Thursday, July 30, 2015

Facebook User To Be Fined Under Spanish Social Media Gag Law For Police Comments

Social Media in its infancy was hailed as a great equalizer for everyone's voice to be heard. Years ago, at conference after conference, I heard so called "futurists" and other "prognosticators" proclaim social media as the best invention since air conditioning or the microwave.

So many social media "evangelists" (a fancy term for some consultants who are full of s*#t) shouted from the roof tops how digital platforms would make the world a safer and freer place to exchange ideas and increase the freedom of speech.  Unfortunately, many of these "evangelists" don't understand how some governments and private companies are using social media to digitally follow and keep tabs on what people are doing.  Some of these new activities are actually a huge threat to democracy and our personal freedoms.  

Earlier this year, the government in Spain enacted its "Citizen Security Law" which appears to restrict what its citizens may say online about some government officials.  On July 22nd, the law was apparently utilized when local police in Spain accused one of its citizens of "making comments on social media that showed a lack of respect and consideration for Gumar's (a town in Spain) local police.  The accused may be fined hundreds of Euros and has hired a lawyer to fight the charges.  

Spain isn't the first country to enact and/or enforce laws specifically designed to stop its citizens from criticizing its government online and it will not be the last country to do so.  Therefore, it is imperative to be vigilant about digital freedom of speech and privacy.  You don't know how important these rights are until you lose them.  

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hulk Hogan Tries To Pre-Empt the Wrath of Social Media Via An Apology

Reacting appropriately during a crisis in the Social Media Age is extremely important.  In fact, its a must for corporate executives, small and large companies/organizations, politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, amateur athletes, etc...  Its imperative to understand the importance of properly reacting to a situation that has not just public relations implications but also major legal ramifications as well.

In the Social Media Age, the right reaction may determine whether your brand is permanently damaged like Paula Deen's or Anthony Weiner's or if you can  make a comeback like Charlie Sheen (a little contrition mixed in with talent, luck, and a "wining attitude").  Americans have always loved great comebacks.  The biggest in recent memory (the last 20 years) was Bill Clinton's come back from impeachment proceedings. 

The latest high profile person to incur a major negative personal/professional event (actually multiple matters) is former pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan.  The National Enquirer recently published a private racist rant Hogan made years ago.  The leaking of this information to the media may be connected to a $100 million dollar lawsuit Hogan commenced against the digital platform Gawker for publicizing a private sex tape that he may have unknowingly participated in.   

It appears that right before Hogan's behavior became public knowledge the WWE (Hogan's employer) scrubbed him from their website and cut ties with him. Within hours of the world learning about his racist rant, Hogan issued to People Magazine a full apology and took full responsibility for his actions.

Will Social Media, the WWE, his fans, etc... forgive Hogan for his behavior?  As long as Hogan's team doesn't follow the missteps of of others, he has an opportunity for redemption.  A good first step was a quick apology.  Will Hogan's next step on his road to redemption be an appearance on The Today Show or other media outlets?

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

NY Court: Facebook has no standing to challenge search warrants

Earlier this week, a New York state appeals court ruled that Facebook had no legal standing to challenge search warrants on behalf of its customers.  The court stated that only the defendant may challenge the search warrant and not Facebook.

The court's unanimous opinion stated that, “[f]here is no constitutional or statutory right to challenge an allegedly defective warrant before it is executed.”  This ruling was not surprising because the law usually takes years to catch up to the technology.  Will other courts around the country follow this ruling?

As more of these types of cases (and similar ones) pop up, it will be interesting to see how the law addresses new technologies.  There is no one size fits all in determining public policy and I hope there is a robust conversation on these important issues.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Google Forced to Change Its Privacy Policy in the Netherlands

According to Telecompaper, Google has changed its privacy policy in the Netherlands to comply with its data protection laws.  The Dutch privacy regulator (the "CBP") determined last year that Google combines and uses the personal data of internet users without first obtaining permission according to its laws.  Google acquires personal information about its users when they are logged into Google and from other data sources, such as Internet searches, location data, videos, and emails.

