Category Archives: Legally Speaking

Celebrity Cyber Report – Mo’Nique, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Kevin Durant

Oscar Winner Mo’Nique


Comedienne and actress Mo’Nique has called for a boycott against Netflix. According to the Oscar winning actress the streaming television service is guilty of gender and race-based pay inequities. Mo’Nique said she was offered $500,000 for a comedy special where white comedienne Amy Schumer was offered $11 million. Black comedian Dave Chappelle received $20 million for his three comedy specials . Mo’Nique said she challenged Netflix on the gap, but received contradictory answers. Mo’Nique said se was told by Netflix that  “we don’t go off resumés” when justifying her pay. But then  it reportedly defended Schumer’s revenue by citing her experience.

Mo’Nique also learned that she was not the only black female comedienne who may have been short changed by Netflix. According to a tweet from fellow comedienne Wanda Sykes Netflix offered her “less than half” of that $500,000 for a Netflix special. Mo’Nique hasn’t objected to the compensation Netflix offered other performers but is asking why the figures for her and Sykes were so much lower.


Jada Pinkett-Smith

Jada Pinkett Smith

Three generations of actress Jada Pinkett-Smith‘s family will join Facebook for a talk show that deals with social issues. Smith, her daughter Willow and mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris will come together to discuss their individual perspectives on various topics. According to Deadline, the inter-generational talk show will be executive produced by Pinkett-Smith along with Ellen Rakieten and Miguel Melendez. EntitledRed Table Talks the show was originally streamed in 2012 on the YouTube channel. 


NBA All Star Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

NBA superstar Kevin Durant is joining forces with YouTube to expand its sports content offerings. Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman have agreed to develop programming based on Durant and his fellow professional athletes under the umbrella of their Thirty Five Media video business.

After moving to the Bay Area to play for the Golden State Warriors Durant became interested in tech investments. He is not alone, teammate Andre Iguodala is another big tech investor. According to Kleiman, Durant became interested in YouTube after meeting YouTube executive Neal Mohan at the star’s 28th birthday party.

Durant’s YouTube channel is a fan favorite giving them documentary-style productions offering peeks into the life of an all-star professional basketball player. It also gives players a direct venue to interact with fans.  In less than a year, Durant’s channel has scored more than of 21 million views.

Durant told TechCrunch, “Outside of the incredible relationship that we’ve developed with the team at YouTube it’s a huge destination for video content where sports fans, including myself, spend a lot of time, and we really wanted to create content where fans are most likely to find and engage with it.”

Cops & Data Collection: No Warrant Needed for Location Data

It seems the cops don’t need a warrant to know where you are. A federal appeals court handed down a ruling on Tuesday declaring that the public has no reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to their cell phone location records. The ruling means that police don’t need a search warrant to get access to cell tower location records when investigating criminal cases. Why?  According to the ruling this data belongs to a third party, the cell phone carrier.

The ruling in the case centered around Quartavious Davis, a Miami resident, who was convicted of robbery, possession of a firearm, and conspiracy in 2012.  Investigators obtained Davis’ cell phone records, 11,606 in all, for 67 days  from MetroPCS. Davis was eventually sentenced to 162 years in prison.

Davis’ case was appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The court disagreed in a 9-2 decision that the “government’s obtaining of a court order for the product of MetroPCS business records did not violate the Fourth Amendment.”  The ruling states that even though the cell tower records concerned Davis, they did not belong to him. The records were created by a third party, in this case MetroPCS, and therefore Davis did not have a right to privacy around that information.

The court’s ruling also argued that the public understands that cell towers are used to “connect calls, document charges, and assist in legitimate law-enforcement investigations.”  The public is aware that they can be tracked using their cell phones. The court argued that people have no reasonable right to expect privacy around those records. The ruling compared cell phone location records to store video surveillance tapes. “Those surveillance camera images show Davis at the precise location of the robbery, which is far more than MetroPCS’s cell tower location records show.”

Two judges dissented on the decision. They felt that the broad application of the “third-party doctrine” in the case could give the government grounds to greatly expand its searching capabilities without warrants in the future.



