Category: Computer Crime

Q&A Roundup Part 3

Hey Nathan, I’m ????????, an AI MSc student. Your comic is great! : ) I have some questions.   (1) The Good Wife, a show about lawyers, makes law knowledge seem a bit like a weapon to be used for attack and defence to help one navigate the civilized world....

A Fundamental Disconnect

Your smartphone has a lot of private stuff on it. Passwords, photos, messages, files. You want to keep it private. So it’s a good thing that companies are building better encryption into their phones, right? Not according to law enforcement. They complain a lot about encryption. Encryption is pretty good,...

Let’s Make a New Law!

Any moderately well-informed person these days is aware of the shocking injustices that happen whenever criminal laws get written by people who don’t really understand what criminal law is, or how it works. (Brilliant summary here.) They tend to create crimes that are ill-defined, overbroad, and usually an overreaction to...

Hey feds, get off of my cloud (Followup)

Last month, we posted on the senate hearings on whether the feds need to get a warrant before getting emails and other stuff stored in the cloud.  The Obama administration would rather let the feds continue to get such stuff without bothering to get a warrant, as they now can...

Hey, feds, get off of my cloud

Our jury’s still out, and there’s so much stuff to catch up on.  There’s the 5th Circuit’s denial of Jeff Skilling’s appeal, even though the Supreme Court had struck down the “honest services fraud” charge last summer.  We were so ready to write something about it yesterday, but work intervened,...

Defending Assange

Now that Julian Assange has been arrested in the U.K., his fight for the moment is to prevent extradition to Sweden, which wants to arrest him for questioning about allegations of sexual misconduct.  But given the comparative laxity of any punitive measures Sweden might impose even in the worst case...

Dude, We Warned You

The Monitor reports that a 17-year-old Texas boy is now facing child porn charges, after getting a 16-year-old friend to send him a topless photo of herself from her cell phone.

Child porn is a very VERY serious charge. Even those who themselves would never commit a sex act against an actual child still go to prison for a long time just for downloading pictures that may be more than a decade old. You don’t ever want to get charged with it. We defend people charged with it, we know of what we speak. (Heck, we wrote the book on it.)

So when this whole “sexting” thing hit the news in ’09, we posted a warning that teens might unwittingly be exposing themselves [Ed.- Was that necessary?] to criminal charges that are in many ways life-ending.

Fortunately, there are prosecutors and judges out there with good judgment, who won’t go after teens for stupid teenage indiscretion with other teens. But there are also school administrators who can get themselves in trouble for possessing the photos during their own investigations.

Will this kid wind up getting prosecuted? Who can say. It’s up to that local DA’s office. The feds probably won’t touch it, but state prosecutors typically …

Gawker Gets It Wrong

As everyone reading this is probably aware, last Monday the website Gizmodo announced an exclusive look at Apple’s iPhone 4, which hasn’t been officially released yet. In their post (here), they said “you are looking at Apple’s next iPhone. It was found lost in a bar in Redwood City, camouflaged to look like an iPhone 3GS. We got it. We disassembled it. It’s the real thing, and here are all the details.” The post was written by blogger Jason Chen, and featured video of him showing details of the phone, and a lot of photos.

As time went on (see all the posts here), it came out that Gizmodo had paid $5,000 for the phone. The guy they bought it from wasn’t the phone’s owner, but had merely found it in a beer garden back in March. An Apple employee had lost it there.

So, if they bought it from someone who wasn’t the owner, and they knew it was supposed to be a secret, did the folks at Gizmodo commit any crimes here?

Law enforcement got involved very fast. By Friday, law enforcement in San Mateo had gotten a search warrant (viewable here) to seize Jason Chen’s computers, disks, drives, and any records pertaining to the Apple prototype 4G iPhone.

The search warrant was executed that same day, and a bunch of computer stuff was seized (the inventory is also viewable here).

Yesterday, the chief deputy district attorney for San Mateo County told the WSJ’s “Digits” blog (here) that nobody’s saying a crime happened or not. They’re still investigating.

Meanwhile, however, Gawker Media (the owner of Gizmodo) issued a letter on Saturday (viewable here) stating that “under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist.”

In support of that statement, Gawker Media cited California Penal Code §1524(g) (viewable here), which prohibits search warrants for items described in Evidence Code §1070.

Evidence Code §1070 (here) says a judge can’t hold a journalist in contempt for refusing to disclose his sources, or for refusing to disclose unpublished information gotten while preparing a story.

So we have to ask, does Gawker Media know what it’s even talking about?

MySpace Judge Agrees with Us

  Remember the Lori Drew case? She’s the mom who was convicted last Thanksgiving for creating a fake MySpace persona, which she then used to harass a teenaged girl until the girl committed suicide. After she was convicted, we argued that her conviction stretched the meaning of the statute too...

“Sexting” – Humiliating? How About Criminal?

There has been a spate of news articles over the past week about a supposedly new teen trend called “sexting” — basically kids taking nude photos and sending them to each other’s cell phones and computers. The articles follow a Today Show interview with the mother of a girl who...

MySpace Conviction Probably Exceeded Scope of Law

  We were away last week, achieving an unqualified victory in a case brought by the Antitrust Division. But while we were gone, Lori Drew got convicted of three criminal counts of accessing a computer without authorization. Drew is the mom who was accused of harassing a teenaged girl over...

Will Internet Anonymity Be the Next Federal Crime?

Jury selection began today in what many are calling a landmark trial in the new field of Internet law. As the first case of its kind, U.S. v. Lori Drew could have a far-reaching impact on the future of anonymity on the web. Lori Drew faces federal counts of Conspiracy...