Boing Boing 

WATCH: More private companies gather license plate data

It's no secret that license plate data is big business. Here's a demo of how these companies gather data as they troll parking lots and public streets gathering indiscriminate license plate info, looking for matches on other databases.

Read the rest

Time's infamous "cyberporn" scare story author looks back 20 years later

In 1995 Time magazine published a cover story about online pornography that gave grandstanding politicians an excuse to try to censor the Internet. The politicians would have succeeded, if it weren't for the efforts of civil libertarians, especially Mike Godwin, who was staff counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation at the time.

The "Cyberporn" article was written by Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who relied almost exclusively on a research paper that was completely fraudulent. Elmer-DeWitt is now a writer for Fortune, and he wrote an essay about how his "Cyberporn" article nearly ruined him:

The problem with the story, which I sensed as I was writing it but was too green, too ambitious, too scared of losing my cover slot to address, was the news hook—the “report coming out this week” that I’d pitched to the editors as a Time Magazine exclusive guaranteed to make a splash.

The report—an undergraduate research paper published in a law journal—made a splash all right, but not the kind that reflected well on me or the magazine.

It was immediately attacked from several quarters. By civil liberties groups who saw it as an assault on free speech. By academics who saw through its tissue thin methodology. By sociologists who disputed its most provocative thesis, duly reported in Time, that the market for online porn was driven by a demand for images that couldn’t be found in the average magazine rack: Pedophilia (nude photos of children), hebephilia (youths) and paraphilia—a grab bag of “deviant” material that includes images of bondage, sadomasochism, urination, defecation, and sex acts with animals.

One Time researcher assigned to my story remembers the study as “one of the more shameful, fear-mongering and unscientific efforts that we ever gave attention to.”

DEA takes $16,000 cash from black man on train, leaves him penniless

asset-thieves

The takeaway from this story: never consent to a warrantless search.

On April 15 a DEA agent boarded a passenger train in Albuquerque and began grilling people about where they were going and why. Joseph Rivers, a 22-year-old black man, told the agent he was going to LA to make a music video. The agent asked Rivers if he could search his bags, and Rivers, bless his naive heart, consented. The agent didn't find drugs or weapons, but he found $16,000 in cash, so he took it, simply because a black man with that much money must be a drug dealer.

Joline Gutierrez Krueger of the Albuquerque Journal writes,

Rivers was left penniless, his dream deferred.

“These officers took everything that I had worked so hard to save and even money that was given to me by family that believed in me,” Rivers said in his email. “I told (the DEA agents) I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money. They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that.”

Other travelers had witnessed what happened. One of them, a New Mexico man I’ve written about before but who asked that I not mention his name, provided a way for Rivers to get home, contacted attorneys – and me.

“He was literally like my guardian angel that came out of nowhere,” Rivers said.

Joseph Rivers has a GoFundMe campaign to replace the $16,000.

ACLU makes app that sends phone video of police misconduct directly to ACLU servers

Police officers and federal agents who commit crimes on the job don't like people recording them. They have been known to confiscate or destroy people's phones in an attempt to destroy evidence of their criminal behavior. Mobile Justice CA is an iPhone and Android app that streams video straight to the ACLU servers as it's being recorded, so that the recorded evidence can't be destroyed along with your phone. It also has a Witness feature that "allows you to know if people around you are getting stopped by the law enforcement... This feature is especially useful for community groups who monitor law enforcement activity."

Cops can’t hold suspects without probable cause: Supreme Court

doggycopyThe Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today that it is unconstitutional to hold a suspect without probable cause, even if it's for less than 10 minutes.

In Rodriguez v. United States a man named Dennys Rodriguez was pulled over by police in Nebraska for driving erratically. The officer asked Rodriguez if could walk his drug-sniffing dog around Rodriguez' car. Rodriguez said no. The officer called for a backup officer and detained Rodriguez for “seven or eight minutes” until the other officer arrived. The first officer then got his dog and did a walk-around the car. The dog detected drugs and Rodriguez was charged with possessing methamphetamine.

According to the Supreme Court, though, that search of Rodriguez’s car was illegal, and the evidence gathered in it should not be used at trial. While officers may use a dog to sniff around a car during the course of a routine traffic stop, they cannot extend the length of the stop in order to carry it out.

“[T]he tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure’s ‘mission’ — to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop,” Ginsburg ruled. “Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are — or reasonably should have been — completed.”

The three staunchest civil liberties foes of the court – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy – predictably disagreed with the ruling. Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion: “But because [the police officer] made [the suspect] wait for seven or eight extra minutes until a dog arrived, he evidently committed a constitutional violation. Such a view of the Fourth Amendment makes little sense.”

Image: Shutterstock

Chinese Supreme Court makes service providers liable for "human flesh search engine"

Chinese Internet services are blessed and cursed with mobs who track down the personal details of people suspected of corruption or just bad public behavior, shaming them in a way that is highly public and indelible.

