United States v. Microsoft Corp

I found this case interesting:

The facts of the case are pretty simple: The cops have a warrant for an e-mail account for someone they suspect is involved in selling drugs. They go to Microsoft to get the information. Microsoft says they’ll give law enforcement the information they have stored in Washington [State], but the e-mails for that account are stored in Ireland and the warrant doesn’t apply to their Irish data center. The Supreme Court will decide whether the facts of this case are foreign or domestic and, based on that, whether the law can be applied to information stored in another country.

The SCOTUSBlog summary:

Issue: Whether a United States provider of email services must comply with a probable-cause-based warrant issued under 18 U.S.C. § 2703 by making disclosure in the United States of electronic communications within that provider’s control, even if the provider has decided to store that material abroad.

Working for state government, in contracting a company to host our services, we have to demand that our data remain in the United States. One of the DOJ claims is that someone in Microsoft headquarters can, with the click of a button, moved the data from Ireland to the US and remove this issue. Which is why I find our lawyer demanding our data not ever go overseas hilarious. With a click of a button, it or a copy could go there and we would never know or be able to prove that it did.

Ireland filed an amicus brief that Microsoft handing over the data would not violate Irish privacy law. So, moving the goal posts, the MS argument is now that other countries will demand access to data of US citizens stored in the US. Of course, they would also like to be protected from the US government.

Of course, there is the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act that is the legislative “fix”.

It would specify that an order under the SCA applies to all data that is in the “possession, custody, or control” of the provider, regardless of where that data is stored, and it would pave the way for executive agreements—such as the contemplated U.S.-U.K. agreement—to allow foreign governments to request content directly from American providers.

 

Fell through the cracks

In terms of dealing with Nikolas Cruz, there were lots and lots of opportunity for early intervention. People “saw something, said something” multiple times over the past four years.

  • 2014: Cruz was accused of shooting a chicken four years ago. It was confirmed he owned and used an airsoft rifle, but he denied shooting chickens.
  • 2016: The sheriff’s office for Broward County, Florida, was told third-hand that Cruz had guns. They determined he had knives and a BB gun. The School Resource Officer was a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school was informed.
  • 2016: Cruz was investigated by the SRO for ingesting gasoline and cutting himself in a suicide attempt. A counselor advised he did not meet criteria for involuntary commitment for the mentally ill.
  • 2016: Florida’s social services agency looked into Cruz after he posted on social media about self-harm and assessed him not at risk of harming either himself or others.
  • 2017: The FBI got a tip five months ago about a profession school shooter comment on Youtube. There are dozens of people with this name all over the country and almost a dozen in Florida. I’d think the only way to pursue it would be to get a warrant, but before the incident, this is not a warrant many judges would grant.
  • 2018: The FBI got a tip one month ago about Cruz specifically talked of committing a school shooting which it did not investigate.
  • 2018: The SRO deputy was not near the building when Cruz started shooting. And waited outside.

It seems like for every person claiming this kid was bad news there were a couple dismissing the concerns as overblown. I mean, his mother died a couple months after the Youtube “profession school shooter” comment. The couple who took him in knew he owned multiple guns but felt he was safe and happy and thought they had the only key to the gun safe. They also had no idea about his social media use.

Facebook Feature Request: Privacy and Tags

This is essentially the issue of the Friends of Friends post. In this case, I am not really interested in expanding the audience.

Say I publish a friends only post. Victor, my friend, makes a comment tagging Roberta, not my friend, and asks a question directed at her. She is not notified about the tag. Nor can she see the comment or post.

Therefore, in my mind, allowing the tag to be done is counterproductive. Facebook should warn Victor that Roberta cannot see it. Ideally it would be ahead of time and prevent it. Less acceptable, but I would be happier is after the fact having a “Roberta cannot see this” notice. (The “Who can see this?” thing is vague and not generally very helpful clarifying exactly who can see it.)

Disgust and politics

I am a fan of Jonathan Haidt. In running across this, I think it helps me understand where social conservatives are coming from. He talks about three dimensions:

  1. Solidarity: how close we are to something. Family are close. Strangers are far.
  2. Hierarchy: who is above and below.
  3. Divinity: closeness to a deity.

Disgust originated as a guardian for what we ate, but later adapted to preventing contamination of the body in general including morality.

Found this on The politics of disgust animated for the age of Trump.

Further reading:

GEICO Mobile App

I watched a commercial where traffic enforcement officer pulled over a pig in a convertible who hands over his phone when requested for identification. The officer questions it. The pig explains. The officer remains skeptical.

Personally, I think it should continue with the officer saying, “Since you’ve unlocked your phone and handed to me, I will just check your text messaging and phone logs. Oh, you received one while you were driving. Here’s a ticket for texting while driving. More people should just let us know when they are breaking out silly laws this way.”

Also.

Maybe the kids making commercials these days have forgotten the offensive use of “pig” to refer to a police officer. Having a pig and police officer talking to each other seems like skirting really close.

Face Recognition Obfuscation

Parents of young children posts lots and lots of photos on Facebook. Tags in the photos of their children are of either or both parents. Children under thirteen are not allowed on the site. Babies lack the motor control to operate a camera or computer. So expecting children to have their own identities on Facebook are probably unrealistic.

Now that Facebook attempts to identify photos of people automatically, boy is it confused with these parents. Underneath photos of a friend’s child, Facebook had the “Want to tag <parent’s name>? Yes No.” Um, no.

