Record A Teacher Bullying A Student? That's A Suspension

van TechDirt - 1 uur 51 min geleden
Is a public school classroom a private space? That seems to be the assertion of school administrators after an 11-year-old student recorded a teacher bullying a student. A St. Lucie County teacher has been fired after a student used her cellphone to record a teacher bullying another student.

The Samuel Gaines Academy student, 11-year-old- Brianna Cooper, is being praised by her peers. But, she's still facing punishment from school leaders for recording the audio illegally.

WPTV legal expert Michelle Suskauer says it is illegal in Florida to record anyone without them knowing. Florida's two-party consent/wiretapping law is outdated and likely unconstitutional, but for now it stands. It also provides an exception for recording oral communications where the person speaking would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

A classroom, in a public school, would seem to be a place where no one would have an expectation of privacy. Administrators certainly go to lengths to assure their students that nothing they do while at the school is afforded any sort of expectation of privacy, what with random locker/vehicle/cell phone searches and monitoring of computer use. So, why would a teacher be granted an expectation of privacy for something said in a classroom?

Well, it's not so much Florida's law implicated here as much as it is the district's policy on personal devices, even though the school allegedly referred to the recording as "illegal." According to the policy, "wireless communication devices" may not be used to record anything on school grounds. Inappropriate use includes, but is not limited to: (1) activation, display, manipulation, or inappropriate storage during prohibited times; (2) texting, phoning, or web browsing during prohibited times; (3) taping conversations, music, or other audio at any time; (4) photography or videography of any kind; and (5) any activity that could in any manner infringe upon the rights of other individuals, including but not limited to students, teachers, and staff members. Now, using this policy to suspend a student who exposed teacher misconduct is just pure tone-deafness, which explains the district's decision to quickly reverse the suspension. Not only that, but this "violation" doesn't even carry with it the penalty of suspension. Any disruptive, harassing, or other inappropriate use of a wireless communications device while under the School Board’s jurisdiction, shall be cause for disciplinary action under this heading, including confiscation of the device as contraband and, in the event of repeated or serious misuse, loss of the privilege to possess such a device on school property or while attending a school function. So, the suspension makes even less sense than it would otherwise, given the school's actual policy on cell phone use -- something it seems to have (briefly) ignored in favor of deterring a student from exposing staff misconduct.

But there's still a link to Florida's outdated wiretapping law contained in the school policies. This sentence wraps up the paragraph on inappropriate use of cell phones. The use of a wireless communications device shall be cause for disciplinary action and/or criminal penalties if the device is used in a criminal act. At which point, we're back to the question of privacy expectations. Certainly, most schools are quick to cite privacy laws when dealing with the release of student information. Anything to do with minors is inherently more sensitive than that of adults. Not that privacy concerns prevent schools from being as invasive as possible when dealing with their students, requiring signatures on policies that allow administrators to search students' devices, lockers and vehicles for nearly any reason, as well as the offering of waivers to use photos and student information in news stories and school-produced materials.

But this school also forbids the recording of anything while on campus, even with a personal cell phone, granting an expectation of privacy that doesn't actually exist under Florida law. Public schools are public and words uttered by educators and administrators in classrooms and assemblies (any place where it's not "one-on-one") are very much "public" by definition. Florida's wiretapping law shouldn't apply. Unfortunately, school policies take precedent in situations like these, and this district has pretty much assured that the bullying that schools seem so concerned about will only be handled with hearsay, as any recording evidence to back up allegations is forbidden.

Kudos to the school for quickly realizing suspending the student was the wrong way to handle this, but the policies it forces students to follow are just going to make it harder for administrators to deal with misbehaving students and teachers.

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[NyTimes] The French Surveillance State

van La Quadrature du Net - 2 uur 8 min geleden

Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France has presented yet another antiterrorism bill to Parliament. French lawmakers, who overwhelmingly approved a sweeping antiterrorism bill in September, are scheduled to debate the new bill this month. Mr. Valls argues that the bill’s sweeping new provisions for government surveillance are necessary to monitor potential terrorist-related activity, especially on the Internet and cellphones. […]

Rights groups have warned that the bill, which includes the risk of “collective violence” and “the defense of foreign policy interests” among potential reasons for government surveillance, is too vague in defining who is a legitimate target. The bill also concentrates extraordinary power in the office of the prime minister by giving it, rather than judges, control over the approval process for surveillance requests from intelligence agencies. Parliament must restore judicial oversight to these decisions that touch the core rights and freedoms of French citizens. […]

The French are understandably jittery after the Paris and Tunis attacks, and they are alarmed by the radicalization of some in France who have fallen prey to jihadist recruitment on the Internet. There is no doubt that the French government has a duty to protect the nation from terrorist violence and jihadist recruitment. But Parliament has a duty to protect citizens’ democratic rights from unduly expansive and intrusive government surveillance. French lawmakers should not approve the bill unless judges are given a proper role in authorizing government surveillance, vague definitions of what constitutes a terrorist threat are struck from the bill and freedom of the press is protected.