Cops & Data Collection: Lawsuit Challenges Virginia Cops

License plate readers mounted on a police cruiser

License plate readers mounted on a police cruiser

Right now in the U.S. there is a serious focus on the police. As black people we know this was long overdue. But the scrutiny has to go beyond police action on the streets. More and more attention had been focused on police data collection.

In Virginia a man is suing the County of Fairfax over their collection of license plate data. Fairfax resident Harrison Neal,  filed the suit after he learned that his license plate had been scanned by an automatic license plate reader twice last year and stored in a police database. Neal was not a suspect in any criminal investigation. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on behalf of Neal last Tuesday.

Neal filed a public records request and discovered images of his car in the database maintained by the Fairfax Police Department. In response to his request he received two sheets of paper containing an image of his car. He also received a chart indicating the times and dates the images were taken along with a map revealing street locations believed to be where the reader  was when it snapped the images.

Other individuals have sued before to obtain records stored in police databases. However this is the first known case targeting a law enforcement agency over an alleged illegal use of a database.

The complaint (.pdf) asserts that the database violates a Virginia law entitled the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act.  The law bars government agencies from collecting, storing, or disseminating the personal information of individuals unnecessarily.

The topic of automatic license plate readers has heated up recently. Some have related the use of the readers to the government’s warrantless use of GPS trackers, stingrays or IMSI catchers used to track the location of cars, cell phones and other mobile devices.

The readers, often mounted on police vehicles or in a fixed location, use cameras and optical character recognition technology to take images of license plates. The images are stored in searchable databases. Insurance agencies, vehicle re-possessors, impounders and others use them to locate stolen vehicles or vehicles belonging to people who are behind on their payments. But law enforcement agencies also use them.

Civil liberties and privacy groups oppose the readers and databases as a violation of privacy. They believe that it’s possible to gain a person’s personal information simply by tracking the location of their car over a period of time. The readers also collect much more than just license and location data. California computer security consultant Michael Katz-Lacabe discovered local authorities in his San Francisco Bay Area town had in their possession images of his two cars 112 times.  In the database was one image taken in 2009 that clearly showed him and his two daughters exiting one of the cars while it was parked in their driveway.

Proponents of the technology argue that it is no more harmful to a person’s privacy than  cell-phone location information.

Terry Jungel, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association said “We’re not insensitive to people’s right to privacy,” in 2013 over a battle in his state about license plate databases. “If Big Brother is going to abuse information, there’s better information to abuse than this.”

Virginia’s state law should have prevented Neal’s images from being stored. The State Attorney General, in February 2013, issued an opinion advising the State Police that automatic license plate readers do collect personal information. In accordance with the law, agencies cannot legally collect and store data unless it’s related to a specific criminal investigation. It was discovered that Virginia State Police had used license plate readers in 2008 at political rallies for both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. The readers were used to collect information about people who had attended the rallies triggering the attorney generals pronouncement.

As a result the Virginia State Police stopped storing license plate records and instituted a policy of deleting such information within 24 hours after being collected by a reader, unless the information is relevant to a criminal investigation.

But the ACLU of Virginia claims that other government agencies in the state have failed to heed the order. The Fairfax Police Department, in particular, stored license plate images for up to a year without reason.

Fairfax also has an agreement with nearby Maryland and Washington D.C. law enforcement agencies to share information collected in its database.

“Like many other technologies, ALPRs have legitimate law enforcement uses,” Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia said in a statement. “We do not object to the real-time use of ALPRs to compare license plate numbers to a current ‘hot list’ of vehicles involved in current investigations. The danger to privacy comes when the government collects tens of thousands of license plate records so it can later find out where people were and when. The intrusion is magnified in the Washington, D.C. area, where multiple law enforcement agencies may access each other’s information.”


Cops & Data Collection: Stingrays Under Scrutiny

For years, phone-tracking devices known as Stingrays have been a closely guarded secret of law enforcement. But  according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal that may be about to change.

According to the WSJ report, the U.S. Justice Department has launched a full scale investigation of how police agencies use these snooping devices. As a result they may be about to reveal significant details about how and where the devices are typically deployed. For ten years or more Stingrays have been cloaked in intense secrecy. In some cases criminal prosecutions were halted rather risk admitting in court that the devices were used.