Those of wanting to go anonymous on Facebook and prevent suggestions for friends tagging you in photos, the solution is to create a photo bank of someone else you tag as yourself. Facebook will not know to tag you when a friend uploads a photo of you. Of course, you will want to prevent friends from tagging you too.

 

Trust in Info-Infrastructure

James Fallows has an interesting piece in the Atlantic called Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think discussing trust in the US for the info-infrastructure of the Internet is part of why we have Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. As that trust gets eroded by the behavior of the US government, users may elect not to continue leaving their data with US companies.

The real threat from terrorism has never been the damage it does directly, even though attacks as horrific as those on 9/11. The more serious threat comes from the over-reaction, the collective insanity or the simple loss of perspective, that an attack evokes. Our government’s ambition to do everything possible to keep us “safe” has put us at jeopardy in other ways.

It will be interesting to see whether the fall of the US information giants could be due to a balkanization from a Asia, Europe, and South America backlash. Some regions already have giant amounts of participation in non-US alternatives. This was from long before the NSA scandal.

 

Collusion on Firefox

As we browse the Web, our browsers picks up cookies. Many sites will give our browser advertiser’s cookies. More importantly, the advertiser’s servers can look to see whether we have their cookies and where we obtained them. This is how they record our browsing habits. The more places they advertise, the better they are able to track us.

Collusion is an addon for Firefox detects the cookies added to my browser in order to identify the parties tracking me across sites are. For example, I just installed it and visited Google which dropped cookies for doubleclick, rubicon, bluekai, and others. I then went to the New York Times web site which added Nielson, Doubleplex, and other such as doubleclick.

This is going to occupy me for days… Maybe even weeks.

Privacy and Technology

Isaac Asimov has an interesting pre-World-Wide Web quote, “The advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.” Janov Pelorat in Foundation’s Edge (1982). Think about the word “civilization”. The root, civil, means to treat others well. In one ideal world, everyone would treat everyone else well for no reason. In hunter-gather societies, groups were small because groups were split when the group grew too large. At these small sizes, human abilities to track trustworthiness worked. Farming attached people to the land, making laws and people to enforce the laws necessary.

Privacy is good for the individual. Eliminating privacy is good for the state. Both claim their point of view is good for society. Both are right. A state with too much ability to see into the lives of  individuals will eventually abuse that power to mistreat its citizens. A state with too little ability to see into the lives of individuals will be too blind to protect citizens from mistreatment by criminals. During times of war, people want the state to protect them and the refrain, “Innocent people have nothing to hide,” gets resurrected. During times of peace, people want the state to leave them alone. It has everything to do with trust. When people no longer trust each other, they turn to the state. When people can trust each other, they stop trusting the state.

Ah. Oversimplification

As technology improves, we gain access to tools which allow us to do more with less effort. With information technology, this means we can gather more and accurate information. At the same time, it means less privacy for us.

Part of my work is to provide evidence to deans, department heads, and instructors about student online behavior. Students would be surprised at how much I can find about what they did in our system. Of course, the campus administrations would like us to be able to know everything about what the students and instructors are doing. To get the same in the bricks-and-mortar parts of campus, cameras and microphone would record and store all the audio and video for every classroom and office.

Full Body Scanners

I was starting to be okay with this description of a whole body imaging  Transportation Security Administration plans to implement.

One, there’s technology that allows the body to be transmuted into merely a cartoon stick figure. So it’s not as if anyone’s genitalia or private parts are being revealed. Instead, it’s just an outline of the body. And then, as I say, anything odd attached to the body becomes readily apparent. (Op-Ed: Security Measures Should Be More Invasive : NPR)

Then I saw images online of what a TSA technician would see. Sadly, what I saw was not stick figures but naked bodies with obscured faces and lines where clothes hug the body. A blurred face doesn’t make me more comfortable. I don’t use dressing rooms in stores specifically because places are known to use cameras in the rooms. I’d rather take the item back than run across the possibility of being viewed in just my underwear, so being viewed naked is disconcerting.

Whether the distance of the person viewing me naked is 2 feet away or 20,000 miles makes extremely little difference to me. Not being able to see the expression of the person viewing raises the creepiness factor. Of course, I went to college at a time when really creepy guys would hang out in the back corner computer labs looking a pictures of naked women and disturbed everyone in the building. My bag was swabbed by one of those people the last time I flew out of that airport.

The images I saw were all older than April 2009, so it is possible new software absolves the nudity issue. This quote makes it sound like there are things which can be done to eliminate the nudity issue and may be what the first quote intended. I only found 4 different images and none matched my idea of a stick figure or stylized.

New software, however, eliminates that problem [nudity of minors is illegal] by projecting a stylized image rather than an actual picture onto a computer screen, highlighting the area of the body where objects are concealed in pockets or under the clothing. Dutch to use full body scanners for US flights

I’ve heard various things about how long the images are stored: not at all, 12 hours, and 3 days. So I fully expect in 2010 to hear about a scandal of pictures of people from these machines getting posted online. In Britain there was a question whether these images taken of minors violates the law despite government officials claiming the images being legal as they are not actually images.

One technology uses terahertz radiation which supposedly will detect the spectrograph of chemicals. Such a thing could detect explosives or illegal drugs.

More technology doesn’t help so much as passing along warnings about threats. This guy’s father told the right people his son was a threat. Yet he wasn’t put on the no-fly list. A 5 year olds are got searched for having the same name as someone on the no-fly list.