Tag Archives: privacy

Access to information is power and sometimes that power is abused.


Today the Sacramento Bee ran an interesting article on documented instances in which members of various California police departments, sheriffs’ departments and the California Highway Patrol have engaged in accessing various data bases for personal reasons.  The databases include Department of Motor Vehicle records and state and federal criminal records.  This data is supposed to be limited to access on a need to know or right to know basis.

Most of the penalties were relatively light and rarely more than a misdemeanor.  In some cases the officers in question were dismissed from one law enforcement agency and hired by another.

The information was used among other things to check on estranged spouses and exes and to run background checks on perspective tenants.

If local law enforcement falls prey to this temptation, one can only imagine how often those folks working with FBI, CIA and Homeland Security must abuse the level of information they have access to.

Here is the link to the Bee’s story https://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/article237091029.html.  If you are every involved in litigation involving a peace officer or someone with a connection to a peace officer and they come up with information that seems suspicious, I suggest making them prove that it was obtained by legal means.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Your car has its own “Black Box”

Automotive Black Boxes

For nearly two decades Ford and GM have included what are often referred to as Black Boxes to record certain accident related data pertaining to your vehicle.  Generally this data was stored or generated by the Air Bag Module which processes data from sensors placed throughout a vehicle to determine whether or not air bags should or should not be deployed (inflated).

The systems were originally developed for and installed in race cars to help build safer vehicles.  Over time they were inserted in consumer vehicles and after some court battles the means to readily download this data for use in accident reconstruction cases became available.  

Depending on the system, impact sets off the sensors which transmit data to the Air Bag Module.  The ABM gathers information on speed, RPMs, whether or not seats are occupied, whether seat belts are engaged, whether the brake is engaged and point of impact.  This data is stored in the module and can be downloaded in a very readable form for varying periods of time.  Typically situations calling for the deployment of air bags are stored indefinitely and those that do not are retained for a certain number of ignition cycles.  (Each time you start the engine and then shut it off = one ignition cycle.)

The data can be downloaded from the car or the module can be removed depending on the circumstances.  Either way hardware is necessary to access the data.  Therefore, a technician can not pull up near your car and conduct a wireless download of data.

This information is collected by law enforcement in many accident situations, but insurance companies have been slow to download the data from their clients’ vehicles in non-fatal situations.  In fact most cars go to scrap before data is downloaded or the driver effectively erases the data after X number of ignition cycles are exceeded.  Either way important evidence is destroyed.

One of the the concerns about this data involves privacy and the issue of who owns the information.  The US Senate just passed a bill that says the car owner or lessee is owner rather than the manufacturer or lessor.  http://editorial.autos.msn.com/blogs/post–senators-propose-law-covering-car-black-box-data

You should be aware that this data exists and could be used to prove your case if you are ever involved in an accident. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

No Expectation of Privacy. Really?

The Massachusetts  Supreme Court recently ruled that unauthorized up skirt shots (photos or videos taken up a woman’s skirt or dress) are legal.  Apparently the anti-peeping Tom law was written too narrowly and does not include the “up skirt” concept.  According to the article at Thinkprogess.org (http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/03/05/3365631/massachusetts-upskirt-legal/) the defense argued that the defendant/up skirt photographer was exercising his freedom of speech.  I don’t know how the court addressed that particular argument.

The lesson to be learned is … take care what you wear and where you where it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Your internet activity

What goes on in process of mining of data.  Yahoo Chief Marissa Mayer discusses her concerns about going to prison should she decide to defy NSA requests for data.


Leave a comment

September 12, 2013 · 11:55 AM

Should the government need to get a warrant to search through your E-mails?

The following CNN article outlines the current effort in the US Congress to allow law enforcement to search anyone’s E-mails without a warrant.  No probable cause required.

You may want to read about this.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Expectation Management – Why search results can’t be guaranteed. (Part 2)

In Part One of this series we defined success in finding a particular subject as locating and contacting the subject.  The most common reason for that a search is unsuccessful relates to the failure to find the subject.  However, if you find your subject the job is only half done.  You still need to contact your subject.  If you are serving a complaint of subpoena to need to make contact in order to have successful service.  If you want to interview the person, you need to contact and hope they will talk with.  Those are situations in which you “need” find and contact your subject.  In those cases, how badly you need that person will determine how much time and money you are willing to expend to get the job done.

In one case, I had to contact the subject’s  friends in the United States and then contact him in the minefields of Kenya.  In that case, we were fortunate that he was a very cooperative witness.

If your search is of the “want” variety your decision may be quite different.  Finding old friends, associates, classmates, comrades in arms or lovers generally falls into the “want” category.  Though you may find them and try to contact them, they may not be responsive to your overtures.   The reasons for not responding to your attempts to re-establish contact are pretty reasonable and should be understandable.

They may wish to leave the past in the past.  They have moved on and like where they are.  Maybe they moved on and they are embarrassed about where they are.  Either way, they want to leave the past right where it is.

What you think of as the good old days, really weren’t so good for them and they don’t want re-visit memories that aren’t too pleasant to recall.

Perhaps they thought you were a butt-head when they knew you and they are trying to live as butt-head free as possible.  If you broke up with them, they may still think you’re a jerk.

Maybe they are just lazy and they keep forgetting to get back to you.

Whatever the reason is, you need to respect it.  If they are important enough for you to want to reach out to them, then they are important enough to have their privacy respected.

If you are certain that you located the person you are looking for and they don’t get in touch with you, the search wasn’t a total loss.  At least you know they are still out there kicking and you know where they kicking.

There is probably a thin line between legitimately trying to reconnect with someone and becoming a stalker.  No one should want to knowingly or accidentally cross that line.  Knowing where the line is becomes the challenge.  I suspect the placement of that line varies from person to person.  I suggest that my students follow the Three Strike Rule.

In California we have the Three Strike Rule that involves sentencing criminals who have been convicted of a three or more felonies.  When it comes to contacting people you “want” to get in touch with I suggest applying a Three Strike Rule as well.

If you contact a person three times (regardless of what means you use) and you don’t hear back from them, let it go.  Don’t become upset or insulted.  Respect the fact that they must have a good reason and let it go.  You wouldn’t want to be hounded by someone you really don’t want to get back in touch with, so treat the subject of your search with the same respect you would hope that others would show you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized