in the Senate chamber. Rand Paul opposed it, and on Sunday night (the same night the PATRIOT Act expired) blocked a vote that most certainly would have ended with the Act's approval. Senate leadership opposed an immediate clean passage of the Act, but for different reasons entirely---they wanted the opportunity to amend and return to the House, a tactic that was met with opposition in both chambers. From earlier today:
One amendment would extend the timeframe for transferring data collection responsibilities from the NSA to the phone companies, allowing 12 months for that handover rather than six, as the House bill stipulates. Another would force phone companies to give Congress six months' advance notice if they change the procedures they use to collect and retain data. A third would allow the Director of National Intelligence to sign off on any procedural changes by the phone companies before they go into effect. "The House's bill is not holy writ. It's not something we have to accept in its entirety without any changes...and I think where the policy debae should go would be toe embrace these amendments," explained Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, during a floor speech on Tuesday. "We sure need to know that the new system would actually work. Doesn't that just make sense?"

Privacy advocates cheered when Apple announced last month that an updated encryption scheme would disallow Apple from bypassing user passcodes at the request of law enforcement officials armed with search warrants. Now, the Justice Department is fighting back against these updates, and they're using an ancient tactic to do it. The Wall Street Journal explains:
That technological shift prompted tense private meetings this fall between Apple and Justice Department lawyers... Amid that standoff, the government on Oct. 10 obtained a search warrant to examine the contents of the phone in the credit-card case. The phone was locked, so prosecutors asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein to order the manufacturer to unlock it. They cited the All Writs Act, originally part of a 1789 law that gives courts broad authority to carry out their duties. Judge Gorenstein agreed. “It is appropriate to order the manufacturer here to attempt to unlock the cellphone so that the warrant may be executed as originally contemplated,” he wrote on Oct. 31. The judge gave the manufacturer, referred to only as “[XXX], Inc.,” five business days after receiving the order to protest. Much remains unknown, including the maker of the phone, and what happened next. The language of the opinion suggests it could apply to a company like Apple. The order is directed at the “manufacturer of the cellphone,” and Apple is one of the few companies that produce both the phone itself and the software that would manage the encryption.
The order (full embed at bottom of post) was signed and published by a federal magistrate; this is significant because, as the article above explains, these types of decisions don't normally come down in a published opinion. (Magistrates usually just sign an order granting or denying a request.) The fact that this decision is now published is a signal to other judges who may examine it that we could be looking at the development of a new legal precedent to answer evolving technology.

A Texas appeals court has struck down a law allowing police officers to conduct warrantless blood tests on suspected drunk drivers. The law borrows concepts from the Texas Transportation Code and other statutes, and has both attorneys and Fourth Amendment advocates up in arms over what it means to conduct an "unreasonable search and seizure." In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Missouri v. McNeely that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigent circumstance justifying blanket authorization for warrantless searches. Texas' "No Refusal" periods, however, throw a wrench in an easy hypo by injecting statutorily-based "implied consent" into the mix. ("No Refusal" periods are exactly what they sound like.) What happens if you refuse to provide a sample and/or perform sobriety tests in the field? Up until last week, the authorities would haul you into jail and forcibly extract the evidence from the crook of your right arm---without a warrant. The convenience of this level of "implied consent" was too much for the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals, however, and last week they ruled this type of search unconstitutional. Via the Houston Chronicle:
"We hold that a nonconsensual search of a DWI suspect's blood conducted pursuant to the mandatory-blood-draw and implied-consent provisions in the Transportation Code, when undertaken in the absence of a warrant or any applicable exception to the warrant requirement, violates the Fourth Amendment," Judge Elsa Alcala of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote on behalf of the five majority opinion judges. Four members of the nine-judge court dissented.
Constitution trumps statute, and it feels so right.

Apple's latest update to its OS includes a lot of neat bells and whistles, but one key upgrade has privacy advocates cheering. This latest reboot has eliminated Apple's longstanding capability to access users' iPhone and iPad passcodes; in the past, this allowed Apple to both help users remember forgotten passcodes---and comply with search warrants. iOS 8, however, will actually prevent Apple from accessing user passcodes. Via the Washington Post:
“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its Web site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.” As the new operating system becomes widely deployed over the next several weeks, the number of iPhones and iPads that Apple is capable of breaking into for police will steadily dwindle to the point where only devices several years old — and incapable of running iOS 8 — can be unlocked by Apple.
This update, however, does not prevent Apple from accessing data via iCloud. Apple will still have a legal obligation to give police access to any data (pictures, music, e-mails, text messages, etc.) that is backed up to the cloud. (You can turn off this setting on your individual device.) Surprising absolutely no one, law enforcement agencies have put on their "concerned face" over the new changes:
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