DOJ porn over-stepping: Stop it now

DOJ porn over-stepping: Stop it now

Summary: Child porn sounds like a great new war for the Bush Administration to justify its obliterating civil rights. Here's an important line to draw for your freedom.

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TOPICS: Legal
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[The following lede paragraph is altered to reflect the fact that several justifications for the subpoenaed information discussed in the story have been floated. Nonetheless, the basic principles involved are identical.]

Claiming to be conduction research about how kids find pornography on the Web and, in some comments to the press, raising the issue of kiddie porn, People who like child porn are sick, but they have rights. More importantly, we all do. Tthe Bush Administration, which has subpoenaed the results of randomly selected searches by users of Yahoo!, MSN and Google. People who like child porn are sick, but they have rights. More importantly, we all do. The Department of Justice is using people’s general distaste for the idea kids will get their hands on porn and for kiddie-porn lovers to convince them the rights of all Internet users should be abridged. That’s wrong.

That Google is standing up to the Department of Justice is admirable. That Yahoo! and MSN apparently handed over the records of millionsIt’s another fight we need to undertake to save American liberties, but if we don't include the rights of everyone on the planet, the promise of the Internet is at risk. of searches selected at random is more than disappointing, it is dangerous to the companies, which will lose their customers’ trust, and to all our rights as users. For the rights of Americans isn’t the only thing on the line.

Yahoo!, MSN and Google have all given in to bullying tactics by foreign governments, particularly in China. It’s too big a market to offend officials who can cut off access.

When we congratulate Google on standing up to this subpoena, we should remember that they haven’t lived up to the promise that John Battelle wrote the company kept today:

As we move our data to the servers at Amazon.com, Hotmail.com, Yahoo.com, and Gmail.com, we are making an implicit bargain, one that the public at large is either entirely content with, or, more likely,  one that most have not taken much to heart.

That bargain is this: we trust you to not do evil things with our information. We trust that you will keep it secure, free from unlawful government or private search and seizure, and under our control  at all times.
There are no special circumstances in that promise. It doesn’t apply just to Americans, though Google has treated it as though it did when cooperating with the Chinese government to censor information displayed in the country.

But, to the issue at hand, which brings us back to why companies should be offering the highest level of security to users. If we want to spread freedom in the world, the place to start is here in the United States, because there are no comparable guarantees of rights to draw on. It’s a promise Google and its competitors should keep everywhere, not just when the Bush Administration steps over the line.And there is a line. The Fourth Amendment is clear:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
What we’re going to hear from the DOJ is that in the Internet age it is just too hard to keep the Founders’ promise. It’s an old refrain, one we’ve heard from every administration since electronic communications appeared on the historical scene.

It’s what we hear today from the Bush Administration to justify warrantless monitoring of telecommunications by the National Security Agency (NSA) in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law passed to rein the agency in after President Nixon abused electronic eavesdropping, as well as the founding charter of the NSA. (See NSA expert James Bamford's explanation why he is joining a suit to stop the current wiretapping of Americans.)

It's also likely that the DOJ will focus on the "random" selection of search results in its public response to criticism of the child porn subpoenas. The obvious metaphor that comes to mind is the use of arbitrary traffic stops to check for drunk drivers.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the police can search vehicles with lower level of protection in the form of prior review by a judge. In Arkansas v. Sanders, a 1979 case, the Court introduced the idea that "One has a lesser expectation of privacy in a motor vehicle because its function is transportation and it seldom serves as one's residence or as the repository of personal effects. . . . It travels public thoroughfares where both its occupants and its contents are in plain view." This was used to justify random traffic stops to check for drunk drivers until the Court ruled that the police have to have probable cause for a "random" stop.

The police solution then was to stop everyone passing a particular point on the road. If Justice can argue that the Internet is a public place to some degree, then there is a potential blanket excuse to monitor the Net. Of course, reading on the Internet is not a public act. But, you will hear some variation on this argument.

Don't be fooled. J. Edgar Hoover used to argue that making phone calls put criminals out of the reach of law enforcement; Hoover also defined anyone who disagreed with him as a criminal and collected dossiers on thousands of innocent people. The Court saw through Hoover's complaints that technology made his job too difficult, as it would any argument for these subpoenas that cover search results gathered with no viable probable cause. A justice that supports the view that this is a proper exercise of police power should be impeached.

It's another fight we need to undertake to save the American liberties that make this country a beacon of hope and freedom. If we don't include the rights of everyone on the planet, though, the promise of the Internet is at risk.

Topic: Legal

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26 comments
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  • When will the madness stop!

    The rights of individuals searching the internet should be protected, whatever they search for... it is one thing to go after sources but not users. Not only does it violates the rights of the individual it means that you are allowing them (the Government) full access to eventually monitor every and anything you search. When would it stop? This could eventually make it illigal for women to search the net for information about planned parenthood topics, thereby censoring any material that big brother deems counter-productive to their own agendas and viewpoints. What would be next???
    Can we trust the Government to discard it's unusable data? All questions and issues that may arise from the tampering of users data.

    Normally, I lean towards the right, but definately this is a issue that I do not agree. I applaud Google for their stance, but more needs to be done.

    I am not condoning child porn but we should stand up for our rights of privacy.
    DragonlordWarlock
    • This will stop when...

      ...Bush is ousted & a party is in place that actually cares about individual rights & civil liberties.

      The group now in the white house is making this country into Orwell's 1984- & is doing it fast- it's frightening to me.

      More frightening is how many people aren't seeing the breakdown of rights that are taking place.

      Wake up people- it's hard to get back rights once they are removed.
      TracyF
      • Don't expect it to stop

        This is NOT a Republican or Democrat issue! NEITHER party respects the Constitution. Examples abound - wiretaps without warrants under FDR & nearly every Pres. since; Bubba gave us Echelon, which was a blanket sweep of all types of electronic communications (and his people sold commercially useful info to folks in exchange for campaign contributions; Kennedy & Johnson wiretapped and taped MLK Jr. amongst others.

        I must admit I don't have a solution - maybe if our courts woke up and started enforcing the provisions of the Constitution (especially the 4th Amendment) instead of rolling over like they have done for 50+ years. It would also help if more companies would do what Google has done in this current "fishing expedition" and tell the Feds to go blow it out their shorts and not just "go along to get along" like MSN & Yahoo (and for that both those firms deserve everlasting shame and a boycott).
        bowenw9
  • More on the Google - Federal request for records and San Francisco WiFi

    Google created their own problem by collecting this information in the first place....

    In an attempt to rollout a Citywide Wireless Internet plan (TechConnect) two major approaches being considered by San Francisco which may significantly encroach on the public's privacy. The two options are a for-profit solution which will finance the solution by monetizing the public's privacy or grants from Homeland Security. This occurs in the context of elected officials and city administrators patting themselves on the back for what the voters approved (2004) in a watch law ordinance that makes Patriot Act requests difficult for the Federal government to pursue in San Francisco.

    The targeted advertising solution (google and others) would track all the email and surfing habits of any user. This information could be used as in Gmail and Amazon to send specific advertising. It is of course , also available for National Security Letters and other legal methods which would not be presented within the legal context of San Francisco - avoiding the Watch Law. While networks can be created that do not track a user's private information (no server logs, etc) that is not a method being promoted publically by vendors like Google and in fact is partly the reason the Justice Department and Google are now fighting over production of user's search records - Google can't say they just don't have the information. While there are questions about Privacy in the RFP, they were specifically written as Open Ended rather than as Minimal Standards. Public Advocates and Organizations like ACLU, EFF.org and EPIC.org have all written and some have spoken about their concerns with this approach Before the RFP was created and released - yet no changes were made. Also DTIS has the ability to waive any RFP requirements in the contract negotiation process anyhow.

    The other funding concept that is being quietly discussed as a mechanism for the San Francisco Municipal Wireless solution is Homeland Security Grants - the calendar image below is from the city official Chris Vein who is in charge of the RFP process which requires bid submittals by 2006/2/21 - See Below

    Washington Post: 2006-01-19 Fed Grants (Homeland Security) for Surveillance Cameras for Small Towns .. this seems related to Municipal Wireless funding efforts as well in San Francisco

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/18/AR2006011802324.html

    The Homeland Security funding option: "Motorola?s proposal suggests that the city pitch the project as a public safety issue, and capitalize on grants from government organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security. They suggest that the network would help law enforcement by enabling the SFPD to put wireless cameras across the city cheaply, and that the signal from a particular camera could be routed wirelessly to officers in their cars as they approached the scene." (thanks to www.JacksonWest.com for summary)


    Combined brief ACLU, EFF.org and Epic.org
    http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004078.php

    SF Watch Law Re Patriot Act
    http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/bdsupvrs/about/watch_law_program.pdf

    Jackson West summary of TechConnect RFI/C submittals (the step before the current RFP process)
    http://gigaom.com/2005/10/18/politics-of-san-francisco-wifi-project/

    Chris Vein DTIS Acting Director's calendar showing a meeting planned with Motorola (obtained through a Public Record's request) image
    2006-12-16, meeting with Motorola Bob Siemmens 925-218-4213 TechConnect - Homeland Security
    kimo9
    • I'm thinking better now, thank you...