Read the rest

High school teacher faces discipline for Informing students about their rights

Reason Hit & Run: "A high school social studies teacher in Batavia, Illinois, faces disciplinary action for informing students of their Fifth Amendment rights in connection with a survey asking about illegal drug use."

Curious press release from phone encryption service

Seecrypt costs $3 a month and allows subscribers to make encrypted phone calls to each other. It promises a "100% protected network through encryption between two callers anywhere in the world." Sounds interesting and useful for keeping government snoops away. However, the press release issued today tells a somewhat different story:

“Seecrypt will pro-actively assist law enforcement agencies to prevent criminal activity being carried out using this encryption service. Our technology is designed to restore privacy rights for legitimate usage," stated Seecrypt CEO Mornay Walters. “Seecrypt's Privacy Network has been designed so that it can terminate access rights immediately for any individual identified by law enforcement or other governmental authorities as suspected of improper use.”

Does that mean that if someone is using Seecrypt and the government starts investigating them the service simply shuts off? If so, it's a great way for criminals to learn that they are under investigation.

Or does it mean that Seecrypt will let the suspect make calls without letting them know that the encryption has been disabled?

Or, does it mean Seecrypt will do something else that I can't think of? I emailed SeeCrypt to find out and will share my answer when I get it.

More from the press release:

Seecrypt advisor and former assistant director, U.S. Secret Service, Anthony Chapa added, “Seecrypt’s impressive technology provides a new level of protection to company executives and individual citizen’s privacy rights, while not compromising international and U.S. investigative efforts surrounding serious criminal activity. There are techniques that law enforcement and intelligence organizations have available, and with the help of Seecrypt would not impede their mission.”

Given the Obama administration's alarming record of surveillance, I think any investigative journalists thinking of using this service should make sure they really are "100% protected."

UPDATE: SeeCrypt's response: "In response to your email and on background: In conjunction with law enforcement, we have the option to terminate a user's access rights." SeeCrypt should market itself as a service that lets you find out if you are under government surveillance!

Don't ever speak to the FBI without a tape recorder running and a lawyer present

The ACLU of Massachusetts made this video of civil liberties and civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate explaining how to protect yourself from FBI agents who will interview you, then claim you lied so they can threaten you with imprisonment (unless you agree to become their puppet).

The message from Robel’s prosecution and Silverglate’s advice is clear: do not talk to the FBI without your lawyer present. If Harvey’s decades long experience is any indication, chances are that the agents will politely decline to interview you if you and your attorney insist on creating an accurate record of an FBI interrogation.

Privacy SOS: On "false statements" and FBI interrogations

(Thanks, Tim!)

Security guards attack man for shooting video of subway track

Matt Richardson says:

Photography is not a Crime has been one of my must-read blogs for a long time. The owner, Carlos Miller, posts stories of people getting hassled or even arrested for using their cameras in public spaces. He himself even asserts his right to photograph (or, more accurately, videorecord) despite some intimidation from Miami-Dade Metrorail Security Guards. He and his friend were arrested and released an hour later with a $100 citation for producing loud or excessive noise.

(Via Boing Boing G+ community)

Texas judge questions tools that grab cellphone data from innocent people

The Wall Street Journal reports that a Texas judge is asking questions about whether investigators are providing courts with sufficient detail details on technlogies that allow them to grab data on all cellphones in a given area, including those of people who are most certainly innocent of any crime. Snip:
One of the investigative tools in question is something called a “cell tower dump,” which allows law enforcement to get information on all the phones in a given area at a given time.

In two cases, Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley rejected federal requests to allow the warrantless use of “stingrays” and “cell tower dumps,” two different tools that are used for cellphone tracking. The judge said the government should apply for warrants in the cases, but the attorneys had instead applied for lesser court orders.

Among the judge’s biggest concerns: that the agents and U.S. attorneys making the requests didn’t provide details on how the tools worked or would be used — and even seemed to have trouble explaining the technology.

F*cking cops cracking down on curse words


[Video Link] Here's Reason TV's Net Nanny of the month award:

June's busybodies want to shield your eyes from bikinis and remind you that they're not above ripping your garden out (even if you are complying with city codes).

But top dishonors go to the police chief who admitted on camera that his officers had "more important things to do," but still championed a measure that fines folks for swearing in public.

Presenting Reason.tv's Nanny of the Month for June 2012: Middleborough, Massachusetts Police Chief Bruce Gates!

Bikini Banners and F*cking Cops Cracking Down on Curse Words!

Immigration and Customs Enforcement intelligence chief James M. Woosley pleads guilty to massive fraud

 Files Imagecache Image Medium James-Woosley-Md 0-1 After we learned this week about how rotten the DEA and TSA are, we can also add Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the list of corrupt government entities: "James M. Woosley, former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intelligence chief, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to an elaborate scam over several years involving false travel expense reports totaling nearly $600,000."

