Privacy

The Supreme Court just handed down a unanimous opinion ruling in one of the most closely watched cases of the year. All the justices agreed on the result, but diverged significantly in reasoning.

This morning, the court issued its decision in United States v. Jones. Police in Washington, D.C. placed a GPS tracking device on the car of Antoine Jones, a nightclub owner, without obtaining a warrant. The GPS device helped law enforcement link Jones to a house used to store drugs and money. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison. An appeals court later overturned his conviction.

The central issue in Jones was whether attaching a GPS device to a car (i.e., allowing law enforcement 24/7 access to a person’s movements), without obtaining a warrant first, violated the Fourth Amendment.

The case has been heralded as one of the most important privacy cases in recent memory. Wired’s Threat Level blog said Jones “is arguably the biggest Fourth Amendment case in the computer age.” Editor emerita Kashmir Hill attended oral arguments for the case back in November.

What did the justices say? The ruling might surprise you…

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Shoes. Oh my God, shoes.

On Monday, my roommate came home griping that his Zappos.com account, which he had not used in a year, had been hacked. Instead of feeling sympathetic, I started wondering how I might write about it. Data breaches are a dime a dozen these days.

It seems almost every company loses control of their customers’ sensitive data at some point. Someone almost always sues after the news breaks. But the lawsuits are rarely successful, unless customers can show real harm caused by the breach.

Most often, companies do not give up full credit card or Social Security numbers. This week, Zappos said it only suffered unauthorized access to somewhat less sensitive information. It’s a bit unnerving, but not the end of the world.

Did that stop some opportunistic consumer from taking action against the online shoe retailer?

Of course not. And we didn’t have to wait very long. A Texas woman filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon, which owns Zappos, the same day the breach was announced. Is her lawsuit premature, vague, and a bit silly? Probably. Will it go anywhere? Probably not. But c’mon, you gotta love melodramatic, eager-beaver, consumer litigation.

So what, exactly, did Zappos lose? And how many people’s data was compromised? (Hint: it’s a lot.) Let’s mosey on past the jump and find out….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Zappos Suffers a Data Breach, and the Other Shoe Drops with a Lawsuit”

When I was a kid, my father leaned across the dinner table and whispered to me, “Never ask a woman’s age or weight.” He then stole a glance at my mother, who was busy shoveling mashed potatoes into her maw, and sighed. I could never tell whether my dad was trying to offer the wisdom of the ages or making a statement about the tyranny of manners, the clichés they birth, and the way in which politeness can imprison a good man in a loveless relationship that inevitably leads to you watching your 400-pound wife shovel potatoes back like she was auditioning for The Biggest Loser.

And so it was that the Internet Movie Database, aka IMDb, found itself under attack for revealing an actress’s age and “real Asian name.” Kash detailed the charges last October. A few weeks ago, we noted that the woman would have to put up (her name) or shut up (legally speaking).

Well, I don’t want to waste any more of your precious time. The grand reveal is finally here.

After the jump, pictures of an attractive Asian woman….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Who’s the 40-Year-Old Asian Actress Suing the Internet Movie Database for Revealing Her Age?”

Even stately Englishmen are no match for Google.

I had never heard of Max Mosley until yesterday, when I read he was suing Google in Europe to block all search results regarding his alleged participation in some sort of Nazi sex orgy.

Ironically, when you search for Mosley’s name now, you get a zillion news stories with headlines like “Max Mosley sues Google over ‘Nazi orgy’ search results‎.”

Let’s learn more about Mosley, the former president of Formula One, and his decidedly unsexy legal battle against Google….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Suing Google to Remove Results About Your Alleged Orgy Won’t Work”

Last week, the tech world caught fire with the newest in an increasingly long list of electronic privacy scandals. Carrier IQ, a small Silicon Valley software company with its product installed on millions of cell phones, made headlines when a young programmer posted a video allegedly showing the software’s ability to log keystrokes and collect other, very personal information from phones.

By the end of last week, the controversy had already sparked an angry letter from democratic Senator Al Franken, two class-action lawsuits, and a flurry of denials and explanations from the software company as well as major mobile phone carriers. We briefly mentioned the story in Friday’s Non-Sequiturs, but it deserves a deeper look.

Is Carrier IQ as bad as it sounds? Good question….

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Caveat: I did not write the following dialogue. It is from the “comments” section of one of my columns where I mentioned I’d be writing about HIPAA and GLBA. Unfortunately, I cannot attribute the comments to the persons who wrote them, as they are anonymous; however they are quite apropos of today’s subject:

1) “I wish vendors would get it into their heads that indemnity for being sued on a confidentiality basis doesn’t cut it for financial institutions and other customers/clients that have affirmative obligations without being sued in the event of a breach of confidentiality.”

2) “I wish financial institution customers would get it into their heads that the ‘customer information’ they’re obligated to protect is not the sort of thing they would ever disclose to the vast majority of their vendors, and stop using their ‘affirmative obligations’ as a tool to cram unnecessarily restrictive confidentiality terms down the throats of vendors.”

Perfect. Those two comments capture the schism between vendors and customers when dealing with private financial or personal confidential information….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “House Rules: HIPAA and GLBA and Indemnity, Oh My!”

* Facebook settled with the FTC over its privacy violations. Mark Zuckerberg will be adding a “dislike” button to the site so he has an appropriate way to deal with this. [National Law Journal]

* The lawsuit seeking to overturn gay marriage in New York will proceed. Eric Schneiderman just got disinvited from more holiday parties than he can even count. [New York Times]

* On appeal, Dechert will get to walk away from the Dreier drama without losing a single dime, but not if Marc Kasowitz has anything to do with it. [New York Law Journal]

* Herman Cain’s defamation lawyer, Lin Wood, is apparently living on a very nice planet where “guilt by accusation” isn’t already the norm in the realm of politics. [Washington Post]

* What’s with all of the child predator attorneys flocking to New Jersey? Solo practitioner Tobin Nilsen got 12 years for trying to have sex with a 7-year-old girl. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

There has been justifiably a lot of talk over the last few days about U.S. v. Jones, and the privacy issues it raises. Our editor emeritus Kashmir Hill was fortunate enough to hear oral arguments at the Supreme Court in person, alongside top legal reporters such as Jeffrey Toobin and Adam Liptak.

But when it comes to electronically tracking people, Jones is just the tip of the iceberg. Law enforcement also often follow American citizens through their cell phones. The practice has become so widespread that some magistrate judges are reconsidering their willingness to authorize it….

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WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 08:  U.S. Supreme Court m...

“If you win this case, there is nothing to prevent the police or government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States,” said Justice Breyer.

The Supreme Court justices were decked out in their usual black robes today for U.S. vs Jones [pdf], a case involving the question of whether police need a warrant to attach a GPS tracker to someone’s car. But given their paranoia about possible technology-enabled government intrusions on privacy, it might not have been surprising if they had also been wearing tin foil hats.

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Remember how everyone used say, “Don’t post anything on Facebook you wouldn’t want your boss to see. But if you do, just make sure you set your privacy settings so that your boss can’t see.”

Well, things have changed. Now, when companies enter workman’s compensation or personal injury litigation, courts will sometimes order discovery on password-protected Facebook information.

On Thursday, a New York appeals court ruled that a company could not see the plaintiff’s protected data, but not simply because it was private. Let’s see what happened…

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