      I hadn't even considered the idea, that true privacy is not the operating model at google.

      Now, I want to know if there could be a way for google to use time limits for all of the info they gather, so that any random sample will not include my past.
      Tahuyahick
  • You got it wrong

    This government probe is not against child porn, which is already illegal, but plain old fashion adult porn. Under the guize of protecting our children, the government would like to stamp out all internet porn, condending that a child may stumble upon it.
    DarthRidiculous
  • DOJ Porn

    You know what? As US citizens we have GPS for tracking locations, video cameras at intersections, not to mention reporting mandates at physicians offices conerning you personal health. We are under constant survelliance, I do not relish the idea of being scrutinized by watchdogs, IP's, mac addresses tracked, cache's examined, etc are tracked to pc,s whenever a undesirable link involving child porn is linked.
    Fragments of our freedom are diminishing. It is appalling. Yes we ALL have rights as citizens of the United States. This is one of the reasons I have fullfilled a military obligation.
    Having said that I would support DOJ in the endeavor to regulate harmful content related to child porno, some individals can not distinguish a fantasy from reality. Of course any adult with the idea or conception that sexually explicit images of children is erotica needs serious treatment, we already have child molesters in abundance. That's my two cents worth.....
    wicki9
  • BUSH'S RIGHTWING FANATICS AND NOW THEY GOT RELIGION

    AS A CHILD IN THE 50'S I recognized the GASTAPO TYPE THINKING OF THE RIGHTWINGERS----BACK THEN IT WAS THE John Birch society but Bush and Company are their clones------they always had claims that never checked out to be true---They hated enviromentalists and the United Nations and loved corporations and the military----They are intellectually dishonest people that want complete control ....but only when they are in charge------AS A TEEN IN THE 60'S--I GREW TIRED OF SO MUCH FALSE BELIEF WITH NO REAL EVIDENCE---------TODAY....ITS THE SAME OLD BULLSHIT.......BUSH...CHENEY..THEY ARE RIGHTWING EXTREMIST TRYING TO HIDE BEHIND WHATEVER AMERICA HAS THE MOST FEAR OVER------THE WHOLE THING IS SICKO AND CITIZENS ACTUALLY BELIEVE THIS GUY IS A LEADER.....SIC
    bogart_z
    • THE John Birch society & Bush and Company are their clones

      Your so right - I'm from the 50's also. Bush makes the Birches look like little kids. Good link for people wanting to understand it better

      http://watch.pair.com/jbs-cnp.html
      Can you hear me
  • Just an out of the box thought.

    Did it occur to anyone that maybe, just maybe its not the porn that is of interest ?

    Remember that the best way to hide something is in plain sight.

    Just an out of the box thought.
    SamBirnbaum
    • That box is a big one

      Sam, I don't doubt they're looking for much more, whether they use
      kiddie porn or kids' access to porn as the excuse.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
  • World Gone Crazy!!!

    I was a kid once and I recall things. Hmmm Like when I was 6 and I saw the dogs mating, at 7 noticed chickens mating, and this list could go on believe me.
    There were no computers...no internet, and heck if you get right down to it well.
    I was a child of a divorced couple, they had been married over 20 years, and courts as they do tend to stick children with the mothers. So I was a young boy at 6 watching my world go crazy then, and honestly it never stops. My mother wouldn't have told me never ever ever about sex. So God showed me with his animals he created, and I must admit I've seen some pretty fascinating things in my lifetime, but now are we going to put the animals in Jail, or God?
    The fact that a child might seen a picture or a movie isn't going to hurt them, and most children have been around parents and notice the sexual behavior anyway, and if that isn't going on some...then somethings wrong.
    The only thing I don't like is for a child to be able to install a dialer on the computer and it cost me $120 bucks for them to attempt to watch by calling an 900 number. I fixed that with a phone call to the Phone Company and the DOJ need not worry, my son helped Dad cut wood to pay for the bill...lol
    I think when some issues get on here they are interesting, and the fact the the people got the government into this stupidity to begin with well it definitely makes this old farm boy laugh.
    Google is right in saying no, and Government needs to work on paying off the debt!! Stop wasting my money on BS!
    KyRidgeRuner
  • Google is awesome!!!

    I am tired of George Bush and his Evanbellyfulls (sic) trying to run everyone's life. This is not just about sick people looking for all types of porn, it is about us as a nation being overtaken by mentally unstable people. The internet to me is a wealth of information and not something to be taken away by power crazed maniacs!!! You go Google!!! Here's a sign to the cowards at MSN, Yahoo and the others.
    geezyr
  • The box may not be as big as you think

    Mitch,

    The box may not be as big as you think. Porn images are very rich in data. A lot can be hidden in the images. DOJ may be nothing more than a vehicle for other govt agencies in persuit of inteligence data. Whether you believe or not, we are in a kind of war with various entities that will try to use whatever means possible to harm us. Those entities need to commuicate. What better way than to hide messages/data within porn images.

