Identity theft

Despite his status as an Article III demigod, Chief Justice John Roberts is a man of the people. Instead of reclining on a divan while eating frozen grapes fed to him by eunuch law clerks, which is how I’d roll if I were the Chief Justice of the United States, JGR patronizes places like Cosi, Au Bon Pain, and Carmine’s.

And the chief even goes to Starbucks — where His Honor recently revealed something surprising about himself….

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Andrew “weev” Auernheimer

A famed hacker, Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, was sentenced to 41 months in prison yesterday. A jury convicted Auernheimer of conspiracy and identity theft back in November stemming from his role in a scheme to snag the personal email addresses of over 114,000 iPad users, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Diane Sawyer, and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

Auernheimer argued that he acted as an uninvited “gray hat” hacker, grabbing the email addresses of customers for the sole purpose of exposing the flaws in AT&T’s security.

The sentence, at the upper end of the Guidelines range, is a far cry from the non-custodial slap on the wrist Auernheimer’s attorneys sought. There are two broad categories of response to the sentence. First, that Auernheimer is a completely terrible human being, but that his being a dick does not justify the harsh sentence. Second, that Auernheimer did not commit a real crime because he never intended to steal anyone’s identity and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a bad law.

To these arguments, I reply “yes it does,” and “who cares?”

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In yesterday’s Quote of the Day, we noted that Dean Susan Poser of the University of Nebraska College of Law took the time to write a letter to the editor of the New York Times to offer a critique of the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings system. Poser claimed that the rankings were biased toward top law schools, allowing schools like her own to “remain little known and undervalued” in the eyes of the general public.

Poser encouraged everyone to examine the state of legal education in flyover land, claiming that a second look might result in surprising findings. Well, we decided to take her advice. We learned that, in addition to boasting an out-of-this-world space law program, the law school is also on the cutting edge of cybersecurity.

Actually, that’s not true at all, because Nebraska Law (along with other parts of the university) just experienced a major security breach of its student information system. If you’re a current or former student, you might want to check and see if your identity has been stolen….

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When I was in college, it was not altogether uncommon for people to leave their laptops unattended with their Facebook accounts still logged in. It was not altogether uncommon for an enterprising prankster to creatively twiddle with said account. A little switch of sexual preference here, a mildly offensive profile picture there, and maybe a nonsensical new profile quote.

It was annoying, and at worst required minor social media damage control, but nobody seemed to care much.

Nowadays, people definitely care. The California Court of Appeals ruled on July 21 that the same sort of online mischief can lead to felony identity theft conviction.

Let’s learn more about Rolando S., a teenager who messed with the wrong Facebook account….

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Court clerks in Virginia may be shaking their fists at the Fourth Circuit today. In an interesting ruling on free speech, privacy, and public records, the court ruled that an angry blogger has the right to publish public officials’ and court clerks’ Social Security numbers in order to protest the fact that Virginia puts records online that publish citizens’ social security numbers. We skimmed the opinion, but didn’t see a citation to Hammurabi.

B.J. Ostergren has been writing TheVirginiaWatchdog.com since 2003 to bring attention to the fact that state governments play fast and loose with people’s Social Security numbers when putting land records online. Her advocacy got many of them to actually start attempting to redact SSNs from the documents before putting them online, but the system was still imperfect.

She started posting land records containing unredacted SSNs, which led the state to pass a law in 2008 to make what she was doing illegal. She sued and the courts supports her, though the Fourth Circuit eliminated some conditions imposed by the district court…

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