Category: Legal

Free speech for police

david-bratzer.jpgDavid Bratzer is a police officer in Victoria, British Columbia. He’s a member of “Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,” and was going to address a conference this week. There’s a news video at “VicPD Officer Ordered to Stay Quiet.”

In an article in the Huffington Post, “The Muzzling of a Cop” former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper writes:

Officer Bratzer was scheduled to address, on his own time, an important “harm reduction” conference in the city this week. His chief stepped in, said no. Why? He didn’t like the message Bratzer was set to deliver. Of course, this decision by the brass has had the effect of shining an even brighter light on the horrific effects of the U.S.-led drug war. That’s good.

A free society requires that all points of view be voiced. Debate requires facts. If the department wants to ban all speech about the laws it enforces, that would be one thing. But I don’t think that’s their position, nor would such a ban be compatible with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But as you can see in the video, Sgt Grant Hamilton is portraying the official position of the Victoria police: that the people it protects are incapable of making distinctions between those in uniform and those in civilian dress. That position isn’t compatible with democratic decision making. What other distinctions do the police worry people can’t make? Isn’t making those choices the job of the legislature?

Please sign the petition to let David Bratzer speak at http://www.leap.cc/freespeech, and consider making a donation in support of their work.

Puerto Rico: Biggest Identity Theft ever?

puerto-rico-birth-certificate.jpgApparently, the government of Puerto Rico has stolen the identities of something between 1.7 and 4.1 million people

Native Puerto Ricans living outside the island territory are reacting with surprise and confusion after learning their birth certificates will become no good this summer.

A law enacted by Puerto Rico in December mainly to combat identity theft invalidates as of July 1 all previously issued Puerto Rican birth certificates. That means more than a third of the 4.1 million people of Puerto Rican descent living in the 50 states must arrange to get new certificates. (“Shock over voided Puerto Rican birth certificates,” Suzanne Gamboa, AP)

If I’m parsing that right, all 4.1 million identities were stolen from their legitimate holders, and 1/3 of those are outside Puerto Rico, leading to an unclear level of actual effort to get the documents replaced.

Now, some people may take umbrage at my claim that this is identity theft. You might reasonably think that fraud by impersonation requires impersonation. But the reason that it’s called identity theft is that the victim loses control of their identity. False claims are tired to their name, ssn, birth certificate, etc. Those claims show up at random. Their sense that they have “a good name” is diminished and assaulted.

You might also claim that I’m exaggerating, but I’m not the one who titled the article “shock.” People are feeling shocked, confused and assaulted by this action.

So despite the not for profit nature of the crime, this is identity theft on the largest scale I’ve heard about in years.

Image from the Oritz family showcase.

I'm not comfortable with that

The language of Facebook’s iPhone app is fascinating:Facebook-iphone.jpg

If you enable this feature, all contacts from your device will be sent to Facebook…Please make sure your friends are comfortable with any use you make of their information.

So first off, I don’t consent to you using that feature and providing my mobile phone number to Facebook. Not giving my cell phone to random web sites (including but not limited to Facebook) was implicit when that number was provided to you. Your continued compliance is appreciated.

What’s really interesting is the way in which this dialog deflects the moral culpability for Facebook’s choices to you. They didn’t have to create a feature that sucked in all the information in your phone book. They could have offered an option to exclude numbers. And why does Facebook even need phone numbers? Their language also implies that such transfers of third party data are not constrained by any law they have to worry about. Perhaps that’s correct in the United States.

But none of that is considered in the brief notice.

I don’t agree.

Screenshot by Dan Biddle.

My Sweet Lord, this is a Melancholy story

There’s an elephant of a story over at the New York Times, “Musician Apologizes for Advertising Track That Upset the White Stripes.” It’s all about this guy who wrote a song that ended up sounding an awful lot like a song that this other guy had written. And how this other guy (that being Mr. White) took offense to the work of Mr. Kraft, a subcontractor to the folks who were producing a soundtrack for an ad being made for the US Air Force.

The whole thing’s a bomb, but the fact pattern keeps irritating something in my brain. It must be something subconscious.

Ignorance of the 4 new laws a day is no excuse

Code-of-Hammurabi.jpgThe lead of this story caught my eye:

(CNN) — Legislatures in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico met in 2009, leading to the enactment of 40,697 laws, many of which take effect January 1.

That’s an average of 753 laws passed in each of those jurisdictions. At 200 working days in a year, which is normal for you and me, that’s nearly 4 laws per day.

Now, there’s a longstanding principle of law, which is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. That goes back to the day when laws, like the code of Hammurabi, were inscribed at a rate of about 4 letters per day. The laws were posted in the city center where both of the literate people could read them.

