Tag Archives | Law

EFF’s Game Plan for Ending Global Mass Surveillance

We have a problem when it comes to stopping mass surveillance.

The entity that’s conducting the most extreme and far-reaching surveillance against most of the world’s communications—the National Security Agency—is bound by United States law.

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That’s good news for Americans. U.S. law and the Constitution protect American citizens and legal residents from warrantless surveillance. That means we have a very strong legal case to challenge mass surveillance conducted domestically or that sweeps in Americans’ communications.

Similarly, the United States Congress is elected by American voters. That means Congressional representatives are beholden to the American people for their jobs, so public pressure from constituents can help influence future laws that might check some of the NSA’s most egregious practices.

But what about everyone else? What about the 96% of the world’s population who are citizens of other countries, living outside U.S. borders. They don’t get a vote in Congress. And current American legal protections generally only protect citizens, legal residents, or those physically located within the United States.… Read the rest

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Rapper Tiny Doo Facing Long Prison Sentence Over Lyrics

So now you can go to prison because of the lyrics of a song? In California, the answer may be “yes” reports CNN:

Song lyrics that glorify violence are hardly uncommon. But a prosecutor in California says one rapper’s violent lyrics go beyond creative license to conspiracy.

San Diego-based rapper Tiny Doo has already spent eight months in prison, and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted under a little-known California statute that makes it illegal to benefit from gang activities.

The statute in question is California Penal Code 182.5. The code makes it a felony for anyone to participate in a criminal street gang, have knowledge that a street gang has engaged in criminal activity, or benefit from that activity.

It’s that last part — benefiting from criminal activity — that prosecutors are going after the rapper for.

Tiny Doo, whose real name is Brandon Duncan, faces nine counts of criminal street gang conspiracy because prosecutors allege he and 14 other alleged gang members increased their stature and respect following a rash of shootings in the city in 2013.

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The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake

Anyone who’s been a regular visitor to this page knows that we deplore the Pay 2 Play political system in place in the United States. Much of the blame for this must be laid at the steps of the US Supreme Court, as described in the New York Review of Books:

Five years ago this week, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided to allow unlimited amounts of corporate spending in political campaigns. How important was that decision? At the time, some said criticism of the decision was overblown, and that fears that it would give outsize influence to powerful interests were unfounded. Now, the evidence is in, and the results are devastating.

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US SupremeCourt West Facade by UpstateNYer (CC)

To coincide with the decision’s fifth anniversary, eight public interest organizations—the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Demos, U.S. PIRG, Public Campaign, Justice at Stake, and the Center for Media and Democracy—have simultaneously issued reports that demonstrate the steadily growing influence of money on elections since the Court’s decision.

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Dr. Ingrid Walker: Drugs & Desire

What do you think of when you think of the term, ‘drug user’? Do you think of crusty people on skid row, or perhaps wall street tycoons doing blow off of the butts of their secretaries? Whatever your vision is, it might be very different from the truth. Chances are, you are a drug user. Dr. Ingrid Walker explains further and offers some interesting insights into our biases and misconceptions on drugs.

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The Revenge of the CIA: Scapegoating Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

This week, in a federal courtroom, I’ve heard a series of government witnesses testify behind a screen while expounding on a central precept of the national security state: The CIA can do no wrong.

Those CIA employees and consultants are more than mere loyalists for an agency that soaks up $15 billion a year and continues to loosen the bonds of accountability. The docket says “United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling,” but a more discerning title would be “National Security State v. The Public’s Right to Know.”

For the first time in 30 years, a case has gone to trial in a civilian court under the Espionage Act with charges that the defendant gave classified information to news media. Not far from the CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia, legal jargon is flying around the courtroom, but the law has very little to do with this case.

Aerial view of CIA headquarters, langley, virginia 14760a

Aerial view of the CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia.

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A Bot Purchased Illegal Drugs — Who’s to Blame?

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When bots break the law, who pays the price?