While this is a welcome development, why did the CBP have to threaten Google with a multi-million dollar fine before it agreed to change its privacy policy?  Will Google soon change its U.S. privacy policy to actually protect the personal privacy of its users?  Since Google led the charge to gut Maryland's student privacy law earlier this year, I doubt it will do so.

The bottom line is that the U.S. FTC and state attorney generals should follow the E.U.'s lead when it comes to protecting our digital privacy.  The more data that companies such as Google, Facebook, data brokers, etc... are allowed to collect and utilize the less safe we become since privacy and security are bedrocks of a democratic society.

Troubling practices and antiquated thoughts about data privacy continue to be a national security threat.  My hope is that our regulators and elected leaders will soon take the appropriate actions necessary to enforce and update our data privacy laws to better protect us and our children.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

IACP Releases Updated Guidance On Police Bodyworn Camera Video Data Storage

Privacy and cybersecurity go hand and hand.  Therefore, it is imperative that policy makers on the local, state, and federal level adopt policies and enforce practices that promote these principles.  This is especially important due to the increased amount of data that governments are collecting.

During the past decade, law enforcement agencies around the world have begun to implement police body cameras to assist in evidence gathering, transparency, and accountability.  In the United States, several incidents during the past year have prompted local police departments to test and begin utilizing body cameras.  While this technology brings great promise it also creates new privacy and cyber security challenges. 

To help alleviate these concerns, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recently published their "Guiding Principles on Cloud Computing in Law Enforcement".  These principles are much needed because as more digital video evidence is created by law enforcement, the proper safeguards must be in place to ensure that the data is stored in an appropriate manner for the legal justice system.

The IACP's principles state: 

1)  FBI CJIS Security Policy Compliance Services provided by a cloud service provider must comply with the requirements of the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Security Policy (current version 5.3, dated August 4, 2014), as it may be amended.  

2)  All Data Storage Systems Should Meet the Highest Common Denominator of Security.

3)  Data Storage Technology Can Be Disaggregated From Collection.

4)  Data Ownership-Law enforcement agencies should ensure that they retain ownership of all data.

5)   Impermissibility of data mining-Law enforcement agencies should ensure that the cloud service provider does not mine or otherwise process or analyze data for any purpose not explicitly authorized by the law enforcement agency.

6)   Auditing - Upon request, or at regularly scheduled intervals mutually agreed, the cloud service provider should conduct, or allow the law enforcement agency to conduct audits of the cloud service provider's performance, use, access, and compliance with the terms of any agreement.

7)  Portability and interoperability - The cloud service provider should ensure that that CJI maintained by the providers is portable to other systems and interoperable with other operating systems to an extent that does not compromise the security and integrity of the data.

8)  Integrity - The cloud service provider must maintain the physical or logical integrity of CJI.

9)  Survivability - The terms of any agreement with cloud service providers should recognize potential changes in business structure, operations, and/or organization of the cloud service provider, and ensure continuity of operations and the security, confidentiality, integrity, access and utility of the data.

10)  Confidentiality - The cloud service provider should ensure the confidentiality of CJI it maintains on behalf of a law enforcement agency.

11)  Availability, Reliability, and Performance - The cloud service provider must ensure that CJI will be available to the law enforcement agency when it is required within agreed performance metrics.

12)  Cost - Law enforcement agencies should focus cloud acquisition decisions on the Total Cost of Ownership model.

The recent multiple hacks into the federal government's networks have demonstrated the importance of updating and implementing the proper digital policies and technologies.  With access comes responsibility.  It is imperative that law enforcement agencies that utilize bodyworn cameras and other digital data collection technologies follow these principles to protect law enforcement agencies, the general public, and the criminal justice system.  The IACP's cloud computing principles will help ensure that justice stays blind in the age of police body cameras.

 Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

FBI Investigating St. Louis Cardinals For Allegedly Hacking Houston Astros

According to The New York Times, the FBI is investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for allegedly hacking into the Houston Astros' internal network.  The Cardinals are the most successful National League franchise and 2nd most successful organization in Major League Baseball after the New York Yankees.  While this investigation is ongoing, it would not surprise me if in addition to serious state and federal charges, Major League Baseball imposes a harsh penalty on the Cardinals and those employees responsible if it is found that they hacked into the Astros computer networks.

This is a breaking story so more updates may be provided later. 

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Facial Recognition Privacy Talks Collapse Due to Inadequate Consumer Safeguards

According to The New York Times, nine civil rights and other advocacy organizations announced today that they are withdrawing from "talks with trade associations over how to write guidelines for the fair commercial use of face recognition technology for consumers."

Why are these talks so important?  Because every time you walk into a fast food restaurant instead of a health food store you will be tracked and this information will be sent to data brokers who will insert it into your digital dossier.  You will be penalized for who you talk to in public (whether its a friend, business associate, or a stranger on the street) and this data will be tied to you forever.  What stores you visit and when you visit them will be collected and available to interested parties.

Should private companies have the right to know if you attend weekly religious functions and what faith you practice based upon your comings and goings?  What about whether you are seen visiting a bar or other gathering known for particular social or political characteristics?  Do you want others to know whether you frequent casinos, liquor stores, cigar shops, or certain specialty retailers?  Visiting these places and making purchases are perfectly legal.  However, when each of these individual activities are taken together it can paint a picture of our lives.  This is why John Hancock has created a new life insurance product that tracks your every move.  These are just a few examples of why stronger privacy protections are needed for biometrics.

Privacy is a civil right.  The potential for discrimination is high.  The more data that is being collected about us the greater the risk of the information falling into the wrong hands.  For example, the recent cyber attack on federal databases by Chinese hackers is a serious threat to national security and personal safety.  The systems compromised housed information on federal workers, their families, and those who interact with them.  The type of data contained in these files may be utilized for strategic national and economic security, blackmail, and who knows what else.

Absent participation by civil rights groups and privacy advocates, the facial recognition talks are worthless.  Its time for more technology companies to take a public stand for greater privacy protections.  The 4th amendment has protected us against unreasonable government searches and seizures for more than 200 years.  Its time for us to demand that our government extend this principle to protect us against unreasonable data collection and usage by private companies.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Belgium Sues Facebook Over Its Troubling Privacy Practices

According to The Wall Street Journal, Belgium's Privacy Commission is taking Facebook to court over its very troubling privacy practices.  Last month, the Commission publicly chastised Facebook for the way it handles the personal data of Internet users.  The Commission has focused on "how Facebook tracks Internet users on external websites through the use of “like” and “share” buttons".

In general, I avoid using Facebook's "like" or "share" button because for years the company has demonstrated via its privacy policy and agreements with data brokers that it has does not care about the privacy of its users.  The New York Times recently shed some light on how Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is a privacy hypocrite.  Mr. Zuckerberg's business practices demonstrate that he doesn't believe his users deserve to have their personal data kept private but he wants those who are working with him personally to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA) to protect his personal information.  This behavior appears to demonstrates that Mr. Zuckerberg believes privacy is only for the super-rich and not the Average Joe or Facebook user.

My hope is that U.S. lawmakers, regulators, and state attorney generals closely watch how the European Union (EU) deals with digital privacy issues.  While I don't agree with every public policy decision that the EU makes regarding the digital ecosystem, when it comes to holding companies such as Facebook and Google accountable for the way they handle and utilize the personal information of Internet users', the U.S. should closely explore emulating the EU's thought process on these matters. 

Privacy is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society and we must protect it before some members of the technology community permanently destroy it to maximize their corporate profits.  While Facebook and Google talk the talk regarding privacy they have failed to walk the walk and refrain from abusing their access to the data they are collecting about all of us.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.        

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Warrants Must Be Required for Digital Data Access

Growing up, I enjoyed watching L.A. Law and Law & Order.  So it was at a relatively young age that I learned that a warrant was required for the police to search your home and personal belongings. In law school, my criminal law classes focused on the need for the police to follow proper legal procedures to obtain a search warrant. Case after case demonstrated that the Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures—a basic tenet of American jurisprudence.

When I began practicing law at the dawn of the Internet Age, I soon realized that in the digital space, this long-held, common-sense approach to law enforcement searches is not always applicable. Surprisingly, searches in the physical world almost always require a warrant while searches in the “digital world” generally do not.  Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), enacted with 1980s technology in mind, the legal need for a warrant to access one’s personal digital content depends on the type of technology utilized to store the data and how old the correspondence is.   

According to an Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC) analysis of ECPA, the backbone of U.S. digital privacy law, law enforcement does not need a warrant to access both opened and unopened emails stored in the cloud for more than 180 days.  In contrast, emails located on a home hard drive and opened emails that are less than 180 days old require a warrant.

The deficiencies in this approach are becoming more apparent every day.  For example, law enforcement agencies across the country are using mobile devices called Stingrays  to collect information that is stored on our cell phones and other digital devices without warrants. Law enforcement has refused to discuss, even in court, the technology utilized in Stingray devices. And this is just one example of overreach.    

Our current legal framework worked best in 1986. ECPA made sense then because lawmakers didn’t envision people storing thousands of personal files for years on remote or cloud-based servers.  In 1986, these technologies did not exist.  Over the past 30 years, technological innovation has changed how we create, access, process, and archive digital content.  Today, many people store personal emails and data in the cloud or apps.  Due to the growing interconnectedness of our society, many of these platforms have servers located around the globe.  At any given time, our data may be processed, archived, or stored in servers anywhere in the world.        

Whether a warrant is required to access one’s digital data should not depend on the age of the content, the technology utilized to store the information, or the location of the data.  In the face of ECPA’s limitations, some states, such as Virginia and California, have enacted laws requiring a warrant before Stingray technology may be deployed.  A forward-thinking national law that requires a warrant to access digital content regardless of data’s age or the type of storage technology utilized is needed. 

Fortunately, Congress has recently proposed a bipartisan fix to this problem with the introduction of the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS).  This bill offers a well-balanced approach that requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant when it wants access to personal digital content.  If data is located on an app or a server that is located overseas, it requires law enforcement to follow the legal process required to obtain the information in the jurisdiction where the content is located.  This common-sense approach ensures that personal information is treated equally whether located in the physical or the digital world.   

It’s time for the United States to demonstrate leadership on digital privacy issues. A step in the right direction would be to enact the bipartisan LEADS Act.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.         

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Apple CEO Blasts Facebook and Google For Privacy and Security Practices

Earlier this week, I attended the Electronic Privacy Information Center's (EPIC) annual Champions of Freedom Awards Dinner.  According to its website, "EPIC is an independent non-profit research center in Washington, DC. EPIC works to protect privacy, freedom of expression, democratic values, and to promote the Public Voice in decisions concerning the future of the Internet."  The event honored those who have made a significant contribution to protecting our personal digital privacy and cyber security.

This year, Richard Clarke, Tim Cook, Kamala Harris, and Susan Linn were honored.  Each of these honorees have performed excellent work in furtherance of protecting our personal privacy and safety from online and offline threats.  Richard Clarke and Susan Linn were in attendance while Tim Cook and Kamala Harris who both live in California spoke to the audience remotely.

The most passionate remarks of the evening came from Apple CEO Tim Cook. He discussed the importance of strong privacy protections in digital products and services and blasted those companies (i.e. Facebook and Google) that provide free services in exchange for selling their customers' personal information to data brokers.     

I do not utilize Facebook or Google products/services for any private communications and I do not recommend anyone who values their digital privacy and safety to do so either because the practices of these companies enable very troubling data mining that may lead to discrimination when applying to college, applying for credit, and when applying for a new job.  For several years, it has been known that Facebook sells its users' personal information to data brokers; however, Google's troubling data broker agreements were not as well known until The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Google is combining users' offline purchases with their digital activity.

Privacy is a civil rights issue and in order to stay a free society we must ensure that no private or public entity is allowed to destroy it.  The bottom line is that digital privacy and cyber safety go hand and hand and organizations such as EPIC work to better protect us from companies such as Facebook and Google that have troubling privacy policies and practices.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.         

Friday, May 29, 2015

EU Competitiveness Council Conclusions On The Digital Economy

In order for the European Union (EU) to better compete in the digital economy it may need to have a more cohesive strategy.  Earlier this month, the EU discussed its plans to encourage its member countries to work together to create a single market for the online economy.

The EU's vision to become more competitive as a region may entail setting up unified rules that cover issues such as e-commerce, broadband spectrum, courier and parcel delivery rates, telecoms matters, and a revision of intellectual property rules.  A major challenge in the EU for many companies is over-regulation and incompatible rules across the region. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, "[m]any European policy makers say the region’s homegrown Internet companies haven’t made the big leagues at least in part because of a patchwork of tax, copyright and e-commerce rules that have stunted their growth. They also point to allegedly unfair business practices by U.S.-based competitors" such as Google.

The European Commission's recent antitrust statement of objections against Google has made some people claim that the EU is acting in a protectionists manner to bolster home grown companies.  While there may or may not be some truth to these allegations, the bottom line is that all entities whether they are digital focused or not, must abide by the rules and regulations of the countries in which they operate. 

Recently, the EU's Competitiveness Council, which gathers European Ministers in charge of economic and industrial affairs, issued itsConclusions on the digital transformation of European industry”. The Competitive Council's conclusions discussed the EU's recent progress regarding the digital transformation of EU industry and expressed members states' interests and priorities for future action.  Some of the conclusions touch upon the need to develop IT standards for 5G wireless communications, cloud computing, Big Data, the Internet of Things, and interoperability between platforms and technologies. 

These conclusions further emphasized the "importance of ensuring that European standards....are established in coordination with international standards and globally recognised technical specifications and, where possible, promoted as international standards. This is particularly so in such areas as data formats, digital documents and signatures, pan-European e-Procurement, accounting in digital environment and cross-border data exchange...."

The bottom line is that the EU is working feverishly to catch up with other regions of the world such as Silicon Valley and the United States that are perceived to be leaders in the digital economy.  While it may take years for the EU to create and then implement a coherent digital economy strategy, its business and political leaders along with its regulatory bodies have recently acknowledged the importance of these issues.  Therefore, it leads me to believe that the EU will utilize whatever tools at its disposal to be an active participant in the future growth of the international digital ecosystem. 

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.    

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Drone Privacy Policy Released By DOJ

While most of the country was thinking about the Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Department of Justice released its policy guidance on domestic use of unmanned aircraft systems.  According to The Hill, the new DOJ policy is based upon a presidential memorandum that outlined some of the civil liberty issues inherent with drone usage. 

Drones and other new and exciting technologies are here to stay.  However, there are significant privacy, surveillance, and other civil liberty issues that must be balanced when utilizing these new tools.  My hope is that we have a robust national conversation on these issues and create sound public policy, and when needed draft the proper regulations and/or enact well-balanced laws to ensure that we can effectively deal with the societal consequences.

Drones have many positive uses in our society; however, we must understand the legal and public policy challenges inherent with their deployment.  The DOJ's policy guidance is a starting point for this conversation. 

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.        

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Instagram Photos Show Slip and Fall Lawsuit Against NYC Is Frivolous

Taking photos and sharing them digitally is so easy.  However, just because it is, that doesn't mean you should do so.  In Silicon Valley, the term "frictionless sharing" was coined to describe the ability to make it as simple as possible to share your personal content with others via the Internet and apps. 

Technology companies make billions of dollars per year in advertising revenue due to frictionless sharing.  This capability is so important to the monetary viability of many digital companies that some of them recently spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to weaken the Video Privacy Protection Act to make it easier for consumers to share their video viewing habits with others.  While Silicon Valley may promote this change as providing more "consumer choice", others may believe this revision has diminished important privacy protections. 

Just because you have the ability to take a photo or a video doesn't mean you should do so and share it digitally.  Having the skills to understand when not to share is very important in the Social Media Age.  In general, I advise many clients not share their personal content digitally unless it is in furtherance of their professional career.

The latest person who has not mastered the skill of  when not to share appears to be Rev. Al Sharpton's daughter Dominique Sharpton.  According to The New York Post's analysis of Ms. Sharpton's personal Instagram account she has "a lot of explaining to do."  Ms. Sharpton is suing the City of New York for $5 million dollars because she allegedly injured her angle on a Soho sidewalk.  I am highly skeptical of this claim because it appears that on her personal Instagram account she has posted photos of herself climbing mountains in the U.S. and overseas.     

Ms. Sharpton's Instagram account photos do not appear to demonstrate that she has a $5 million dollar claim against the New York City.  According to The New York Post, New York City has ordered Ms. Sharpton to preserve her photos because they appear to contradict the claims in her complaint against the City.  If the photos on  Ms. Sharpton's Instagram account are authenticated, the City of New York may take legal action against her because it appears that her legal complaint is deficient due to a "failure to state a claim."     

The bottom line is be careful what you post because it may create tremendous legal liability for you and/or others. 

UPDATE:  According to The New York Post, Ms. Sharpton has made her social media accounts "private".  In light of all of the media coverage regarding this matter, Ms. Sharpton's latest move further demonstrates her $5 million dollar legal claim against the City of New York appears to be frivolous. 

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.    

Friday, May 22, 2015

Adult Sex Website Hacked, Personal Data At Risk

The Internet and apps may be utilized for many productive and interesting activities.  For example, users and companies may engage in Business to Business (B to B), Business to Consumer (B to C) commerce, general digital marketing/branding, etc....  However, some of the most popular digital activities include viewing porn and cheating on one's spouse. 

In 2013, The Huffington Post reported that porn sites receive more traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.  Internet porn is ingrained in popular culture.  Who can forget Avenue Q's catchy number, "The Internet is For Porn"?  In addition to porn, many people utilize the Internet and apps to cheat on their spouses and significant others.  For example, near the area where I live and work (in Bethesda), cheating website Ashleymadison.com ranked the Washington, DC area #1 for usage for the third year in a row.  This distinction is nothing to brag about. 

What many people may not realize is that when utilizing a website or app to find a sexual partner, you create a digital trail that puts your personal information at risk. For example, a married pastor in Michigan was recently exposed while utilizing a "hook up" app.  He uploaded photos of himself and other personal information that appears to have led to his identification. 

CNN is reporting that the website Adultfriendfinder.com was hacked in March and this incident appears to have exposed the personal information of millions of users.  The data leaked may include very intimate details about users.  The information exposed may be utilized to destroy personal lives, professional careers, and/or blackmail users.

The bottom line is that when using the Internet and apps it is very important to be cautious about the data you upload.  To protect your personal privacy and safety (and your family's), its imperative to limit the personal information that you post about yourself and your family.   

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.    

Sunday, May 3, 2015

DOJ Will Be More Transparent About Secret Cell Phone Tracking

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has stated that it will soon become more transparent about its secret cell phone tracking program.  According to The Wall Street Journal"the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun getting search warrants from judges to use the devices, which hunt criminal suspects by locating their cellphones, the officials said. For years, FBI agents didn’t get warrants to use the tracking devices."

This change in behavior is welcome news.  Law enforcement should be required to obtain a warrant before deploying these technologies.  Police across the country have utilized devices sometimes called stingrays without a warrant thousands of times to collect information about cell phone users for years.  The usage of these technologies on American soil appears to have started around 2007 and according to published reports is widespread across the country.

In a democratic and free society, it is imperative for law enforcement to be transparent about their practices.  Even though there may be security concerns regarding being too transparent about some of the details of these programs, the usage of these technologies without a warrant is a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment rights

While I applaud the DOJ's decision to change its practice and now obtain a warrant before deploying these tools what triggered the change in policy?  In 2014, the Supreme Court in Riley v. California ruled 9-0 that the police generally need a warrant to search electronic devices of those who are arrested.  The DOJ's policy should have been updated right after this ruling occurred and not almost a year later.     

The bottom line is that privacy still matters in the Digital Age and that transparency and accountability are more important than ever due to the increased sophistication of digital surveillance tools.

Copyright 2015 by The Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.