Peter Watts Found Guilty

Cory shares the bad news on Boing Boing, along with Peter’s very frank telling of the trial and conviction. (Read the original story at Boing Boing, too, for background.)

While the assault charge was tossed, Watts was still convicted for obstruction under a very troublingly constituted law.

What constitutes “failure to comply with a lawful command” is open to interpretation. The Prosecution cited several moments within the melee which she claimed constituted “resisting”, but by her own admission I wasn’t charged with any of those things. I was charged only with resisting Beaudry, the guard I’d “choked”. My passenger of that day put the lie to that claim in short order, and the Prosecution wasn’t able to shake that. The Defense pointed out that I wasn’t charged with anything regarding anyone else, and the Prosecution had to concede that too. So what it came down to, ultimately, was those moments after I was repeatedly struck in the face by Beaudry (an event not in dispute, incidentally). After Beaudry had finished whaling on me in the car, and stepped outside, and ordered me out of the vehicle; after I’d complied with that, and was standing motionless beside the car, and Beaudry told me to get on the ground — I just stood there, saying “What is the problem?”, just before Beaudry maced me.

Charlie Stross has an excellent post relating this one incident to a much more troubling larger trend.

I note with some alarm that the saucepan of free international travel we’ve been swimming frog-like in for decades is now steaming.

Beyond the concern over laws that increasingly grant border patrols new, vague, easy to abuse powers with little accountability, Charlie delves into the economic pressures bring this to much more of a head. Well worth the read.

Ohio Supreme Court Protects Cell Phones from Search and Seizure

According to the New York Times, this was a very narrow majority on a key 4th Amendment issue. The majority opinion hinged on deeming a cell phone to be qualitatively and quantitatively different from closed containers, the standard to which the prosecutor was trying to hold the defendant’s cell phone.

The prosecutor was clearly not pleased, trying to paint this as an untenable form of technology based exceptionalism. That being said, he hasn’t decided whether or not he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

I tend to think the court got this mostly right, not just given the vast amount of personal data potentially stored on a phone. Increasingly, phones are also edge devices that store credentials to even more information out on the network. I don’t think that was the case here, but the line is increasingly blurred. Pursuing a search through the device onto online spaces would clearly take it much more into the contentious grounds of online surveillance and access to third party information, not just rifling through seized personal effects.

UK Man Jailed for Refusing to Divulge Encryption Key

In sharing this story, Mike Masnick confirms a discussion I was having with friends the other night, that at least one US judge has deemed revealing an encryption key or passphrase as self incrimination and hence barred by the Fifth Amendment here in the US.

Britain traditional has had weaker speech protections and the act under which this man was snared, RIPA, has led to some fearful abuses and overreach of law enforcement powers. In this case, specifically, the judge deemed the key to be an object and subject to demand, rather than speech.

The worst part is the defendant is apparently mentally ill, though there is no analysis of how this may or may not have factored into the judge’s opinion in terms of his competence.

PATRIOT Act Reform Stumbles, Jamming Junk Mail, and More

  • Reform of PATRIOT Act gutted during mark-up
    According to the EFF, one of the author’s of the amendment that would help restore some privacy protections acted to weaken the very same amendment at the last minute. The only rationale offered is that the original text of the amendment would interfere with ongoing investigations.
  • Humorous, anarchistic pamphlet designed for reply mailers
    Cory points out a clever hack of those ubiquitous pre-paid business reply envelopes that come with every junk offer for a credit card or subscription. The social commentary is priceless, suggesting a collapse of corporate culture into a neo-savage utopia. Doesn’t appear to be a print form of the work, though, so more of a gag than something you could actually use.
  • Court invalidates the top patent EFF has been working to bust
    According to Mike Masnick at Techdirt this was not a direct result of the EFF’s patent busting work. Mike also hints at the cold comfort to those trolled with this patent, that they still had to pay fees and endure legal hassle. The win is encouraging, though, but tempered by how long the process ultimately took.
  • Tenth anniversary of OpenSSH celebrated with a new release
    It definitely is a work horse, indispensable to anyone dealing with remote administration of even a single *nix machine. Here’s to ten years more, or however long until someone comes up with something not only better but provably more secure.
  • Still much to be concerned about US-Canada border searchers
    According to The Globe and Mail, it isn’t just the search powers and policies on the US side that are problematic. According to the article, the border patrols mandate extends well into your electronics and with precious little oversight. It also reminds me of a recent Spark story about not just a physical search, but a Google search causing problems.
  • Proving a computer kernel correct
    This is a pretty astonishing accomplishment. Schneier uses to demonstrate the scale of the problem for the operating system kernels you and I use every day. He estimates something on the order of 20,000 man years to accomplish that task.
  • Federal judge upholds first-sale doctrine for software
    The EFF tweeted this link, which details a suit against Autodesk by a user trying to resell his software on eBay. The article mentions another, similar case where the judge there also ruled in favor of the consumer’s right to resell.

Music Inspired by a Computer Game, Portland Backs Open Data, and More

  • Zork rock anthem
    Thanks, Cory, for sharing this ladleful of awesome sauce. Not only is this a great bit of very listenable nerd core, it works on a whole other level: the lyrics are a walk through of the original Zork text adventure game.
  • Mozilla also objects to Google Chrome Frame plugin
    As The Register explains, VP of Engineering Mike Shaver offers some more considered technical arguments and Mozilla chief lizard wrangler, Mitchell Baker. The issue, in a nutshell, is that the plugin silos security and other data on a site by site basis and can have a net effect of eroding the safety of the browser and definitely will lead to consumer confusion.
  • UK consultation on proposed three strikes rule closes
    The Open Rights Group has a good recap not only of the proceeding but the hard work they are doing to provided well informed, substantiated critique of the proposal.
  • Horrifying details of proposed UK border plan
    Am I missing something? I understand why the scientists are objecting to the methods being proposed as they are flawed, like automated facial recognition and other sorts of fuzzy techniques often are. But what about the very idea, regardless of the means, of conditioning access to the country based on heritage and ancestral origin? This seems like a notion rife for a while different degree and kind of abuse.
  • City of Portland backs open, structured data
    What a coup! As RWW points out, Portland is the latest in an early trend in open up its data and in this instance seems to be banking on the fact that it has a very strong local software industry.