Dec 242011
 

Canadian lawyer Antonin Pribetic reports that for the past six months he’s had to defend himself against a professional ethics charge made by an anonymous (at least to him) source who took offense to some of his tweets. That matter has now concluded that “no disciplinary proceedings should [...] be initiated as a result of this complaint and that this matter should be closed.”

For any lawyer to face a formal complaint from a governing law society or bar association is professionally worrisome and emotionally taxing. The fact that the complaint is subjectively frivolous is irrelevant; until the bar complaint is formally dismissed and the file is officially closed, your professional and personal life remains in turmoil.

You can imagine the amount of time it took for me to respond to numerous letters from the Law Society requesting explanations, clarifications and re-clarifications; all valuable time that I will never get back. The distraction was unnecessary and a disservice to the Law Society’s regulatory mandate.

Admittedly, the Twitter complaint weighed heavily on my mind , as well as my heart. The price of expressing strong opinions and speaking out against social media fraud is having a large bulls-eye painted on my back.

(h/t Rick Horowitz)

Dec 242011
 

Per this article in the Wall Street Journal, Huawei Technologies Co. is in talks to sell video surveillance technologies to the Belarus government.

Huawei confirmed last week that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Belarus Ministry of Industry “to pursue discussions that could lead to agreements on a number of projects related to telecommunications.” The Chinese company says specific projects are unconfirmed and remain subject to formal contract negotiations.

The government of Belarus has been more specific about the talks. Huawei’s subsidiary in Belarus has been discussing the installation of a “video surveillance system with intelligent analysis,” which Huawei would set up in cooperation with a Minsk-based tech company, Belarus’s Ministry of Industry said in September.

It said the surveillance system “can be used for monitoring and protecting town centers, industrial plants or power and transport facilities, as well as important strategic assets, such as railway stations, airports or the state border of Belarus.” The ministry didn’t respond to a request to comment further.

Continue reading »

Dec 242011
 

From EPIC.org:

EPIC has filed a Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to force disclosure of the details of the agency’s social network monitoring program. In news reports and a Federal Register notice, the DHS has stated that it will routinely monitor the public postings of users on Twitter and Facebook. The agency plans to create fictitious user accounts and scan posts of users for key terms. User data will be stored for five years and shared with other government agencies.The legal authority for the DHS program remains unclear. EPIC filed the lawsuit after the DHS failed to reply to an April 2011 FOIA request. For more information, see EPIC: Social Networking Privacy.

(h/t Pogo Was Right)

Dec 242011
 

The Northhampton Chronicle & Echo has an article about an English mother who was charged with contempt of court after posting on her Facebook profile the judgement by the same judge that had removed two of her children from her custody.  Per the article she also criticized the judge and children’s guardian in eight posts made between August 30 and September 10 and invited 15 friends to comment.  For this she was charged with breaching the Administration of Justice Act 1960 for having revealed the confidential details of the proceeding, as well as the identities of the children and the guardian.  (Notably, the article did not even mention the woman’s name for fear of running afoul of the same law.)

Finding her in contempt of court, Judge Waine said: “I can readily understand it was a somewhat limited number of people and a limited number invited to access it. But the problem I can see from a series of Facebook entries is that … they would be in a position of passing it on to anyone. Once they got to see it, she loses all control of it beyond that invited individual. I have to take the view that this matter is extremely serious and a prison sentence is absolutely inevitable. This is an increasingly common problem and needs to be stamped out. Continue reading »

Dec 242011
 

This article in the Los Angeles Times describes TSA deployment to other public transport, including train stations, subways, ferry terminals, cruise ships, and highway weigh stations.

“We are not the Airport Security Administration,” said Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte. “We take that transportation part seriously.”

The TSA’s 25 “viper” teams — for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response — have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year. Department of Homeland Security officials have asked Congress for funding to add 12 more teams next year.

According to budget documents, the department spent $110 million in fiscal 2011 for “surface transportation security,” including the TSA’s viper program, and is asking for an additional $24 million next year. That compares with more than $5 billion for aviation security.

TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety. But they argue that the random nature of the searches and the presence of armed officers serve as a deterrent and bolster public confidence.

“We have to keep them [terrorists] on edge,” said Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington. “We’re not going to have a permanent presence everywhere.”