Joking aside, at what point does knowledge of the law become an unreasonable demand on the citizenry? Civil rights lawyer Harvey Silvergate has a new book, “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. I haven’t read it, but as I understand, it’s largely about the proliferation of vague laws, not the sheer numbers.

A few years back, Aleecia McDonald and Lorrie Cranor calculated the cost of reading and understanding the privacy policies of the sites you visit. It was $365 billion. It might be interesting to apply the same approach to the work of legislatures.

What the FBI Was Doing on Beethoven's Birthday

monkey-cat.jpg

This is unfair, but I can’t resist. Nine days before we found out again that PETN is hard to detonate, the FBI was keeping us safe:

FBI FINALLY MAKES AN ARREST OVER ‘WOLVERINE’ LEAK

The FBI has announced the capture of an individual connected with the leak of 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

“Wolverine” has raked in nearly $375 million in worldwide gross since its release. How much money the leak cost Fox will never be settled for certain.

I’m glad we’re spending money on things to keep us safe.

An advance in the "balance" between security and privacy

Today on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that the European Parliament has adopted what may be the first useful statement about the balance between security and privacy since Franklin:

“… stresses that the EU is rooted in the principle of freedom. Security, in support of freedom, must be pursued through the rule of law and subject to fundamental rights obligations. The balance between security and freedom is to be seen in that perspective”

Thanks to Ralf Bendrath and @privacyint for pointing it out.

Links: An area of freedom, security and justice serving the citizen – Stockholm programme
Luigi Berlinguer
, and Ammendment 70: 23.11.2009 B7-0155/70 (or html)

Deny thy father and refuse thy gene sequence?

There’s a fascinating article in the NYTimes magazine, “Who Knew I Was Not the Father?” It’s all the impact of cheap paternity testing on conceptions of fatherhood. Men now have a cheap and easy way to discovering that children they thought were theirs really carry someone else’s genes.

This raises the question, what is fatherhood? Is it the genes or the relationship? There’s obviously elements of both, but perhaps there’s a rule in here: adding identity to a system makes the system more brittle.

Prisoners in Iran

There are apparently many people being held without charges by Iranian government. But as far as I know, I’ve only ever met one of them, and so wanted to draw attention to his case:

During this entire time, our son has had just two short meetings with us for only a few minutes. Please imagine that for every six months we just saw him for very few minutes. We have no information about his legal situation.

No court has been held yet and we don’t even know which institution or security organization Hossein is under the control of. Many times, from many different ways, we tried to get some precision about his situation, but we couldn’t. Does a detainee’s dignified manner deserve such treatment?

No one ever deserves to be held on secret charges for that long. Let Hoder out, or charge him. The same goes for all the victims of officious kidnapping, wherever in the world they are.

Toyota Stalks Woman, Claims She Consented

clown-and-cops.jpg

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Amber Duick claims she had difficulty eating, sleeping and going to work during March and April of last year after she received e-mails for five days from a fictitious man called Sebastian Bowler, from England, who said he was on the run from the law, knew her and where she lived, and was coming to her home to hide from the police.

There was even a fictitious MySpace page reportedly created for Bowler.

Although Bowler did not have Duick’s current address, he sent her links to his My Space page as well as links to video clips of him causing trouble all over the country on his way to her former house in Los Angeles, according to the lawsuit.

“Amber mate! Coming 2 Los Angeles. Gonna lay low at your place for a bit till it all blows over,” the man wrote in one e-mail….

It turns out the prank was actually part of a marketing effort executed by the Los Angeles division of global marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which created the campaign to promote the Toyota Matrix, a new model launched in 2008. …Tepper, Duick’s attorney, said he discussed the campaign with Toyota’s attorneys earlier this year, and they said the “opting in” Harp referred to was done when Duick’s friend e-mailed her a “personality test” that contained a link to an “indecipherable” written statement that Toyota used as a form of consent from Duick….(“Woman Sues Toyota Over ‘Terrifying’ Prank,” ABC News.)

Dear Toyota attorneys: a contract involves, first and foremost, a meeting of the minds. We’ve had years of farcical and indecipherable privacy policies. Anyone who’s ever tried to read them knows that you can’t figure them out. Everyone knows that no one even tries. The final thing which any first year law student knows: neither of those lead to terms which shock the conscience.

I’d like to ask readers to blog and tweet about this until Saatchi, Saatchi and Toyota explain what went wrong, and agree to all of Duick’s demands.

Shown, Toyota’s attorneys in conference with representatives of Saatchi and Saatchi. Photo by Jrbrubaker.

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