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One Year After Snowden: How Safe Are Your Calls and Emails?

Back in April 2014, I spoke to the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce about the security of emails and phone communications in the business world (materials are here).large_woman_tin_foil_hat

This article, “One Year After Snowden: How Safe Are Your Calls and Emails?,” summarizes the key Snowden disclosures over the last year and provides some “best practices” for lawyers and business people.

Originally published in the July/August Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Bulletin.

In Re Erik T. Voorhees (settlement): Not Really a Bitcoin Case

The hot bitcoin-related story involves the settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and bitcoin-advocate, Erik T. Voorhees.

This case involves bitcoin but is not about bitcoin.  Stated differently, this case is not an attack on bitcoin.  It simply involves charges of a crime unrelated to the virtual currency itself.

Specifically, Voorhees was charged with offering securities (stock) in two different companies which were not registered with the SEC.  There were other associated alleged violations (e.g., not filing a prospectus).

Bitcoin is involved, but is not the focus of this case, only because Voorhees is a bitcoin-advocate, the stocks were sold in bitcoin, and the two businesses used bitcoin.

There is nothing in the order/settlement which criticizes or criminalizes bitcoin.

The settlement means that Voorhees disgorges $15,000 (plus interest) and pays a $35,000 civil penalty.  Stories (such as this one) that he is paying a $50,000 “fine” are not defining the terms correctly.

The settlement / order instituting cease and desist proceedings is here.

The SEC’s press release is here.  Their prior May 7, 2014 “Investor Alert: Bitcoin and other Virtual Currency-Related Investments” is here.

Voorhees’ post on Reddit about the settlement is here.

iPhone Apps for Mardi Gras — Or for Fastest Breaking News

Last year, after the Boston Marathon Bombing, I wrote about my experience reading Twitter and listening to Ustream to get news on the manhunt which was coming in 10-30 minutes faster than it reached CNN.  A year later, the article is still solid and gives some good resources to say ahead of breaking news (here).images

But let’s turn, momentarily, to a fun diversion.

Mardi Gras has arrived and, if you are going to the parades, you need this GPS-enhanced parade tracker.  Local News 4 WWL has improved this app over the years and the current version looks solid.  Turn on your iPhone auto update to make sure the app has the latest info as it gets updated quite a bit during the parade season.  App is free and here.

Back to business.  Maybe your practice involves law enforcement and developments in your area.  Or you heard about an event in another city and want to get the police scanner stream.  Ustream is an option but Scanner Radio Deluxe seems to have the edge.  Select scanner feeds nearby or by city name (e.g., I can follow local Palm Beach as a favorite and search for NOPD when I get there).  Creates a favorites list for easy access and even have the app notify you if a particular stream gets a lot of listeners (suggesting there’s breaking news).  Hopefully we won’t need it at Mardi Gras.  App is here and free.

A Tinfoil Hat Which Works: “Booster Bag” Is An Anti-Shoplifting Device Under Florida Statute

Make jokes about the paranoid and their tinfoil hats, but the “tinfoil bag” is the real-deal.  Until you stand right in front of the person you’re stealing from.large_woman_tin_foil_hat

Most retail stores, as you know, have security tower devices which detect when items with tags pass through the front door, sounding an alarm.

Shoplifters turn to what is called a booster bag: in this case, a regular shopping bag lined with aluminum foil.  This is also known as a Faraday cage.  It shields the tags from begin detected by security.

In case you are guessing, yes, this is illegal.  In the case of Francesca Cenatis vs. State of Florida, she was spotted (the good old fashion way: by employees) allegedly trying to steal items using a battered Victoria’s Secret bag lined with foil.  It appears the booster functioned as intended — just that she was apprehended by employees who saw her.  And she was arrested anyways.  Use of such a bag is illegal, according to the Fourth District, under F.S. 812.015, Florida’s Antishoplifting Device Countermeasure Statute.

Before we receive gripes and emails about aiding or encouraging someone to break the law: folks, if the instructions are (widely available) on the internet, it is (a) unlikely that this law-related site is going to lead you into a life of crime and (b) it is also likely well-known to shop owners, who have beaten you to the punch and trained employees and have employed better security measures before this “bright” idea came to you.

Can the Government Search Your iPhone or iPad at the US Border?

Can Border Patrol rummage through the contents of your digital camera, laptop, smartphones, etc at the border?

Yes, according to several recent cases and a broad exception to the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure).

Read “Can They Search Your iPad or iPhone at the Border?” from the May 2013 Palm Beach County Bar Association Bulletin.

And, yes, that case to the right is for sale here .

Don’t Bring a Video Game to a Gun Fight

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook and Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting stories (and hundreds others), the National Rifle Association and other gun proponents have argued that video games are a contributing factor — if not the reason — for gun violence in the United States.  It was suggested by the NRA that the Center for Disease Control undertake a study to detect a connection.  mario

We have, however, a long history of blaming entertainment for societal ills… even to the point of Congressional hearings on the comic book.

Moreover, as a legal issue, we’ve been down this road quite recently — the 2011 US Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Entertainment, which discussed these very issues at length as well as the “evidence” surrounding a connection between games and guns.

The article, Don’t Bring a Video Game to a Gun Fight, discusses these issues in the March 2013 Palm Beach Bar Bulletin.

The discussion continues and we could probably clean up much of society in a number of ways to fix gun violence.  Re-read Brown and see how you feel about spending time and money on video games (and whether laws regulating video games are worth the effort).

