White House in Favor of Phone Unlocking! Now What?

Yesterday, the White House declared "It's Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking".  The call was in immediate response to a petition with over 114,000 signatures on it, decrying the Librarian of Congress' decision last October to let lapse an exemption ensuring people who unlocked their phones would not be in violation of the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA),

Is Forensics Law?

I’ve blogged on these pages before about the claim, popularized by Larry Lessig, that “code is law.”  During the Concurring Opinions symposium on Jonathan Zittrain’s 2010 book The Future of The Internet (And How To Stop It), I cataloged the senses in which architecture or “code” is said to constitute a form of regulation.  “Primary” architecture refers to altering a physical or digital environment to stop conduct before it happens.  Speed bumps are a classic example.  “Secondary” architecture instead alters an environment in order to make conduct harder to get away with—for instance, by installing a traffic light camera or forcing a communications network to build an entry point for law enforcement.

Tools for Civic Purposes

"Tools for Civic Purposes"

It's somewhat "old hat" to note that networked information technology creates tremendous potential for social and civic good. The corporate communications departments of leading technology companies roll out examples of this on a regular basis (I should know as I was part of these efforts...). What is interesting, though, is that the conversation of "technology for good" invariably uses the metaphor of "technology as tool" to make its case. To the extent there are more conversations about the socially beneficial uses of information technology, more conversations will displace the "cyberspace" metaphor to focus on networked information technology as tool.

Good Versus Bad Smart: Some Thoughts On Morozov's Op Ed

I have yet to sit down and read Evgeny Morozov’s new book, To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism.  I certainly found his last book very thought provoking.  But I did get a chance to read an op ed Morozov recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal with the provocative title “Is Smart Making Us Dumb?”  The piece draws a distinction between mobile and other devices that are “good smart” and ones that are “bad smart.”  Good smart devices “leave us in complete control of the situation and seek to enhance our decision-making by providing more information.”  Morozov offers the example of a teapot that relays the state of the energy grid.  Whereas bad smart ones “make certain choices and behaviors impossible,” a theme Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, and others famously develop under the rubric of "code."

Innovation or Exploitation Wrap Up

Thanks to our speakers and everyone who came out last night for the Innovation or Exploitation event, highlighting problems the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) poses for security research, innovation, tinkering, academic research and libraries.  I learned a lot, including that much of what librarians do today -- like making court records and academic articles widely available and cataloging books -- requires "scraping" and da

Petition to Free the Cell Phone: Now is the Time

The Librarian of Congress recently decided in their triennial DMCA exemption rule-making process to remove the existing exemption that allowed individuals to unlock their own mobile phones to use on the compatible network of their choice. As a result of this decision, individuals no longer have clear immunity to unlock new phones - thereby putting them in potential legal jeopardy.

Why Breach of Contract Should Never Be A Crime

In the face of efforts to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), some buinesses have told lawmakers that the CFAA should be used to punish breach of contract where the breacher acted "for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain".  Such a proposal does not fix the ability of prosecutors to go after people for disregarding terms of service. 

Worse, the idea is unprecedented, dangerous and unacceptable.

To Code, Nudge, Or Notice, That Is The Question

I wrote a new essay entitled “Code, Nudge, or Notice?” that might interest CIS readers.  The essay compares side-by-side three ways that the government tries to influence citizen behavior short of making it illegal.  It uses contemporary examples, like the graphic warnings the FDA wants to put on cigarettes, to make the point that it sometimes hard to sort regulations into neat categories like “architecture,” “libertarian paternalism,” or “mandatory disclosure” (code, nudge, or notice).  Instead, I argue that regulators should focus on the more fundamental difference between helping people and hindering them.   Along the way, I make the point that all of forensics may be a kind of “code” that turns an ordinary location into a crime scene—sort of like putting a traffic camera up at an intersection only after someone runs the red light.  Thoughts warmly welcome.  Here is the abstract:


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