How does a Stingray work? By locating a specific phone in a crowd, sometimes even from a plane flying overhead. They also have the capability to extract more comprehensive data from the phone. Stingrays impersonate  2G cell towers. These towers don’t require any authentication to connect to a phone as long as the Stingray is the strongest signal in the area. Cell phones automatically connect to the device revealing their location and basic identification data. The use of Stingrays inhibits other networks from working properly resulting in significant service disruptions in the areas where they are used.

Stingrays are significant for how deeply they have become entrenched in the law enforcement world. A number of Justice Department agencies are known to have access to the devices including the U.S .Marshals. But local law enforcement is also beginning to use the technology. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has compiled legal evidence of Stingray use by local departments in Baltimore, Sarasota, and Tacoma. The EFF believes that many more local departments are using the technology but do not refer to the devices in court. A recent test run in Washington, DC revealed as many as 18 different Stingray-like service interruptions in just two days.

Breaking It Down

America’s system of rights and justice seem to be slowly crumbling. I used to think that those folks we call right-wing gun toting nut cases railing about the government destroying our rights were just that, nuts. I am not so sure anymore. No, not at all.

First of all the collection of data and information on ordinary citizens is simply un-Constitutional anyway you look at it. In the story about license plate data collection I have to ask who is responsible for not deleting  the data the Attorney General ordered destroyed? I want that guy’s name. I want to know why license plate data was being collected at political rallies? Keep in mind these are the very same tactics used in totalitarian states. Constant watching for dissent. Have we come to that?

Now we have law enforcement and prosecutors working together to hide information collected using Stingrays. How much of that evidence has resulted in wrongful convictions of black men, or anybody for that matter? Let’s talk about the fruit of the poison tree. It works like this; any evidence obtained illegally is not admissible in court. Any OTHER evidence collected as a result of the original illegal evidence is also not admissible. But if the cops and prosecutors are hiding the use of Stingray and collect evidence based on information discovered by this technology then that evidence is not legal. Cops, lawyers and all prosecutors know this.  So how many black men are sitting in prison as a result of this practice? So now you see how technology can be abused in the cause of justice

Prosecutors are deciding to drop cases that may reveal Stingray use. What?  Is this evidence of illegal obtained evidence being concealed? Again technology being used to pervert justice. 

Questions abound. Since when did America allow the hidden collection of information by law enforcement? And when did we allow cops and prosecutors to work together? I thought there was supposed to be a separation of powers in the Constitution? One branch enforces the law another prosecutes violation. When did that change?


Congress Not Interested in Cyber Security

President Obama SignatureIn a move to spur the move to pin and chip cards President Obama signed an executive order directing government agencies to shift to the use of chip-and-PIN cards. The order directs the use of the more secure cards for use in consumer benefits programs, including Social Security.

At the Oct. 17 appearance at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the President also announced a cyber security and consumer protection summit that will be hosted at the White House. The summit will bring together cabinet members and key industry players  in the consumer financial sector to examine the best practices, advance adoption of stronger security standards and discuss next generation technologies.

“We are also calling on Congress to pass meaningful cyber security legislation that will help the government better protect federal networks and legislation that appropriately balances the need for greater information sharing and strong protection for privacy and civil liberties – respecting the longstanding responsibilities of civilian and military agencies,” Obama says.

President Obama also urged Congress to pass a national data breach notification law. According to the President the numerous differing state laws is unsustainable and benefits no one. “Today we are calling on Congress to act with urgency on data breach legislation, to bring clarity to the expectations consumers should have when their data has been breached, and to mandate steps companies must take to notify their customers of risks after such security breaches,” said the President.

Although the President is urging Congress to act Washington not changed. Many experts do not believe that a national data breach law is possible this year. Experts say that no bill has been introduced on Senate or House floors in the current Congress. Those familiar with the legislative process report that those who promote the law and those who would be subject to it cannot agree. Congress simply cannot agree on key provisions of data breach notification measures. Basically businesses want less stringent data breach notification rules than do consumer advocates.

“In some ways the inaction is remarkable,” says Peter Swire, senior fellow at the Future of Privacy Forum and professor at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. “We had spectacular data breaches involving tens of millions of consumers, and even that is not enough to prompt Congress into action.”

During the last four Congresses, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved bipartisan data breach notification legislation. Sadly none of the bills ever came up for a vote. Chances of that happening in the current Congress don’t look good.

Even without federal data breach legislation data breach notification is regulated in most of the United States. Data breach law is enforced on a state-by-state basis. Currently 47 states have enacted data breach notification laws. You can examine your state data breach law at States Advance Breach Notification Laws. These state laws vary from one another and companies suffering data breaches can pick and choose what state laws they wish to follow. Many business groups would prefer to see a single, national statute to cut down on the paperwork involved in reporting data breaches.

Breaking it down

What President is saying is that the ones that are supposed to be working to protect us are clearly failing. Congress has exhibited a pathetic lack of desire to do what they are elected to do. In the past year we have seen massive data breaches that exposed the payment information of hundreds of millions of Americans. Does it look like Congress gives a damn? We have seen our government systems hacked and government employee personal information stolen. Has Congress done anythinh? We see our intellectual property stolen, medical records stolen and even military systems attacked and breached. And what are they doing in Washington? Nothing! Not a single data breach or cyber security law has even reached the floor for a vote. You might want to vote this election year. Why is Congress waiting for security advocates and companies to come to an agreement? We need our elected officials to act in the best interest of the citizens. They should have been up in arms about their constituents information being stolen. They should be but does it look that way to you?


Employees Can Vent on Social Media

A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board permits employees to vent their displeasure with their employers on social media.

The decision was made public in August and involved employees of the Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille in Watertown, Connecticut.  A group of employees were complaining about a state tax withholding mix-up resulting in them owing more than they originally thought they would.

Jamie LaFrance, a former employee of the bar used Facebook to vent about owing the additional taxes.  Other employees joined in with their own comments. All were upset about the mistake. Profanity was used and LaFrance speculated that her former boss was a “shady little man” who may have stole the money. This is according to a copy of the conversation included in the NLRB’s decision.

Another employee, Jillian Sanzone was still working at the bar and joined in.

“I owe too,” she wrote. “Such an asshole.”

Thomas Spinella, another employee still working at Triple Play, “Liked” LaFrance’s initial post but did not comment further.

After Triple Play co-owner Thomas Daddona became aware of the posts he fired Sanzone. Daddona said the waitress, who had been with the restaurant since it opened,  displayed a lack of loyalty by her comments.

Daddona and co-owner, Ralph Delbuono then fired  Spinella for his use of the “Like” button.

The case follows previous decisions on workplace social media policies. After Sanzone and Spinella were fired, an ambulance company, also in Connecticut, were forced to settle with an employee it terminated because of  her Facebook posts.

The 3-2 ruling by the NLRB said Triple Play should not have terminated the workers because they were simply acting collectively to discuss a workplace issue. A right protected under the National Labor Relations Act. The board gave Triple Play until Friday to re-hire the employees. 

Joseph Yamin, the lawyer representing Triple Play’s owners, said he and his clients would appeal.

Breaking It Down

We have all had differences with our employers. And many times, for economic reasons, we just bite our lip and suck it up. Its part of life. But no one agrees to give up their right to free speech as a condition of employment. Once you leave the workplace you have the right to say whatever you feel. Its called free speech. And the NLRB has agreed to set the legal precedent that you can. What this decision is saying is that an employee has the right to vent about their work situation with other employees. These employees chose to commiserate on social media. Its not illegal. As employees, union or not, you can discuss your problems with your employer and use whatever language you see fit. And even if you say nothing but only agree with the others you are free to do so.

