Jan 282017
 January 28, 2017  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Online, Surveillance, U.S.

Mike Masnick writes:

In the last few months, we’ve seen multiple internet companies finally able to reveal National Security Letters (NSLs) they had received from the Justice Department, demanding information from the companies, while simultaneously saddling those companies with gag orders, forbidding them to speak about the orders. It started last June, when Yahoo was the first company to publicly acknowledge such an NSL. In December, Google revealed 8 NSLs around the same time that the Internet Archive was able to reveal it had received an NSL as well. Earlier this month, Cloudflare was finally able to reveal the NSL it had received (which a Senate staffer had told the company was impossible — and the company’s top lawyer was bound by the gag order, unable to correct that staffer).

And now we can add Twitter to the list. On Friday, the company announced that the gag order on two NSLs had been lifted. There’s one from 2015 and another from June of last year. Twitter appears relieved that it’s finally able to reveal these, but quite frustrated that it was gagged at all.

Read more on TechDirt.

Jan 282017
 January 28, 2017  Posted by  Court, Surveillance, U.S.

Back in 2005, when law enforcement was searching to identify the BTK (“Bind, Torture, Kill”) serial killer, they obtained a suspect’s daughter’s DNA by compelling a hospital to turn over a sample they held. Her DNA led to the arrest of Dennis Rader.

At the time, there was a lot of discussion about using a family member’s DNA to try to find a match to a suspect.  If a family member volunteered it, that was one thing, but could law enforcement compel production of DNA of a family member or was that a Fourth Amendment “search” and if so, why would a court issue a warrant when the person you’re trying to compel DNA from is not suspected of any crime? Do family members somehow lose Fourth Amendment rights? And what about using a family member’s DNA because it’s already in a database law enforcement has access to? What protects the rights of family members who are not suspected of any crimes?

So there were discussions of the legal issues and ethical issues at the time, but even critics had to acknowledge that getting bad guys off the street was a Good Thing. And so the practice continued in some cases, although not all states have resolved the issues or approved of such compelled DNA production or using other databases to find family members’ DNA.

Eli Rosenberg has an article in today’s NY Times about this issue, introducing the topic by reference to an unsolved case in New York:

The leads have dried up in the killing of a young woman in Queens during a jog last summer.

Tips about potential suspects have gone nowhere. A reward has failed to bear fruit, even as it has swelled to over $280,000. And the samples of a stranger’s DNA found on the hands, throat and cellphone of the jogger, Karina Vetrano, 30, did not match those in national offender databases.

But the authorities say that the recovered DNA could hold the key to solving the case if state officials authorize what is called familial searching, which allows investigators to search criminal databases to identify likely relatives of the offender.

Read more on NY Times. This is an issue involving privacy and the Fourth Amendment. We want law enforcement to find and capture criminals, but are we justifying erosion of civil liberties and human rights if we approve of nonconsensual family searching of DNA?

Jan 272017
 January 27, 2017  Posted by  Business

Katherine Rushton reports:

If you settle down to watch television this evening, you might want to think twice about what you say out loud.

Samsung has warned owners of its internet-connected ‘smart TV’ that anything they discuss while sitting near the device may be overheard.

The popular televisions are voice activated, so users can switch channels or ask for suggestions of what to watch simply by giving a verbal command.

Read more on DailyMail.

h/t, Joe Cadillic

Jan 272017
 January 27, 2017  Posted by  U.S.

Meagan Flynn reports:

Rep. Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg sent the three-question survey ahead of the Homeland Security Summit he’s hosting this week, where he will discuss “defending against radical Islamic terrorism in Texas,” as he described in it a release.

Yet Musfafaa Carroll, executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is urging the Muslim community not to respond out of concern that their responses will be used against them no matter what they say. Carroll said it was though the lawmaker was asking Muslims to prove they don’t support terrorism.

Read more on HoustonPress.

This totalitarian b.s. has to stop. I hope every recipient declines to respond, or responds, “My belief is you should go fuck yourself for prying into my religious beliefs.”