Articles Tagged with privacy

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331490_big_brotherAccess to opinions and codes is of particular interest to the bloggers at Justia. We complain mightily about private citation formats, paywalls to codes and caselaw online, privatization of court services and filings, and the government’s overall failure to provide us with official, free access to the public record. Last week’s news about the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act, however, highlights an altogether different problem of access to the law: secret, sealed court opinions from the nation’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court. This body of law is not available for free or for purchase. It is sealed and hidden from the American people.

There is plenty of news coverage about the Act, and plenty of opinions online about the threat it poses to the freedom and privacy of Americans and non-Americans here and abroad. I’d like to highlight the problem of access to the output of the FISA Courts, and why we are still in the dark about their decisions – decisions that are legally binding precedent but that we know nothing about.


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Yesterday, Google was named in a class action lawsuit by a plaintiff identified only as “A.K., as next friend of minor child J.K.” Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, the lawsuit alleges that Google has violated (and continues to violate) the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (the “Act”) and various state privacy laws by its “intentional and willful interception, scanning, and use of” emails sent to and from J.K., a minor child.

The plaintiff claims to represent similarly situated minor children in the state of Illinois and alleges, among other things, that Google’s Gmail product violates federal and state law. Section 2511 of the Act makes punishable anyone who “intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication.”

This is not the first time Google has been sued for Gmail’s use of email scanning to deliver personalized ads. In November 2010, Keith Dunbar filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas alleging the same violations. The case was transferred in June 2012 to Judge Lucy Koh on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and is still in discovery at the time of writing.


Posted in: Google, Legal News, Privacy

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The European Union (EU) is expected to announce legal action against Google for allegedly violating EU law by failing to give users a choice to opt out its new privacy policy, according to The Guardian.

The French data commissioner, known as the ‘CNIL’ or Article 29 Working Party that has authority concerning protection of individual personal data, is anticipated to require that Google undo its recent privacy policy changes. The effect could be far-reaching, not only in Europe, but worldwide as governments scrutinize Internet privacy policies and their impact on users.


Posted in: Legal News, Privacy

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On Wednesday, New York City unveiled a new surveillance system powered by Microsoft that would provide near-real-time analysis of camera footage across the city. In its press release, the City boasts that the system features “the latest crime prevention and counterterrorism technology.” The security-minded among us may cheer this development as providing heightened protections against terrorism and other planned acts of violence, but for those of us who are more interested in privacy, this announcement reeks of “Big Brother.”


Posted in: Privacy, Technology

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Several privacy lawsuits against Google, Inc. have been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware following a ruling by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). In In Re: Google Inc. Cookie Placement Consumer Privacy Litigation, the JPML found that “eight actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the District of Delaware will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.” In a footnote, the JPML also acknowledged the presence of twelve other related actions that may also be consolidated for adjudication. In total, there are at the time of writing 16 cases consolidated in this action.


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Yahoo! Mail user Albert Rudgayzer sued the Silicon Valley web portal yesterday, charging that Yahoo’s revelation of users first and last names when they send email violates the portal’s own Terms of Service (‘TOS’), constituting a breach of contract. He seeks relief under federal and California state law.

Rudgayzer, a New York lawyer, alleges that he began using Yahoo email around October 2011. He filed the lawsuit in a pro se capacity in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (read the lawsuit below).


Tagged: email, privacy, TOS, Yahoo

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Last week, Netflix announced some big changes in their structure and offerings. First, they will split into two companies: one for streaming and one for physical DVD rental. Second, Netflix subscribers will be able to share and discuss their rentals through Facebook. The Netflix blog reports: “The Netflix/Facebook integration empowers you as a Netflix member to share what you watch from Netflix with your friends on Facebook and to discover what your friends are watching both on Facebook and within the Netflix user interface. This makes it easier and more fun to find new television series and movies to watch.” Michael Drobac, Director of Government Relations at Netflix, has a caveat, however. This access will be limited to users outside of the US due to a “1980s law that creates some confusion over our ability to allow U.S. members to share what they watch.” Since Netflix didn’t cite the code or link to which “1980’s law” they are referring to, I thought it might be useful to post about it. Mr. Drobac is talking about  18 USC § 2710, “Wrongful Disclosure of Video Tape Rental or Sale Records.” This law authorizes civil penalties for release of consumer rentals or sales without informed consent of the renter or a court order.


Posted in: Laws, Privacy

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Update: In a post  I wrote on collaborative democracy back in April, I mentioned that our friend Mary Minow had recently traveled to Sacramento to voice her support for California Senate Bill (“SB”) 445. The Bill, which increases privacy protections for library patrons by amending the California Public Records Act, was Mary’s idea and one which she submitted as a part of a “There Oughta be a Law” contest.  As a contest winner, Mary’s bill was introduced by California State Senator Joe Simitian in Feburary, 2011. I’m happy to report that SB 445 was signed into law by Governor Brown a few weeks ago.

Way to go Mary!


Posted in: Laws, Privacy

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The Supreme Court has handed down opinions in some of the cases that we blogged about back in October. Here are the updates.

FCC v. ATT

Back in October, I wondered whether this case would add to the growing list of personal rights for corporations. The short answer is no. The Court held that corporations are not entitled to a “personal privacy” exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. 5 U. S. C. §552(b)(7)(C).


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The Justia Dockets & Filings website offers attorneys, journalists, litigants, and legal researchers a simple tool for discovering and tracking litigation in the various federal courts. I find the website to be absolutely indispensable for tracking who is suing and who is being sued.

For example, I subscribe to the following RSS feeds to track lawsuits involving technology companies, such as Google, Facebook and Apple. You will find a routine stream of complaints over privacy, patents and petty consumer grievances. For the latter group, I sometimes wonder about the plaintiffs who cannot resolve minor disputes without resorting to a federal class action. In this day and age of increasing transparency in the legal system, are these plaintiffs giving sufficient forethought to how a potential future employer may view their degree of litigiousness over seemingly trivial disputes?


Posted in: Legal Research, Privacy