Earlier this month, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case regarding the NSA’s collection of telephone metdata. The appeal stems from last year’s lower court decision in Klayman et al. v. Obama et al., which ordered the NSA to stop its collection program and destroy any data collected as a result of this program. For more information on the case, see http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/top-appeals-court-to-hear-why-nsa-metadata-spying-should-stay-or-go/.
Seattle is about to launch a pilot program outfitting 12 officers with body cameras, a first step in a plan designed to equip more than 1,000 officers with cameras by 2016. However, that program might be in jeopardy due to broad reaching public-disclosure requests. These requests would have a significant financial and labor impact on the city, enough so that they could lead the city to shut down the program before it ever gets off the ground. For more information, see the full story in The Seattle Times (http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025060346_spdcamerasxml.html).
Police in Pierce County, Washington have long been using authorized pen registers as a legal basis for using a cell-site simulator known as a Stingray, unbeknownst to the judges authorizing those pen registers. Rather than using the registers to require cellphone companies to turn over an individual’s phone records, police are using the Stingray to collect that information themselves. However, one concern related to the use of the Stringray is that it picks up more than the target’s information. In tracking a suspect’s cellphone, it also picks up cellphone data from innocent third parties who happen to be nearby. Since information about the use of the Stingray came to light, judges in Pierce County have changed the way things are done, now requiring police to ask for specific permission to use the Stingray. For more information, see the full story in The News Tribune (http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/11/15/3488642_tacoma-police-change-how-they.html?sp=/99/289/&rh=1).
Over the years a number of companies have challenged how Google orders its search results. A recent decision out of the San Francisco Superior Court upheld Google’s right to order search results as it chooses, agreeing with Google that their actions are protected by the First Amendment. The decision stems from an allegation that the way Google chooses to order its results violates antitrust laws. For more, see http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/court-agrees-that-googles-search-results-qualify-as-free-speech/.
There is an ongoing debate regarding the necessity of warrants in the government’s quest to obtain cell-site data for telecommunications customers. AT&T recently weighed in on the matter, requesting clarity of the law requiring disclosure and urging the courts to adopt a uniform policy when it comes to disclosure of cell-site information. As it stands, a number of circuits have come down differently on the issue, and the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in. AT&T, along with many others, see this clarity as necessary in order to safeguard the privacy rights of their customers. For more, read http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/att-demands-clarity-are-warrants-needed-for-customer-cell-site-data/.
Law enforcement agencies across the United States have expressed alarm about Apple and Google’s recent efforts to guard smartphone data from the police and court systems. Technology companies are using enhanced data security as a marketing pitch to get more people to buy their products. The conflict could soon lead to a full-fledged confrontation over security issues between government officials and Silicon Valley. For more, read this story in The Wall Street Journal.
Forbes recently examined the trend of “insourcing” in the legal profession. Insourcing occurs when big companies increase the ranks of their in-house legal team to cut back on the cost of hiring an expensive outside firm. The article suggests that midsize firms will be hit particularly hard by the insourcing trend, and argues that they can weather the storm by investing in technology that improves efficiency and cuts down on legal costs. For more, read the full story from Forbes.
Tom Wheeler, a top lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries for three decades, recently issued guidelines for net neutrality, which is the concept that users should have equal access to any legal online content. The guidelines have received an onslaught of public criticism, with many people arguing that they do not go far enough to protect an open internet. For more details on the net neutrality debate, check out this story in The Dallas Morning News.
A flurry of police agencies across the country have begun to equip police officers with body-mounted cameras—a controversial move that is largely a reaction to the recent police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo. Proponents of the cameras argue that they will improve the transparency and accountability of police officers on the job. Critics worry that extensive filming could invade privacy and are concerned that archived materials could be misused, leaked, or accessed by hackers. For more, please read this story in the The New York Times.
In August, the Administrative Office for U.S. Courts (AO) removed online access to archived case documents from four U.S. federal appellate courts with little warning or public notice. Removing these documents was controversial, and the AO has since promised to restore them by the end of October. For more details, check out this story in the Washington Post.