The Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and one of his law clerks have penned a eulogy for the Fourth Amendment. It’s been murdered, Judge Kozinski and Stephanie Grace write in an editorial for The Daily, and you all are the guilty culprits.
You’ve put a knife in it, by letting supermarkets track your shopping in exchange for loyalty discounts, letting Amazon and eBay store your credit card info, and letting Google track the websites you visit and take photos of your homes with satellites.
The problem, at least constitutionally speaking, is that the Fourth Amendment protects only what we reasonably expect to keep private. One facet of this rule, known as the third party doctrine, is that we don’t have reasonable expectations of privacy in things we’ve already revealed to other people or the public…
With so little left private, the Fourth Amendment is all but obsolete. Where police officers once needed a warrant to search your bookshelf for “Atlas Shrugged,” they can now simply ask Amazon.com if you bought it. Where police needed probable cause before seizing your day planner, they can now piece together your whereabouts from your purchases, cellphone data and car’s GPS. Someday soon we’ll realize that we’ve lost everything we once cherished as private.
* Starbucks sued for not being nice to dwarfs. I propose to fix this by offering a dwarf-sized coffee that is the volume of a full-sized dwarf. That way, everybody would learn that dwarfs might be small in stature but huge if you had to drink one. [ABA Journal]
* It’s not that I think cops shouldn’t be allowed to break down doors if they fear evidence is being destroyed. It’s that I don’t want cops to break down my door for the crime of “owning a door while black,” while invoking the “we thought we smelled pot and he was smoking the evidence” exception. [Law & Technology / Forbes]
* Whenever America and France get into a fight, I always picture some German dude sitting around saying “Jå, Iago. Now das taschentuch!” [Simple Justice]
* Apple was hit with a lawsuit by parents angry that their credit cards were being used by their stupid kids to buy dumb swag in iPhone games. [Time]
* An Italian fortune, an American woman, and the suggestion that paternity sometimes cannot be forcefully established by the simple query “Who dat is?” [New York Times]
* When police use GPS to lojack hoes that drive Volvos and Rodeos, can they do it without a warrant? [WSJ Law Blog]
* An article about the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20, or something like that. I’m not sure as I dozed off halfway through, like I regularly did during Ethics class in law school. [ABA Journal]
* This post details various sports goings-on, like the possible move of the Sacramento Kings and former linebacker and all-around gentleman Bill Romanowski. Because Lat demands all the sports coverage we can find. [Am Law Daily]
As a place to live, California has a lot going for it: the Pacific Ocean, pleasant weather, celeb spottings. But if you’re concerned about the police perusing the contents of your smartphone without a warrant, you might prefer to spend your time further east, in the Buckeye State.
The Supreme Courts of California and Ohio have come down on opposite sides of the question of whether police need a warrant to search an arrested person’s cellphone. California may be perceived as the tech-savvy state, thanks to playing host to Silicon Valley, but when it comes to how the law applies to technology, its analysis is rather simplistic. In an opinion issued Monday, California’s court said “no warrant needed,” equating a cell phone with a pack of cigarettes. Hmmmm. Cell phones are addictive, I suppose…
Why is Bob smiling? Because police now need a warrant to check his email (joke stolen from Julian Sanchez).
Thanks to a huge decision out of the Sixth Circuit, your email and the Fourth Amendment just got better acquainted. The police need to get a warrant to take a peek at the contents of someone’s inbox, writes Judge Danny Boggs — once rumored to be on the SCOTUS shortlist — in the court’s opinion (PDF, via a thrilled EFF).
The court says that the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which grants law enforcement access to email older than 180 days old with a simple subpoena or court order, is unconstitutional, since it enables the police to conduct unreasonable searches.
“This is a very big deal,” writes law professor Paul Ohm. “[T]his is the opinion privacy activists and many legal scholars, myself included, have been waiting and calling for, for more than a decade. It may someday be seen as a watershed moment in the extension of our Constitutional rights to the Internet.”
The case that led to the decision dealt with extensions of a different variety. The defendant that challenged the po-po’s warrantless search of his email is Steven Warshak, the mastermind behind Enzyte, a questionable herbal supplement purported to increase the size of a man’s erection. Sometimes, new constitutional protections pop out of the strangest places…
I’m surprised we’re not seeing more of this. As TSA continues to scan and/or feel-up everybody who gets on a plane, raising questions under the Fourth Amendment, an Oklahoman woman stripped down to her underwear to prove a point.
According to a report by News 9 – Oklahoma, Dr. Tammy Banovac, 52, arrived at the Oklahoma City airport wearing an overcoat and in a wheelchair. When she got to security, she removed the coat, revealing her curvaceous figure — clad in nothing but a black bra and panties. She refused to go through the metal detector, so she had to be subjected to a pat-down.
Is there video? Would I be posting this if there wasn’t?
Non-tech-savvy people don’t think about this. And those same people are the types who take their laptops to the Geek Squad when they need computer help. Such a trip to Best Buy led to a 10-year prison sentence for Alabama resident Corey Beantee Melton.
In 2005, Melton sought the help of Best Buy’s Geek Squad because he was having trouble connecting to the Internet. Their initial assessment indicated the problem was originating from Melton’s DVD drive, so he left his laptop in their care and went on his merry way.
When the Geeks did their diagnostic scans of the computer, they found a pesky virus that appeared to be linked to specific files on Melton’s computer. Those particular files had names of a “very explicit nature,” says a judicial opinion in the case (hat tip: Eric Goldman for sending the opinion my way — see an old post of his for examples of filenames of an explicit nature).
The Geeks freaked — and called in the boys in blue, as they suspected they’d found child porn…
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski gives a thumbs up to privacy for the poor
A user’s manual that’s 200+ years old can be difficult to apply to modern technologies. Thus, it’s been a challenge for judges interpreting the Fourth Amendment as it applies to police surveillance via GPS tracking devices on cars.
There has been a plethora of precedents set across the country as to whether slapping a GPS tracker on a car is considered a “search” and whether a warrant is needed. A Wisconsin state court decided last year that warrantless GPS surveillance is okay. Within a week of the Wisconsin decision, a New York state court disagreed. More recently, the D.C. Circuit ruled that GPS tracking is indeed a search, and introduced what the Volokh Conspiracy’s Orin Kerr called a “mosaic theory of the Fourth Amendment,” i.e., that a series of discrete facts may be public, but their aggregation may violate privacy rights. Kerr dissed the D.C. Circuit’s mosaic ruling, but Cato’s Julian Sanchez was a fan.
The Ninth Circuit got in on the GPS-Fourth Amendment throwdown too. As noted by How Appealing, a Ninth Circuit panel — consisting of two of the court’s more conservative members, Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Randy Smith, and Judge Charles Wolle (S.D. Iowa), sitting my designation — ruled that police officers who placed a GPS device on the underbed of a suspected drug dealer’s car while it was parked outside of his house did not violate his constitutional rights.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski was not happy about their decision. He wrote an angry dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc, accusing the judges of “cultural elitism,” by granting privacy rights to the rich but not to the poor…
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The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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