How an employer can expect that you owe them your opinion and loyalty after work is beyond me. Ask any black person and they will tell you that they expect no loyalty from the company they work for. Loyalty is a feelng you get from being treated right. You feel you have an obligation to a company because the company has done right by you and gone beyond the employee/empoyer relationship. That is loyalty and that loyalty gets returned. Just because you agreed to work for a company and they agree to pay you means nothing. You know the company will lay you off or move that job overseas whenever they damn well feel like it. And you’re just out of luck. Haven’t you seen that before? You have the right to free speech and if you need to vent then do it. As long as you don’t do it on the company’s Facebook page or in the office you’re probably safe. Show loyalty when it is shown to you. Otherwise do your job and go home.

Home Device Spying Law Gathers Dust

You-Are-Under-Surveillance-Sign-K-7664If black people don’t know by now then you need to wake up to this. Your home and mobile devices have been spying on you and delivering the details of your life to marketers, device manufacturers, utilities, insurance companies, possibly your employer and many others.

Currently there is a bill sitting somewhere in Congress that will address the use of spying technology in consumer devices. Sadly however H.R.2356, the “We Are Watching You Act of 2013” has been languishing in legislative purgatory since June of last year. The bill was introduced by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).  Neither the House nor the Senate has voted on the bill and it doesn’t look like it will happen this year either.

The bill is intended to stop or at least restrict the use of technology by television service providers who wish to monitor customers using cameras or microphones built in to set-top boxes or DVRs. Television service providers want to use this technology in order to analyze viewing behavior and serve up highly targeted advertising. You are probably asking how targeted this advertising can get? If the device detects a couple cuddling on the sofa then maybe the ads will promote romantic vacations, romantic comedy movies or possibly contraceptive products.

The bill addresses the use of home consumer technology devices such as televisions to spy on the consumer. It bans video service operators such as your cable company from watching or listening to you with built in cameras or microphones found on DVRs, set-top TV boxes, and smart televisions without the consumer’s express permission. The bill would also address other devices such as the Microsoft Xbox One which is also used to spy on users. Microsoft has built in to its Xbox special cameras and sensors known as Kinect.

Microsoft Xbox with Kinect

Microsoft Xbox with Kinect

You maybe interested in to know that Facebook is currently spying on you using technology that operates your phone’s microphone to listen to what is happening around you when you post to the website from the phone. In addition smart televisions are spying on users through the built in webcams. So you think you’re watching television when in actuality it is watching you right back.

In 2012 Verizon filed a patent for a monitoring technology  that uses infrared cameras and microphones capable of detecting if subscribers are eating, exercising, reading or sleeping near the monitoring device. Verizon was denied the patent. If Verizon’s subscribers agree to the monitoring the bill would mandate that the company display  a “we are watching you” message on the screen and  reveal what data is being collected. 

“This may sound preposterous but it’s neither a joke nor an exaggeration. These DVRs would essentially observe consumers as they watch television as a way to super-target ads. It is an incredible invasion of privacy.”Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)

Capuano believes the recording and analyzing of viewer behavior by television cable providers and networks may threaten individual privacy rights. His legislation allows consumers to opt out of monitoring at any time. In addition television service providers would be required to tell consumers what information is being collected and how it would be used.

Capuano’s bill comes at a time when there is general outrage sparked by the revelations of NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency has collected the telephone records of millions of Americans and accesses the databases of the nation’s biggest Internet companies.

Some privacy experts believe public anger at the NSA and Capuano’s proposal is a clear indicator that the nation is fed up and that the technology is slowly eating away at the right to privacy.

Technology analyst Roger Kay of  Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. said, “Here we are again in this sort of Orwellian moment. The human institutions haven’t had time to catch up with the technology.”

Breaking It Down

My first question is; do black people even care about privacy? I have to answer yes. As much as any American. But are we aware of the incredible advancement in technology that allows corporations to take a seat on the sidelines of our lives and watch us like predatory birds? The answer to that is probably no. If you are reading this then you need to take an inventory of the devices in your home that are spying on you. You need to know what information is being broadcast via your television, game console, thermostat, cell phone and Internet connection. What is happening here is that the corporate world has decided that since there is nothing to say we can’t do it then we will do it. Rep. Capuano sees this. This is a clear failure of any ethical and moral restraint. All black people should be aroused if not outraged. How dare these corporations even consider using the technology they sell us against us. Yes, against us. They are watching everything we do and collecting information for their databases to use in the control of our lives and earnings. Black people are in danger, just as the rest of America is, of being brainwashed into thinking that our privacy is being protected. It is not! We are being fooled into believing that we are acting for our own good by reeling in the government while corporations run wild over our personal privacy. Are we going to remain that stupid? We are clamoring for Congress to do something about the NSA but not about private industry. Why? Are we already brainwashed?

