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Posts from the ‘online privacy’ Category

The Courts and Technology: Head Scratching Edition

illustation (c) Jacob Palme

It’s time for another quickie round-up of three court cases that are on my mind this week. What do they have in common? They’re all tech-related, and they’ve all got me scratching my head.

  • Ontario Judge rules that Canadians should have no expectation of privacy from law enforcement on-line. This ruling (among other things) asserts that law enforcement officers do not have to get a warrant to require an ISP to surrender logs of your on-line activities. The Ars article does a fine job of detailing the case, and also the slippery slope this entails – but as MGK points out this is almost certainly going to the Supreme Court. Christopher (who is as adept at blogging about law as he is with blogging about Rex the Wonder Dog) – lays out both pro and con arguments quite succinctly.

    Why is Brad scratching his head? There shouldn’t be an expectation of privacy on-line, I know IP addresses are inherently public… but a lot of things that we do don’t have the expectation of absolute secrecy, and I’m not comfortable with surrendering them to law enforcement without judicial oversight either.

  • The charges that have been finally brought in the Terry Childs case are as just as strange as the case itself. If you missed this bizarre story from the summer here is a very good recap. The nutshell version is that Mr. Childs was a network admin who refused to give up passwords to the network he maintained for the city of San Fransisco. So they put him in jail. There are undeniably quirks to everything involved with this case, so everyone will have their own graph point for Mr. Childs ranging somewhere on the spectrum between “eccentric” and “dangerous” – but it should still be setting a very troubling precedent for folks in the IT sector.

    Why is Brad scratching his head? As it now stands, the city has essentially put Terry behind bars for over six months, on five times the average bail for murder, and is now charging him (a certified CISCO network admin) with “having access to three modems”. Does that ring any alarm bells for anyone else?

  • As much as I try to stay away, the gong-show like atmosphere of the Pirate Bay trial keeps pulling me back in. Somewhere, out there in the multiverse, there is a nuanced – challenging – lawsuit going on. A lawsuit where informed parties are intellectually jousting on the legal ramifications of running BitTorrent “trackers” which contain no copyright infringing materials on their own, but are used extensively (and in some cases, exclusively) to facilitate copyright infringing action (consider them as to the digital age what “head shops” were to the 60s). Sadly we don’t get that trial. Instead we get a Swedish prosecution that kind of (but not quite) can use “IRL” correctly in a “RL” court proceeding, and then follow up that feat with todays show-stopper – presenting “expert witnesses” who have, at best, a “shaky” understanding of how the technology works – and use a handful of screenshots as “evidence”.

    Why is Brad scratching his head? Did Elliot Ness ever try to bring down Al Capone on the irrefutable witness of Tintin in America? Maybe this is actually a brilliant strategy in hiding.

    Hiding in disguise.

    Okay, it’s a big Swedish train-wreck… and I. cant. stop. watching.

Pssst… want to buy some unfiltered Chinese Olympic internet access?

In all the recent hooplah about China (gasp) reneging on it’s commitment to provide unfiltered Internet access for Olympic journalists, I’m quite surprised that more media outlets aren’t coming to the plate to publicaly announce that they’ll be circumventing any attempts made at censorship.

I suspect that it will come as a shock to absolutely no one that filtering the internet is almost impossible, and there are a wide range of public and private options to circumvent filtering. As well I know many (I suspect most) major media outlets use VPNs, or other secured on-line platforms to submit their stories… obtaining web content through this “protected corridor” would be trivial.

More interesting to me than the global hand-wringing going on (which gives the impression that the Chinese government has all the power in this equation) would be if more organizations would publicly come out and state that filtering web access based on URL or even content keywords would have absolutely no impact whatsoever on their operations, or their ability to access whatever information they want while in Beijing.

Heck, why isn’t a major news outlet vowing to take a stand and provide their own encrypted internet corridor for any accredited journalist who wants to use it while in Beijing? Then we’d have a story.

Perhaps, as Chris Matyszczyk posited at CNet the real censorship issue doesn’t start with the Chinese government, but with Western press reluctance to rock the boat.

[Edit 07/30/08 – Only hours later it looks like The IOC knew China had no intention of honouring their commitment – and even did a deal with them allowing this. While making the IOC seem unusually feckless, even by IOC standards, it doesn’t change my underlying position. If the media is truly outraged, let’s see them stand up and resolve the situation publically (instead of privately). I have no doubt they’d start getting tossed out of the country left and right, but it would be a lot more interesting to see the IOC try to worm it’s way out of that situation with a “well we’re only concerned about the sports themselves”.]

What’s The Deal with Rogers DNS Hijacking?

It was discovered today that Rogers Internet has started a new practise (often called “DNS Hijacking”) that redirects you to a Rogers-branded pages full of advertising instead of a “Page Not Found” page when you mis-type a web address (or type a non existent web address).

Click on for a patented “What’s the Deal?” Breaking down what this is about, why it sucks, and why you should care. Read more