U.S. officials note that digital files recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan after he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in May included evidence that the Al Qaeda leader had considered an attack on U.S. railways in February 2010. Over the last decade, deadly bombings have hit subways or trains in Moscow; Mumbai, India; Madrid; and London.

But critics say that without a clear threat, the TSA checkpoints are merely political theater. Privacy advocates worry that the agency is stretching legal limits on the government’s right to search U.S. citizens without probable cause — and with no proof that the scattershot checkpoints help prevent attacks.

“It’s a great way to make the public think you are doing something,” said Fred H. Cate, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who writes on privacy and security. “It’s a little like saying, ‘If we start throwing things up in the air, will they hit terrorists?'”

Dec 202011
 

The recent NTSB recommendation to ban the use of all cell phones (specifically, portable electronic devices (“PEDs”)) while driving has not been well-received in many quarters. Even people generally comfortable with government regulation have bristled at this recommendation, and there may be good reasons why. It’s not to say that distracted driving is acceptable: it can be, as even critics of the ban acknowledge, extremely dangerous, and thus to the extent that distracted driving constitutes reckless driving, it’s justly criminalized, as it generally already has been.

But this recommendation proposes criminalizing the use of technology more broadly, and in doing so, raises significant policy concerns. Continue reading »

Dec 182011
 

From AllAfrica.com, news that Ugandans will not be able to use their cell phones if their SIMs are not registered by 2013.

Uganda Communications Commission passed the order on Monday in a statement issued to Daily Monitor in which they announced a sim card registration exercise for all nationals set to begin March 1, next year.

The exercise seeks to check the use of mobile phone numbers for illegal activities, phone theft, unsolicited/hate and threat messages among others. “Failure to register is breach of the law and the service provider shall not provide any communication service to whoever fails or refuses to register,” UCC Manager communications Fred Otunnu said in a phone interview. He said that all unregistered sim cards will be deactivated by the start of 2013; a year after the registration process is complete.

Requirements for registration will be personal identification that shall be provided through a valid passport or employee ID, student ID, voter’s card, valid driver’s license, local council letter or letter from employee. This too applies to foreigners leaving in the country. Continue reading »

Dec 172011
 

The New York Times reports on the dismissal of charges against William Lawrence Cassidy, who was being prosecuted under federal anti-stalking law (18 U.S.C §§ 2261A(2)(A)) for posts made about a religious leader on Twitter.  The decision analogized blogs and Twitter with public media available at the time of the drafting of the Bill of Rights:

Suppose that a Colonist erects a bulletin board in the front yard of his home to post announcements that might be of interest to others and other Colonists do the same. A Blog is like a bulletin board, except that it is erected in cyberspace rather than in one’s front yard. If one Colonist wants to see what is on another’s bulletin board, he would need to walk over to his neighbor’s yard and look at what is posted, or hire someone else to do so. Now, one can inspect a neighbor’s Blog by simply turning on a computer.

Twitter allows the bulletin board system to function so that what is posted on Colonist No. 1’s bulletin board is automatically posted on Colonist No. 2’s bulletin board for Colonist No. 2 to see. The automatic postings from one Colonist to another can be turned on or off by the owners of the bulletin boards, but there is no mandatory aspect of postings on one Colonist’s bulletin board showing up on the other’s. It is entirely up to the two Colonists whether their bulletin boards will be interconnected in such a manner.

The court noted that one does not have to walk over and look at another person’s bulletin board; nor
does one Blog or Twitter user have to see what is posted on another person’s Blog or Twitter
account, which made the medium very different than that of a telephone call, letter or e-mail specifically addressed to and directed at another person. This distinction the court concluded was important for the First Amendment analysis, as the prosecution was over protected speech.

Dec 172011
 

From English.news.cn news that China is requiring users of to use their real names when registering for China’s microblogging sites.

According to the rules on Beijing’s microblog management, which went into effect Friday, web users need to give their real names to website administrators before being allowed to put up microblog posts.

Bloggers, however, are free to choose their screen names, said a spokesman with the Beijing Internet Information Office (BIIO), the city’s web content management authority.

“The new rules are aimed at protecting web users’ interests and improving credibility on the web,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Continue reading »

Quicklinks 12/17/11

 Quicklinks  Comments Off
Dec 172011
 

Other items of interest this past week: