How to Lose Your Life to the Law

Recently, the blog Gizmodo received a pre-release version of a new iPhone, and examined it and wrote about it. This caused Apple to request it, then a flurry of legal actions (including search and seizure) by the government.

What no one has wrote about is how this must have brought the reporter’s life to a complete standstill, with a loss of practically everything he uses and everything he knows. Consider what was taken from Gizmodo reporter Jason Chen:

  • A Samsung digital camera. How many photos were on it? Family photos? Friends, events, etc.?
  • Three Apple laptops and an IBM Thinkpad. How many articles were on them? How many emails? How many documents that Jason was working on?
  • An HP Mediasmart server. How many songs?
  • An external hard drive and several USB thumb drives. How much data was on these drives? Finances? Sources? Records? Insurance records? Health details?
  • An Apple iPad. How much was this being used? Did it contain important parts of Jason’s personal life?
  • An Apple iPhone. This would have had an address book, phone numbers called and received, and more.

In short, the officers of the law seized Jason’s entire digital life – for a sort of extended search in absentia.

No word on whether online services were served with warrants. Not only is the search warrant executed on Jason Chen sealed by the court, but the request to seal is also sealed. Thus one doesn’t know what they were looking for, nor why it is supposed to be secret.

So what’s the answer? The only answer is a change to the laws of the country or personally hiding and squirreling away your data. About the only thing to do in this day and age is to put your data onto a server which is in a country with excellent privacy laws, like Switzerland – the way Neomailbox has done with email. If this concerns you, you should check out the Surveillance Self-Defense site sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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