The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity

CAT | Litigation

Courthouse News Service reports that a virginia judge has ruled Facebook “Likes” are not protected speech.

The case was related to employees of the Hampton VA sheriff’s office who “Liked” the current sheriff’s opponent in the last election. After he was re-elected, he fired many of the people who had supported his opponent.

The judge ruled that posts on Facebook would have been protected, but not simple Likes.

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In this post from early 2008 I talked about a technique for detecting what sites you had visited. Almost 3 years later about 66% of users are still vulnerable to this attack according to a study (paper here) from the University of California, San Diego published in October 2010.

This study further showed that this vulnerability is being widely and actively exploited. Of the top 50,000 sites (based on Alexa ranking) 485 access information that could be used to discover browser history and 46 were confirmed to be actually performing this attack. One of those 46 was in the top 100 websites on the Internet (

On December 2, 2010 two Californians filed suit against alleging that they are using this technology to exploit a browser vulnerability to gather private data without disclosing that they were doing so. They are seeking class action status for this suit.

If this succeeds it would set an interesting precedent and open a new path to enforcing privacy rights in the absence of specific legislation.

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Argentine judge: Google, Yahoo must censor searches | Latest News in Politics and Law – CNET News

There is a disturbing trend towards increasing regulation of the Internet. In this case, Argintine judges have ordered Google and Yahoo to remove certain search results related to various individuals. This appears to be a back door way of removing the content without actually having to go after all the sites hosting the objectionable content. The concept is that information that can’t be found is almost the same as information that does not exist at all.

Because a few search engines dominate the market, they become an easy leverage point for achieving broad objectives. Countries like China and Iran have long understood the power of censoring the search engines to block access to information they don’t have easy reach to censor directly.

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Swiss bank in Wikileaks case abruptly abandons lawsuit | The Iconoclast – politics, law, and technology – CNET News.comIn a follow up to the earlier story, it seems that the judge finally realized the implications of his actions to free speech, and the fact that his injunction was almost completely ineffective. This is a really good thing. If the ruling had stood under appeal and become precedent, it would have significantly changed the Internet landscape.

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Wikileaks domain name yanked in spat over leaked documents | The Iconoclast – politics, law, and technology – CNET News.comDeclan does a really good job here of discussing a fascinating case. WikiLeaks is a Wiki based website designed to enable completely anonymous posting of tips and leaked documents. It is focused around enabling disclosure of information from repressive countries.A US court recently ordered WikiLeak’s domain name registrar to disable their domain name because of some documents on the site about questionable off shore banking activities by a group of Swiss bankers.The real shocker here is the draconian action against WikiLeaks prior to the resolution of the claim. It is also ineffective action because WikiLeaks is openly hosted under a number of domains in a number of different countries.I am very interested to see how this story develops and whether the injunction will stand up once the details of the offending materials become clear.

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Yahoo seeks to dismiss China case – Yahoo! News

This is a really interesting legal case. Yahoo was sued in the US by people representing some Chinese journalists who were convicted in China of violating Chinese law. Yahoo’s involvement was to provide evidence from their logs and stored account data. The argument is that Yahoo should have resisted more and provided less information under US and International laws.

The people working for Yahoo in China are in a tough place because they could easily be arrested and held in contempt for failing to comply. Widespread corruption in China would almost certainly lead to extra-legal consequences for Yahoo if they resisted.

One might well criticize Yahoo for designing their systems in such a way as to be vulnerable to such foreseeable attempts to gather information on journalists and dissidents.

I think it is a mistake to trust such potentially damaging information to any company like Yahoo, Google, AOL, etc. International law will be a cold comfort if you are sitting in a jail somewhere. The only real solution is to take control of your own information. Use encryption, and anonymity to ensure that your information can not be handed over.

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