US Memo on Drone Strikes vs. Al-Qaida Memo on How to Avoid Them

A bit off topic of Internet law, the discovery by the Associated Press of an Al Qaida memorandum on how to avoid detection/death from American drones is a technology story worth discussing.  The news coverage on this has been bleak.skynet

On the other hand, there has been plenty of coverage of the U.S. memo entitled the Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against U.S. Citizen Who Is A Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force.

So now you can read both memos, back-to-back.

The Al Qaida memo has seemingly not hit the news yet  – google “Al Qaida memo drones” and only one story appears in Fast Company, Terrorists May Know How to Avoid Drones, Memo Says.

If you thought that Al Qaida had a lack of technical experience, this memo enumerates 21 ways to avoid drone detection (starting with hiding from under a tree and then it moves towards jamming frequencies).  There is even a discussion of the “War of the Drones” and how, according to Al Qaida, the US moved from F-16 fighters to less expensive drones.  Shockingly, it discusses using a $3,000 system called Skygrabber which you can buy off the internet at Skygrabber.com.  There is a YouTube video showing how Skygrabber can intercept (or at least in 2009) Drone communications.

For context of the US memo, Michael Isakoff’s (NBC) article on the revelation of that report is here.

Special thanks to Gizmodo, which brought the Al Qaida story to our attention (their article includes both the original Arabic as well as link to the English translation, if you are so minded to check that out).

What Does a Child Pornography Case Tell You About Computer Evidence?

Want to know how to find (or hide) on a computer what websites were visited, what images were viewed, and what files were deleted?  Even if you are not a computer forensic specialist, you can find this information using basic steps and free software on the Internet.  This is helpful for inhouse counsel, lawyers, and even parents.

Surprisingly, these steps are considered so easy, that Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit stopped short of claming, “even a judge could do this.”  Instead, he notes that “despite the availability of software for obliterating or concealing incriminating computer files, the use of such software is surprisingly rare.”  Well, maybe.  CCleaner remains a frequently-sought program at Download.com.  The case is United States v. Seiver.

Learn computer steps and evidence standards in the November 2012 article from the Palm Beach Bar Association, What Does a Child Pornography Case Tell You About Computer Evidence?

 

Is Hacking Your Spouse’s Email Account Equivalent to “Domestic Violence” in Florida?

A husband discovered that his wife had accessed his email account and, according to him, she also threatened to shoot him.  So he sought a domestic violence injunction.  Ultimately, it appears that there was no evidence that the wife made the threat about the gun however, at the hearing, she admits to accessing the email account, making copies of some emails, and filing some of the information with the court.  The trial court likened the admitted behavior to cyberstalking and entered the domestic violence injunction.

But is accessing an email account the same as domestic violence?  In Florida, an injunction against domestic violence has to be premised upon some threat of imminent violence, which excludes mere uncivil behavior that causes distress or annoyance.  The First District concluded that the wife engaged in “improper behavior” but that it did not constitute domestic violence.  More specifically, the single episode of accessing a spouse’s email account did not meet the standards for harassment, stalking or even cyberstalking.

The First District’s opinion in Cheryl Young v. Michael Young is here.

For further examination of the issue, the only brief filed in the case is here.

Nevada Supreme Court Explains Admissibility Standards for IM / Text Messages

The criminal case of Kevin Rodriguez v. State of Nevada is one of three recent cases nationwide which discusses the admissibility of text messages in trial.

In Rodriguez, a victim was attacked, robbed, and her cell phone was taken.  Thereafter, twelve text messages were sent from the victim’s phone.  The case was brought against two defendants who were later apprehended in possession of the phone (which also had a picture of them in the phone which was taken after the assault).

Some quotes from the opinion:

* “Text messages offer new analytical challenges when courts consider admissibility.  However, those challenges do not require a deviation from basic evidentiary rules…”

* A person cannot be identified as the author of a text message solely on the evidence that the text came from that person’s phone.  Some additional evidence is required to authenticate.

* Circumstantial evidence corroborating the sender’s identity may include the context or content of the messages…

* Proponent of the evidence must explain the purpose for which the text message is being offered and provide sufficient direct or circumstantial corroborating evidence of authorship in order to authenticate…

* Once admitted, opponent may rebut authentication and it is for the jury to decide…

Florida Adds New Teen (Anti) Sexting Law — Here Are All of the Official Documents

There has been a rush of news stories about Florida’s new anti-sexting law which went into effect October 1, 2011.  Unfortunately, much of the coverage is inconsistent:  for example, CNN describes the new law as “easing” the penalties for this type of lewd behavior. The Sun Sentinel/Palm Beach Post simply pointed out that the new law now specifically refers to “sexting” and makes it a crime (but doesn’t clarify that, previously, sexting was a crime with potentially harsher penalties under more general statutes).  

Historically, the bill was proposed in December 2010, voted on in the House and Senate without a single “nay” vote, and signed by the Governor in June.  The statute creates new law, Florida Statute 847.0146.  Few, if any, of the news reports provides the news statute number which hampers finding the original text.  As of this writing, Florida’s Online Sunshine is not updated with the new law.  In short, it is hard to find the new law.

But no worries…

a good summary of the SB is here.

The history of the bill(s) is here.

The House Bill Analysis is here (provides the background analysis of the bill).

And the bill/law is here.