Online Tracking of Children Legislation

canstockphoto5147385Senate bill s1700-113, “Safeguards Against Tracking Children Online” is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate. The bill is intended to ban online tracking of children. In the bill the definition of a child is between the ages of 12 and 16 years of age. But the legislation currently being debated is very similar to rules laid out by the FTC in 2013.

The bill is intended to prohibit corporations, marketers and other web entities from collecting personal information for marketing purposes from children and minors using web or mobile applications. The bill also establishes additional privacy protections against collecting personal or geographic location information from children and minors. The 2013 FTC rules also covered web and mobile apps.

According to a 201o Wall Street Journal report  websites that attract children and teens use cookies and other tracking instruments more than sites aimed at adults. The WSJ studied  50 popular U.S. websites for children and teens. It was discovered that these sites installed 4,123 cookies, beacons, and other tracking tools on the simulated child’s computer used for the test.  That is 30% higher than tools used to track adults. 

According to Common Sense Media and the Center for Digital Democracy over 90% of adults surveyed did not believe it was okay for advertisers to collect information about a child’s location from that child’s mobile phone.

Just a year ago the Federal Trade Commission released new and tougher rules designed to limit tracking of children online. The new rules stopped the collection of  personal information for children under 13.  The FTC rules also banned tracking a child’s physical location and the collection of  photos, videos and audio files. Also banned was behavioral advertising aimed at children without parental notice and re-targeting of ads based on the child’s browser history.

After the release of the new rules in 2013 Jeffrey Chester of the Centre for Digital Democracy said, “This is an important victory for privacy rights on the Internet.” The Centre for Digital Democracy spent four years lobbying for the new rules.

“There is no more secret tracking or behavioral tracking,” Chester says.

The 2013 rule changes were applauded by many public health and consumer and digital rights groups. Also endorsing the new rules were the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The current Senate bill was introduced in November of 2013

Breaking It Down

First of all let me say this to black parents; don’t let a computer or tablet babysit your child! What you just read was that companies have been collecting information about your child and, in a round about way, information about you. If a child answers a simple question such as what school they attend a marketer can quickly discern your income and other data. Did you read the part where  some marketers had collected pictures, location and audio recordings of children? We have to protect our children from the onslaught of marketers who will stop at nothing to advertise to children. Why are they advertising to children? Because the earlier in life a child begins to associate with a product the more likely they will become lifelong customers. Because advertising to children creates demand for products. Because advertising to children creates profiles in data bases in some company’s computers. And those profiles tell the marketer where to advertise to that child now, where as they get older and maybe for the rest of their life. Because children are not old enough to understand the connection between online games and entertainment and product affiliation and thus are being manipulated. Advertisers have no mercy and few scruples. For example, have you noticed how many new fruit flavored beers and liquors are being advertised? These people are advertising to teens! Get them associated with some new apple flavored ale early and they will be customers for life. Clothes, cars, fast food, alcohol, technology, whatever it is . The marketers job is to get into your child’s head early.



Supreme Court Says No to Cellphone Searches

US Supreme CourtIf you remember my previous article on this subject the question was “can police search a cell phone of person under arrest without a warrant?” And the answer came today in a unanimous decision;  the Supreme Court says no to cell phone searches!

The Supreme Court issued a sweeping defense of digital privacy in a landmark ruling Wednesday. The decision blocs law enforcement officials from searching cell phones without a warrant.  The only exception the Court made was in cases of extreme danger such as a child abduction or the threat of a terrorist attack. 

Chief Justice John Roberts laid out digital age privacy protections stating “more substantial privacy interests are at stake when digital data is involved” than in the past, in part because a cell phone collects “in one place many distinct types of information that reveal much more in combination than any isolated record.” 