UPDATE 1/16 via the !Mediengruppe Bitnik blog (the Random Darknet Shopper):

On the morning of January 12, the day after the three-month exhibition was closed, the public prosecutor’s office of St. Gallen seized and sealed our work. It seems, the purpose of the confiscation is to impede an endangerment of third parties through the drugs exhibited by destroying them. This is what we know at present. We believe that the confiscation is an unjustified intervention into freedom of art. We’d also like to thank Kunst Halle St. Gallen for their ongoing support and the wonderful collaboration. Furthermore, we are convinced, that it is an objective of art to shed light on the fringes of society and to pose fundamental contemporary questions.

via Fusion.net:

Maybe it’s a sign that robots are growing up, and thus hitting the rebellious stage.

The Random Darknet Shopper, an automated online shopping bot with a budget of $100 a week in Bitcoin, is programmed to do a very specific task: go to one particular marketplace on the Deep Web and make one random purchase a week with the provided allowance.

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U.S. Supreme Court To Weigh New Religious Rights Case

One of the Good News signs at issue.

One of the Good News signs at issue.

Should we expect further expansion of pro-religious law from the Roberts Supreme Court today? Reuters via Yahoo News reports on its latest opportunity to roll back the decades:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will take up a new religious rights case when it considers whether a town in Arizona discriminated against a local church by forcing it to remove signs notifying the public of its worship services.

The nine justices are set to hear a one-hour argument in an appeal filed by the Good News Community Church, which objected to its treatment by town officials in Gilbert, Arizona. The church says its free speech rights, protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, were violated.

The conservative-leaning court’s last decision on a religious-themed issue came last June. The justices ruled 5-4 that owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance covering birth control for women.

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Billions of Dollars + Zero Wisdom = Google Hires Resident Philosopher

Picture of italian philosopher Luciano Floridi (Stefano Oreschi via Wikimedia Commons).

Picture of italian philosopher Luciano Floridi (Stefano Oreschi via Wikimedia Commons).

via Pacific Standard:

How an Oxford don is helping the tech giant understand the nature of modern identity—and stay out of court.

One day this past September, Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, sat down with a group of experts in Madrid to begin publicly discussing how Google should respond to a recent, perplexing ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice. In May, the court had declared that, in accordance with the European “right to be forgotten,” individuals within the E.U. should be able to prohibit Google and other search firms from linking to personal information that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive.”

In an age of revenge porn, social media gaffes, and all the infinite varieties of embarrassment that can attend one’s name in a Google search, the ruling was, in spirit, an attempt to keep ordinary Europeans from being unduly tyrannized by an Internet that, famously, never forgets.

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EU Rules Obesity Can Count As Disability

Just when you thought that the obese were the last large class of people left unprotected by discrimination laws, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that if the obesity of a worker “hinders the full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers”, then obesity can fall within the concept of “disability.” From BBC News:

Obesity can constitute a disability in certain circumstances, the EU’s highest court has ruled.

The European Court of Justice was asked to consider the case of a male childminder in Denmark who says he was sacked for being too fat.

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Photo Fj.toloza992 (CC)

The court said that if obesity could hinder “full and effective participation” at work then it could count as a disability.

The ruling is binding across the EU…

Clive Coleman, the BBC’s legal correspondent, comments:

Today’s ruling was of great interest to employers across Europe.

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Should we criminalise robotic rape and robotic child sexual abuse?

Editor’s note: We want to thank John Danaher for publishing his thought provoking work under a Creative Commons License. Support him by following his blog or following him on Twitter. If you like his essays, you’ll love his Twitter account.

Also, take a look through his recent posts (either republished on Disinformation or not) and let John know which ones you liked best.

I recently published an unusual article. At least, I think it is unusual. It imagines a future in which sophisticated sex robots are used to replicate acts of rape and child sexual abuse, and then asks whether such acts should be criminalised. In the article, I try to provide a framework for evaluating the issue, but I do so in what I think is a provocative fashion. I present an argument for thinking that such acts should be criminalised, even if they have no extrinsically harmful effects on others.… Read the rest

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