Category: Privacy

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More on National Security Letters

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr has a post about National Security Letters (NSLs) with comments by Michael J. Woods, former chief of the National Security Law Unit in the FBI. Woods was quoted in a recent Washington Post story that provided extensive information about NSLs. Check out Orin’s post, which quotes from an email Woods sent in response to Orin’s request for further comments.

Related Posts:

1. Solove, National Security Letters

2. Solove, The USA Patriot Act: A Fraction of the Problem

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Top 10 Tips to Protect Your Privacy

privacytop10.jpgChris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s West Coast Office has posted a list of the “top 10 things you can do with very little money or effort to protect your privacy.” There’s hardly anyone who knows more about consumer privacy than Chris, so his Top 10 tips list is definitely worth checking out.

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The Mysterious Disappearance Article III Groupie

underneaththeirrobes1.jpgHaving unmasked himself as Article III Groupie, David Lat has disappeared. We haven’t heard a word from him. His blog is now offline. Why? What’s become of David? Will his blog be back?

Howard Bashman is sleuthing out the case like Sherlock Holmes, so check out How Appealing for the latest news here, here, here, and here.

Bashman also has done some original reporting too, interviewing Judge Richard Posner, who says he feels vindicated because he thought A3G was male, and Jeffrey Toobin (the author of the New Yorker article), whose answer to practically every question is “I don’t know.”

Related Posts:

1. Solove, Article III Groupie Disrobed: Thoughts on Blogging and Anonymity

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Article III Groupie Disrobed: Thoughts on Blogging and Anonymity

A3G.bmp“Article III Groupie” is the pseudonym for the mysterious author of a wildly popular blog about the federal judiciary, Underneath Their Robes. The blog is a lighthearted and witty discussion of the federal judiciary, chronicling the lives of judges and law clerks. Article III Groupie (or A3G for short) describes herself as an attorney from a Top 5 law school who works at a “large law firm in a major city, where she now toils in obscurity.” She writes: “During her free time, she consoles herself through the overconsumption of luxury goods. Her goal in life is to become a federal judicial diva.” Her identity has long remained shrouded in secrecy.

As she describes her blog:

This weblog, “Underneath Their Robes” (“UTR”), reflects Article III Groupie’s interest in, and obsession with, the federal judiciary. UTR is a combination of People, US Weekly, Page Six, The National Enquirer, and Tigerbeat, focused not on vacuous movie stars or fatuous teen idols, but on federal judges. Article III judges are legal celebrities, the “rock stars” of the legal profession’s upper echelons. This weblog is a source of news, gossip, and colorful commentary about these judicial superstars!

Her blog has become a regular read among the legal blogosphere. Even federal judges enjoy it. According to a New Yorker article:

The blog has many fans, including Richard Posner, the legal scholar and federal appeals-court judge in Chicago. “The beauty contests between judges can’t be taken very seriously, but I enjoy the site,” he said. “It presents good information about clerkships and candidates. It’s occasionally a little vulgar, but this is America in 2005.”

People have long wondered who A3G is. The drawing she supplies on her profile page is of an attractive Sex-in-the-City-type diva . . . and one who purports to be starstruck by the nerdy world of the federal judiciary. How exciting that someone–anyone–-is even interested in this lonely corner of the world in the same way that groupies are into rock stars!

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FTC: Letting Experian Keep the Spoils

ftc.bmpSuppose a company engages in an unfair and deceptive trade practice. It makes about $1 billion. The FTC investigates. A settlement is reached for a fine of $1 million and refunds to only some customers — yeilding a net penalty of several million dollars — just a fraction of the spoils. That’s deterrence . . . FTC style!

I recently blogged about how the credit reporting agencies were attempting to use their legal obligation to provide people with free annual credit reports as a profit-generating tool instead. Apparently, the rather extreme measures I described in my post are tame compared to what privacy expert Bob Gellman describes in a DM News column:

The FTC charged that, starting in 2000, Experian deceptively marketed free credit reports by not adequately disclosing that consumers would automatically be signed up for a credit report monitoring service costing $79.95 annually if they didn’t cancel within 30 days. The settlement was reported in the Aug. 15 issue of DM News. The case began with a complaint filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and with a report from the World Privacy Forum.