Today James Woosley became the fifth — and highest-ranking — individual to plead guilty as part of a series of fraud schemes among rogue employees and contractors at ICE,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement. “He abused his sensitive position of trust to fleece the government by submitting phony paperwork for and taking kickbacks from subordinates who were also on the take.”

(Via The Agitator)

Screwed by the TSA? Now there's an app for that.

Via the BB Submitterator, BB reader rbrammer says:

The Sikh Coalition just released the FlyRights app. It’s a smart phone app that gives travelers who believe they’ve been the victim of discrimination by the TSA the ability to submit formal complaints directly from their smart phones. You should have this on your phone the next time you fly!

Available for both Android and iOS. Makes perfect sense to me that a Sikh organization would be the one to put this together, given all of the idiot-hate that community has received post-9/11.

TSA agents discover "anomaly in crotch area" of 79-year-old woman

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic reports that his 79-year-old mother-in-law triggered a TSA pornoscanner at Washington Reagan airport last week, and was then asked by a TSA officer to explain what was the matter with her crotch:

She entered the machine and struck the humiliating pose one is forced to strike -- hands up, as in an armed robbery -- and then walked out, when she was asked by a TSA agent, in a voice loud enough for several people to hear, "Are you wearing a sanitary napkin?"

Remember, she's 79.

My mother-in-law answered, "No. Why do you ask?"

The TSA agent responded: "Well, are you wearing anything else down there?"

Yes, "down there."

She said no, at which point, the friend with whom she was traveling, also a not-young volunteer library advocate, came over and asked if there was a problem.

The TSA agent said, again, in full voice, "There's an anomaly in the crotch area."

This is, of course, a painful post for me to write. Like most normal American men, I don't want to see the words "my mother-in-law" and "crotch area" in the same paragraph. But let me go on anyway.

My mother-in-law said, "As far as I know I don't have any anomalies in the crotch area."

The TSA agent told her she would have to go through the scanner again. She demurred, saying she didn't like the machine very much. The agent told her she could opt for a pat-down. My mother-in-law refused to be frisked, figuring, correctly, that "they were going to pat-down my crotch area. I mean, there wasn't an anomaly in the chest area."

TSA to My Mother-in-Law: 'There's an Anomaly in the Crotch Area' (Via The Agitator)

TSA Blog boasts of nabbing soup smuggler

Tsa-Confiscated
Our close personal friend at the TSA, Blogger Bob, gave a rundown of prohibited items confiscated by his fellow officers on the front lines of the War on Terror.
Concealed Knife – A knife was found zip-tied to the inner workings of a bag handle at Cedar Rapids (CID). Clever, but no match for our officers and technology.

Chicken Soup for Your Pants? – Officers found a can of soup in a Las Vegas passenger’s carry-on bag. When told that it couldn’t go through because of the liquids rule (it was more than 3.4 ounces), the passenger said they would put the soup in their checked baggage. But when the passenger returned to the checkpoint, officers saw that the passenger had tried to hide the soup in their pants. No soup for them.

Derringer in a Dopp Kit – A Derringer was found amongst everyday toiletry items in a dopp kit at San Diego (SAN). I don’t think you could trim your nails, but I bet you could knick yourself if you shaved with it.

Stun Pen – I’ve often heard that the pen can be mightier than the sword. Well, in this case that statement is pretty close to being true. A stun-pen was found on a passenger at Chicago Midway (MDW).

Bad Kitty – Known as a black cat, or cat eyes, this seemingly harmless kitty cat becomes a punching weapon when your fingers are inserted in its eyes. It's cute little pointy cat ears are designed to puncture and rip flesh.

Belt Buckle Knife – A belt buckle knife was found was found on a passenger during screening at Akron (CAK). Holy utility belt, Batman, good thing you didn’t bring your batarang and grappling gun.

More Grenades – An inert grenade was found this week in a checked bag at Salt Lake City (SLC). Another was found in a carry-on bag at San Diego (SAN) and it had a 1" knife concealed inside it.
TSA Week in Review: Knife Zip-Tied to Handle of Bag

TSA gets Bruce Schneier booted from House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing

Bruce Schneier was invited to testify about the TSA to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, but at the last minute he was disinvited, after the TSA objected to having him in the room.

On Friday, at the request of the TSA, I was removed from the witness list. The excuse was that I am involved in a lawsuit against the TSA, trying to get them to suspend their full-body scanner program. But it's pretty clear that the TSA is afraid of public testimony on the topic, and especially of being challenged in front of Congress. They want to control the story, and it's easier for them to do that if I'm not sitting next to them pointing out all the holes in their position. Unfortunately, the committee went along with them. (They tried to pull the same thing last year and it failed -- video at the 10:50 mark.)

The committee said it would try to invite me back for another hearing, but with my busy schedule, I don't know if I will be able to make it. And it would be far less effective for me to testify without forcing the TSA to respond to my points.

Congressional Testimony on the TSA (Thanks, Bruce!)