Breaking It Down

So now we know. Black people have to follow these things because we have a checkered relationship with police. We know now that a police officer cannot arbitrarily examine our cell phone without a warrant. The laws says that the police can only search the immediate area to protect themselves. But keep in mind that a police officer can seize property as evidence while he awaits a search warrant.

But this decision fails in some areas. What about a a cell phone used in a crime that no one owns? Pay as you go cellphones have been used in drug dealing for years with no traceable ownership. If a phone is found at a crime scene and no one claims it; is a warrant needed? The next thing we need to consider is that cellphones can be wiped clean remotely. The question is what are the police doing about the potential for the electronic destruction of evidence? A smart criminal knows this so he maybe ready in case the police seize the phone. The final question is why did Justice designate extreme danger as child abduction only? Why not designate any situation where a life is in danger? There is  a lot of holes in this decision that will be hashed out as the courts see fit. Besides the Supreme Court has never been big on details.

But back to impact on the black community. The Justice is saying that so much information is collected and stored on a cell phone that searching it without a specific purpose is against the law. A search warrant declares exactly what will be searched and what the police expect to find.  That standard now applies to cellphones. The police have to tell a judge what they are searching for and why. It pays to know your rights. Understand police powers in the event you find yourself in a situation. Cellphones, computers and data is the new frontier in crime fighting and the cops have to play by the rules as do you and I.


Game Changer; Florida Court Rules On Settlement for Data Loss


In a precedent setting case a Florida Court has approved a settlement against Avmed  for a data loss.The decision was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th District of Florida.

AvMed, a health insurer, had two laptop c0mputers stolen in 2009 that contained the names and personal health information of as many as 1.2 million of its customers. But only 460,000 will receive payments. The information was not encrypted. None of the consumer/plaintiffs suffered identity theft or any other direct losses. However they blamed AvMed for breach of contract and fiduciary duty, negligence and unjust enrichment. 

Courts do not normally side with the consumer in data breach cases. Most rulings have been decided on the fact that, although information was lost, no direct harm came to the consumer. At least none that could be proven and the court would not rule on future damages.  This was the first case where the plaintiffs won without evidence of actual loss.  The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida originally dismissed the case.  The case was appealed and the plaintiffs won that appeal. AvMed’s second attempt at a dismissal failed forcing the $3 million settlement. Other requirement of the settlement are;

  • Mandatory security awareness and training programs for all company employees;
  • Mandatory training on appropriate laptop use and security for all company employees whose employment responsibilities include accessing information stored on company laptop computers;
  • Upgrading of all company laptop computers with additional security mechanisms, including GPS tracking technology;
  • New password protocols and full disk encryption technology on all company desktops and laptops so that electronic data stored on such devices would be encrypted at rest;
  • Physical security upgrades at company facilities and offices to further safeguard workstations from theft;
  • Review and revision of written policies and procedures to enhance information security.

This ruling is a clear precedent for future data breach cases. The decision sends the message that customers’ expect companies to protect their information and invest in data security.

Breaking It Down!

How many black people have lost data? Do you shop at Target?  How about Sally Beauty Supply? Then you have. Here is where the game changes people. If you get a letter in the mail saying someone you do business with has suffered a data breach and your information was compromised; you have a case. Get a lawyer! This decision means that precedent has been set and believe me a lot of companies will take notice. In the past they would offer you credit monitoring. Let me tell you, credit monitoring is nothing! Now a court has agreed with the consumer that data breaches have become intolerable. The key to this decision, and why it is so important, is no evidence of loss was present. In the past you had to prove some damage. This settlement has changed that.

The Florida Court of appeals has changed the legal landscape and the lawyers will be all over the next major data breach. Or any data breach. Companies that suffer data breaches will begin bleed cash and they know it. OK, $3 million isn’t much but no no company wants to be next to face a court after this decision. The courts have to consider the legal precedent set here. You, as a consumer, need to get in on the next class action lawsuit that involves a data breach. It’s money that these corporations understand and if they have to pay you when they lose data then maybe things will change. Go get ’em!