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Academic Blogging Scandal

bitchphd2.jpgA developing case about academic bloggers contains a chorus of major issues swirling in the blogosphere: the career consequences of blogging, moderating blog debates, hot-button political issues, and defamation.

The case involves Paul Deignan, an engineering PhD candidate who has a blog called Info Theory. Deignan got into a debate with the anonymous blogger Bitch Ph.D. over abortion. Deignan is pro-life; Bitch Ph.D. is pro-choice. They exchanged posts on their mutual blogs, and Deignan also placed a comment on one of Bitch Ph.D.’s posts.

As reported by Inside Higher Ed:

Then he posted a seemingly innocuous entry on the Bitch Ph.D. site: “Your linking talking points w/o analysis. Already I see several points that are exaggerated and misconstrued without even needing research…”

Feeling that this comment and subsequent ones from Deignan did not qualify as “substantive debate,” she soon deleted his comments and banned him from her site. Her policy states, “Comments are great; obnoxious comments get deleted. Deal.”

If this were all, the story would be just a typical tale of the blogosphere. But things got much uglier:

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Suing Wikipedia

Wikipedia.jpgWhat happens if there’s a Wikipedia article about you that’s unflattering? What if it is in error or revealing of your private life? Wikipedia, for those not familiar with it, is an online encyclopedia that is written and edited collectively by anybody who wants to participate.

Daniel Brandt, a blogger who maintains blogs called Google Watch and Wikipedia Watch complained to Wikipedia administrators asking them to delete an entry about him. What should one’s rights in this regard be?

Here’s what Brandt writes:

There is a problem with the structure of Wikipedia. The basic problem is that no one, neither the Trustees of Wikimedia Foundation, nor the volunteers who are connected with Wikipedia, consider themselves responsible for the content. . . .

At the same time that no one claims responsibility, there are two unique characteristics of Wikipedia that can be very damaging to a person, corporation, or group. The first is that anyone can edit an article, and there is no guarantee that any article you read has not been edited maliciously, and remains uncorrected in that state, at the precise time that you access that article.

The second unique characteristic is that Wikipedia articles, and in some cases even the free-for-all “talk” discussions behind the articles, rank very highly in the major search engines. This means that Wikipedia’s potential for inflicting damage is amplified by several orders of magnitude.

Brandt muses whether he ought to sue Wikipedia:

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Kerr v. Goldstein on Georgia v. Randolph

home.gifThere’s a terrific debate going on over at the VC between Orin Kerr and Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog about the recently argued U.S. Supreme Court case, Georgia v. Randolph. Tom Goldstein argued the case for Scott Randolph. The case involves an incident where Janet Randolph (Scott’s wife) consented to the police searching the couple’s home. Scott, who was present at the time, objected. The police searched nevertheless, and they found evidence against Scott of drug violations. The issue, as framed by the grant of cert is: “Can police search a home when a co-habitant consents and the other co-habitant is present and does not consent?”

A few quick thoughts:

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ChoicePoint: More Than 145,000 Victims?

choicepoint2.jpgChoicePoint just won’t be outdone. They were, after all, the company that started all the extensive attention on data security breaches. Back in February 2005, ChoicePoint announced that it had improperly sold personal data on about 145,000 people to identity thieves. Pursuant to a California data security breach notice law, ChoicePoint notified the affected individuals in California. Soon afterwards, many states started thinking: Geez, we’d like our citizens to be informed too. They put up a fuss, and ChoicePoint voluntarily agreed to notify all of the 145,000 people it said were affected. Many states subsequently passed data security breach notification laws similar to California’s.

After ChoicePoint’s announcement came a barrage of announcements of security breaches by numerous companies and institutions. According to a very useful listing and tally by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, data security breaches have affected over 50 million Americans (there may surely be some double-counting here, as some unlucky folks may have been affected multiple times).

Now ChoicePoint has announced that it has notified another 17,000 people that their personal data was compromised in the breach announced in February. According to the AP:

ChoicePoint Inc., the company that disclosed earlier this year that thieves had accessed its massive database of consumer information, said Tuesday in a regulatory filing it has sent out another 17,000 notices to people telling them they may be victims of fraud.

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