Google: we will invade your privacy

In a blunt admission in a brief filed recently in federal court, lawyers for Google said people have no expectation of privacy when they send messages to a Gmail account.

Google’s brief said: “Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient’s [email provider] in the course of delivery. Indeed, ‘a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.’

A highly redacted version of the complaint was filed publicly.
 http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/googlemotion061313.pdf

Privacy and NSA's three hop query

President Obama continues to talk reform after pervasive and ongoing criticism of the bulk surveillance of U.S. citizens revealed by Edward Snowden. One of the more interesting points is the creation of a public advocate who would defend a citizens’s right to privacy in the court. Yet the administration’s defense of the current system, where supposedly limited information is seized--the widely discussed “three hop query”--ignores a basic tenet of investigative research: data trees allow the identification of millions of people in a 2-3 hop query.

Facebook leaked data all over internet--including non-users

Security researchers who revealed Facebook's shadow profiles vulnerability are claiming that Facebook leaked massive amounts of data, including private phone numbers and other personal data--despite what Facebook told its users.

Facebook had announced the fix of a bug that inadvertently exposed the private information of over six million Facebook users. In addition, Facebook apparently is collected non-user phone numbers and email addresses and then matched the data to people. Here is the technical explanation of how data gets merged over several sets of databases, and unique links are discovered.

Knowing the information industry, I expect that this data will be for sale very shortly.

The write investment: author wins millions from advisor

Mystery author Patricia Cornwell won $50.9m from financial advisor Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP. We have investigated these cases before for financial services clientele, usually focusing on claims of negligent trading and breach of fiduciary duty (and whether the client is getting trading tips elsewhere and acting on them). These cases often stem from the discrepancy between the signed documents that spell out a client’s investment goals, and trading done in later years that might diverge from that plan. A wise advisor should make sure they amply document the client’s goals, and consent to trades.

Use of lies and deception during interrogations

The Reid Interview folks offer some thoughts on using deception during interrogations. The article cites case law such as Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731 (1969) (which holds the use of deception must be considered within the totality of circumstances when deciding the admissibility of a confession) and Cayward v. Fl., 552 So 2nd 971 (1989) (which compares and contrasts manufacturing evidence and false verbal assertions).

Some recent research of how innocent people may confess to crimes they did not commit makes this an area worth close monitoring, and points to the problems of allowing deceptive practices to be used in an interview of a witness or suspect.

Federal prosecutors and abuse of power

The news is filled with frantic claims of abuses by federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz in the Aaron Swartz case. Some more measured claims are made by retired judge Nancy Gertner.

Now, many privacy and security experts are demanding that Congress rein in prosecutors from overcharging defendants under new federal statutes that allow them to inject steroids into minor charges and blow them into major felonies. But the inquiries into the federal justice system should not stop there.

In December 2012, USA TODAY reexamined some of the conclusions of a 1990’s PBS Frontline investigation that shone a spotlight into the dark corners of the snitch system, where federal agents offer deals to prisoners in exchange for information. Both inquiries show that the government regularly pays witnesses to testify--a concept that instinctively seems immoral and wrong to most people. Paying for information is a blatant perversion of justice and leads to lazy and careless work by federal law enforcement.

~ Our office has defended cases where a few hours of research completely debunked the information provided by another inmate--claims that seemingly were accepted by federal agents without any vetting.

~ The rewards paid to informants can include cash, airfare and new housing. Sometimes, the amount paid for information can approach $250,000 or more.

This system of paying witnesses for false information is a cancer in our democracy. Let us now eradicate it.