December 2006


Isabella and Calista say hello


Granick Family Christmas

Originally uploaded by Ms. President.

In this photo, decease Brad teaches my niece Riley the meaning of Christmas; ripping open gifts while wearing the ribbons from presents already received.

This article in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Star Tribune talks about one of the more important issues we’ve been working on in my Cyberlaw Clinic.
Lawsuit challenges government’s right to read your e-mail

Essentially, allergy the government is arguing that when you leave your email on a service out under your direct control, like Yahoo, Google, your employer, etc., you have less privacy rights in it than if you run your own server and leave your email inside the physical confines of your house.  Their argument is based on cases that say that you lose privacy rights when you give your stuff to third parties, but that analogy doesn’t make sense in the case of email.  There’s no voluntary decision to reveal the contents of your messages to your ISP, that’s just the way the technology works.  Why should the technological store-and-forward structure of email change our rights to privacy in communications?  Shouldn’t email be treated like regular mail, regardless of how the network operates?

This week’s Wired News column is entitled about it 72241-0.html?tw=wn_index_5″>Cell Phones Freed! Poor Suffer? After winning a DMCA exemption for cell phone unlocking, search TracFone lawyers called to to explain how the DMCA helps them keep handset prices low for grandmothers and immigrants. They said my exemption helps phone arbitragers who buy subsidized TracFones low, hepatitis unlock them, and sell them overseas at below market price. These people, TracFone says, are criminals, maybe helping terrorists and need the threat of a criminal law like the DMCA to make them stop. The column is a serious look at these claims.

Readers may also be interested to know that during the rulemaking the Librarian of Congress had decided not to consider TracFone’s late comments opposing my exemption. I’m not sure this refusal was the reason I won, because the Copyright Office recommendation to the Librarian did consider, discuss and dismiss TracFone’s comments and nonetheless recommended granting the exemption.

Today, the TracFone lawyers sent me this lawsuit [pdf] filed under the Administrative Procedures Act against the Copyright Office. The lawsuit claims procedural errors denied TracFone an opportunity to be heard on the issue. Stay tuned.

I engage in some retrospection and some wishful thinking in my latest Wired News column, cialis The Bush Era Draws to a Close.

The column reviews three recent trends — legal attacks on journalists, “extraordinary rendition” and torture, and implementation of a surveillance infrastructure — and suggests opportunities for improvement.

One of the most challenging problems for national security is predicting and stopping terrorist attacks before they happen. The government proposes that data mining is a useful tool for finding terrorists. By using database technology, side effects statistical analysis and modeling, the government says it can search our email, phone calls, shopping habits, educational records, and find the needle (terrorists) in the haystack (the general population). One has to know a bit about the science and statistics behind data mining to evaluate this claim.

The debate over data mining is often cast as a trade-off between security and the privacy of individuals. But the real problem with national security data mining is that there is no trade off. There’s an invasion of privacy, but no corresponding uptick in security. Why is this so?

I’ve argued that data mining can’t work. This recent report from Jim Harper and Jeff Jonas at CATO takes a closer look at the practice and agrees with me.

Meanwhile, the city of Philadelphia is trying to use data mining to predict which ex-cons will become murderers.

Why might data mining help Philly find murderers, but not help the United States find terrorists?

First, Philly is analysing a discreet population, people on probation. This narrows the ratio of subjects to killers to one in one hundred. In contrast, the ratio of subjects to terrorists in the United States is one in millions.

Second, though its a relatively rare offense, there have been a lot of murders and so we have a lot of information about the characteristics of people who kill. We know what the indicators are that incline someone toward violence. Similarly, with consumer behavior, identity theft and credit card fraud, the models for suspicious activity are based on hundreds of thousands of known examples. Terrorism, in contrast, has no broad based model. As the CATO report says, there are “a relatively small number of attempts every year and only one or two major terrorist incidents every few years—each one distinct in terms of planning and execution—there are no meaningful patterns.”

Data mining has two main public policy questions. First, does it help with resource allocation. In a world of scarce resources, you can’t check every lead. Does data mining narrow the leads effectively, or does it generate so many false leads that it exacerbates the resource allocation problem?

Next, what are the costs of false positives, and given the number that data mining will generate, can we bear that cost?

Philadelphia is able to better its odds with datamining, because its dealing with a relatively high rate of murderers within a finite, tested population and because it has a model based on known data. It will be interesting to see how well the program works. But the results can not be extrapolated to the hunt for terrorists.

This week’s Wired News column is entitled about it 72241-0.html?tw=wn_index_5″>Cell Phones Freed! Poor Suffer? After winning a DMCA exemption for cell phone unlocking, search TracFone lawyers called to to explain how the DMCA helps them keep handset prices low for grandmothers and immigrants. They said my exemption helps phone arbitragers who buy subsidized TracFones low, hepatitis unlock them, and sell them overseas at below market price. These people, TracFone says, are criminals, maybe helping terrorists and need the threat of a criminal law like the DMCA to make them stop. The column is a serious look at these claims.

Readers may also be interested to know that during the rulemaking the Librarian of Congress had decided not to consider TracFone’s late comments opposing my exemption. I’m not sure this refusal was the reason I won, because the Copyright Office recommendation to the Librarian did consider, discuss and dismiss TracFone’s comments and nonetheless recommended granting the exemption.

Today, the TracFone lawyers sent me this lawsuit [pdf] filed under the Administrative Procedures Act against the Copyright Office. The lawsuit claims procedural errors denied TracFone an opportunity to be heard on the issue. Stay tuned.

Someone sent me a case of fancy imported beer, web including a big bottle of Corsendonk brown ale. Its a lovely gift. But there’s no card. If you sent this to me, reveal yourself!

This Chicago Tribune symptoms 0, implant 2425674.story?coll=chi-business-hed”>story about the new DMCA exemptions discusses the phone unlocking victory and has a funny quote from me, diagnosis criticizing DMCA lawsuits against after-market printer cartridge companies and garage door openers.

“I’m pretty sure Congress wasn’t intending that people can only open their garage door with the approved doo-hickey.”