    Paranoid ? Maybe but better be safe than sorry. I know.
    SamBirnbaum
    • It's hard to believe Osama's in the porn box

      For what it's worth, Sam, Islam proscribes pornography, so it is
      highly unlikely those enemies of freedom in particular are using
      porn to send messsages. But, to my point, the box clearly has to do
      with wide-ranging fishing for leads rather than specific concerns,
      otherwise the subpoenaes would be specific and might even stand
      up to Constitutional scrutiny.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • Islam also proscribes the killing of civilians

        Islam also proscribes the killing of civilians, bombing of mosques etc.

        If I were fishing for a specfic item, I would hide it by looking at a lot of items. Why tell the world what I am looking for ?
        SamBirnbaum
        • That's a gross oversimplification

          you can't just say that 'Islam' is encoraging people to blow others up. Yes, there are fundamentalists, but this comprises of less than 0.01% of all Muslims, so please don't just blanket the name of islam as encoraging Jihad.

          many Christian fundamentalists would like to see science removed from schools, the banning of some other religions and rules which make it near impossible for a non-catholic president to occour. As it stands, christian denominations in america already have enough power to directly talk to and influence the president, pushing him to the extream right- scientific papers issued to the government are sometimes TURNED AWAY or even 'edited' (by people in the whitehouse with NO scientific knowledge)and resubmitted. Scientists who are not Pro-life may not be allowed access to the president and have their veiws dismissed. Then again, this sort of information doesn't often get to the american media. more likely to be focusing on suicide bombers?

          I think it is highly irrational to say that Islam is pro-terrorism religion, when we have are own neoterrorists in washingtion already.
          Nuka5
          • I think you misread him

            "Proscribe" means "forbid," so the argument isn't that Islam
            endorses murdering civilians. Rather, he was making the point
            that al Qaeda doesn't follow the Islamic rule against killing
            people and might use porn to encode messages.

            That still strikes me as beyond what bin Laden would allow,
            because he clearly wants women covered head to toe. But, it is a
            legitimate point that it could be the case that messages are
            being sent this way.

            However, because there is a well-known network of sites hosting
            al Qaeda messages?which we cannot read because of the
            shortage of Arabic speakers here in the United States?I think
            that's the more likely conduit of communication.
            Mitch Ratcliffe
          • Mitch, Thanks.

            You are correct that we, the US, may have a shortage of Arabic speaking/reading personal, but there are other agencies throughout the world without such a handicap. In any event, what I tried to impart is nothing more than the fact that you should not judge things by their simple frontal appearance. Thanks for the inteligent discussion.

            Regards

            Sam
            SamBirnbaum
  • Mitch, your first sentence shows your ignorance of this issue

    Kiddie porn is NOT the issue here. Porn in GENERAL is the aim of the 'gov'.:|

    The REAL reason for this:

    At the bottom of THIS article:

    http://p2pnet.net/story/6489

    you will find THIS paragraph:

    "Rather than resisting peer-to-peer technology, the adult film industry has taken the lead in encouraging its use. Although films are widely available over peer-to-peer systems, downloads contain links to the websites which offer other full price selections for sale. Simply put, the lost activity due to sampling and/or free exchange is treated as marketing expenditure no different than advertising."

    First the 'gov' knocks down the .xxx domain and now they're using search engines to help in their dastardly deeds. Pay SPECIAL attention to that paragraph when you read the full article!

    THIS is on TOP of the DMCA/DRM/Rootkit debacle.

    'They' want into OUR computers soooooo bad they're willing to try ANYTHING to achieve it. #33||, They're probably already doing it anyway. Remember the articles about the gov wanting ISPs to install keyloggers in order to gain the same type of access to peoples 'surfing habits' ____all in the 'name' of "terrorism'____???

    They've figured out that isn't 'washing' with those of us who've not fallen for their brainwashing, so they're simple switching tactics.
    ...in quite a frenzied way, I might add

    They're _____SCRAMBLING______ to finish putting the Constitution/Bill of Rights

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html

    straight through a confetti shredder before they go down ...and they KNOW they're headed RIGHT into a tailspin directly down the tubes come next election ...IF they don't 'fix' that one, too!!!!!! (Remember Diebold?...headquartered in OHIO??? ...and the Florida thing? ...with Jeb Bush OBVIOUSLY ___INconspicuously___ 'out' of THAT picture???)
    btljooz