Towards Learning from Losing Aaron Swartz

Over the weekend, I learned that Aaron Swartz had taken his own life. I cried, and am still crying, for him, his family, for the close friends who loved him, and for our community. We lost a rare and special person, one who did so much in his short life to make the world a better place. Any do-gooder, including myself, could be proud were we to accomplish as much. We don't know what else he would have acheived were he to have lived. But I admit that I also cried for myself, because I felt guilty that I didn't do more to help Aaron in his criminal case. This post is about part of that challenge, the challenge to improve computer crime laws, and the criminal justice system more generally. Hopefully in the end, there'll be something that I, and you, can do about it.

Beta-testing the Konomark Project

Konomark is my project with CIS. In this post, I’m reporting the results of the first phase of my beta test.

Konomark aims to encourage the sharing of copyrighted works on the internet in an informal, person-to-person way. The konomark is a standardized symbol that signifies your willingness to receive gratis permission requests. Here’s an example:

Tool Without a Handle: “Kittens, Cities, and Creepshots”

In this post, I apply the “tool” metaphor to two common concerns with respect to online services and privacy:  profanity in discussion fora and the publication of “creepshots” - public photos (and associated comments) of women taken without the consent of the subject.  These two examples help demonstrate the point that thinking of online services as “tools” better generates innovative responses to social concerns, including those where privacy and free expression interests collide.  “Tools” call for solutions that change how the service works, while thinking of services as “spaces” calls fo

Surveillance, Scale, and Standing

Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has always had a contentious relationship with innovation. From wiretapping pay phones to GPS units, advancing technology has continued to provide the government with increasingly powerful surveillance tools, and in case after case courts have been forced to restrict the use of this technology to comply with constitutional limitations. To some degree, this conflict is unavoidable. Technology looks towards the future, expanding our abilities in ways that are often difficult to predict. Law, with its reliance upon precedent, faces the past. Technical innovation necessarily precedes legal innovation, and great complexity often resides in the gap between the two.

FISA Amendments Act Is Way Worse for Privacy Than Title III

Advocates for renewal of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) often argue that the statute poses no more harm to the privacy of innocent Americans than does the Wiretap Act, also known as Title III. After all, when FBI agents are tapping a suspected drug courier’s phones, his friends or mother may also call. How is the FAA any different?

Actually, there are many important differences between Title III, the FAA and even traditional FISA intercept orders. These differences mean that FAA is far more intrusive than Title III and poses a categorically different threat to the privacy of innocent Americans.


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