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.

The Surveillance Self-Defense Project


The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently created the Surveillance Self-Defense Project, with this focus:

Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD) exists to answer two main questions: What can the government legally do to spy on your computer data and communications? And what can you legally do to protect yourself against such spying?

This will help you take back your privacy (in as much as it can ever be taken back).

This information is specific to the United States government, but there are other parties that are very interested in spying on you: your employer, advertisers, foreign governments, online stores, and many copyright holders.

Read the documents at the SSD Project and see how to increase your privacy in the surveillance society of today.

The FreeBSD Foundation begins its annual fund drive!

If you are willing to pitch in and help FreeBSD, why not donate to the FreeBSD Foundation? Of course, if you don’t want to help FreeBSD, there are other worthy causes that are close to open source and to free software:

With the notable exception of the OpenBSD Foundation, all of these groups should be classified as 501(c)(3) charitable organizations by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The OpenBSD Foundation is a Canadian non-profit, so that’s different.

Two that are struggling the most probably are the CPSR and the OpenBSD Foundation.  Both are small and not often in the limelight – even though OpenSSH is used by virtually every UNIX and Linux variant on the planet.

All of these are worthwhile – why not donate – or join today?  Perhaps your (US) employer might even match your donation to one of these 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.

Blogging and the law

Turns out there is a lot of things to watch out for!

I recently read this blog post on Steve Tobak’s blog “Train Wreck” over at CNet. Turns out there is a lot of legal liability (ouch) that can arise from posting. A most interesting source of information is the Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s Bloggers page (with a Legal Handbook to boot).

Reporters without Borders has a handbook, too: Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents.  (Their entry page also has links to other languages as well – this international organization is actually French).

If you value digital rights, I’d recommend a donation or two to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.