Categorieën: Technieuws

[Ticker] Mexico backs off airline sanction threat on PNR

van EU Observer - 2 uur 52 min geleden
Mexico has backed off its 1 April deadline for EU-based airline carriers to transfer passenger name record (PNR) details or face $30,000 fines for each flight to the country. Mexican tax authorities in a statement on Tuesday said the new deadline is 1 July to allow for EU-level negotiations.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Following Canada's Bad Example, Now UK Wants To Muzzle Scientists And Their Inconvenient Truths

van TechDirt - 4 uur 57 min geleden
Techdirt has been following for a while Canada's moves to stop scientists from speaking out about areas where the facts of the situation don't sit well with the Canadian government's dogma-based policies. Sadly, it looks like the UK is taking the same route. It concerns a new code for the country's civil servants, which will also apply to thousands of publicly-funded scientists. As the Guardian reports: Under the new code, scientists and engineers employed at government expense must get ministerial approval before they can talk to the media about any of their research, whether it involves GM crops, flu vaccines, the impact of pesticides on bees, or the famously obscure Higgs boson. The fear -- quite naturally -- is that ministers could take days before replying to requests, by which time news outlets will probably have lost interest. As a result of this change, science organizations have sent a letter to the UK government, expressing their "deep concern" about the code. A well-known British neurobiologist, Sir Colin Blakemore, told the Guardian: "The real losers here are the public and the government. The public lose access to what they consider to be an important source of scientific evidence, and the government loses the trust of the public," Blakemore said. Not only that, by following Canada's example, the British government also makes it more likely that other countries will do the same, which will weaken science's ability to participate in policy discussions around the world -- just when we need to hear its voice most.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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ECB watchdog to open first investigations

van EU Observer - 5 uur 34 min geleden
The ECB’s new banking watchdog is launching its first investigations into the actions of the EU’s largest lenders.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Facebook tracking said to breach EU law

van EU Observer - 5 uur 41 min geleden
Facebook is tracking users, both on and offline, contravening EU privacy rules, according to a report.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Nieuwe consumentenwet wordt ingetrokken!

van ICT recht - 5 uur 54 min geleden

De nieuwe consumentenwet heeft het afgelopen jaar de nodige stof doen opwaaien. Ter bescherming van de consument en om een gelijkwaardige Europese e-commerce markt te creëren, vond de Europese wetgever het een goed idee om de online consumentenrechten te harmoniseren. Maar daar komt de wetgever nu op terug.

Sinds juni van afgelopen jaar hebben Europese lidstaten wetgeving doorgevoerd die online winkeliers verplicht om hun bestelknop aan te passen. Consumenten moeten gewezen worden op het feit dat ze bij het plaatsen van een online bestelling ook echt moeten gaan betalen. Een welkome toevoeging voor de consument, of een conversiekiller? Wij zijn er nog niet over uit.

In al haar wijsheid heeft de Europese wetgever ook besloten dat het verplicht is om aan de consument een modelformulier aan te bieden. Een formulier waarmee de consument zijn eenmaal geplaatste bestelling gemakkelijk kan herroepen. Dat het formulier een vervelende bijkomstigheid is naast de al prima ingerichte retourprocedures van webwinkels is een kleinigheidje, zo moet de wetgever gedacht hebben.

De nieuwe wet gaat ook met z’n tijd mee. Er zijn bepalingen opgenomen over digitale inhoud, zoals streamingdiensten en e-books. Het zou vreemd zijn dat deze diensten door de consument afgenomen kunnen worden en na 14 dagen teruggestuurd kunnen worden. Daarom zijn deze diensten uitgezonderd van het retourrecht, maar daar moet de consument wel expliciet mee instemmen.

Nu de wet bijna een jaar van kracht is, heeft de Europese wetgever de tijd genomen om de maatregelen te evalueren. De uitkomst is op z’n zachts gezegd verrassend te noemen. Europese commissaris Günther H. Oettinger stelt:

De door ons beoogde effecten die de maatregelen te weeg hadden moeten brengen blijven uit. We zien weinig harmonisatie en grensoverschrijdende economische activiteiten. Daarnaast zijn wij ook niet doof voor de geluiden uit de markt en hebben wij gemerkt dat de veranderingen meer problemen dan oplossingen veroorzaken.

Verder stelt hij:

Daarom werken wij aan een voorstel om de ingevoerde maatregelen terug te draaien. De verwachting is dat dit voorstel over twee maanden gepresenteerd gaat worden.

Kortom: de nieuwe wet gaat op de schop. Uiteraard houden wij u op de hoogte van deze nieuwe ontwikkelingen.


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Categorieën: Technieuws

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[Ticker] Eurozone deflation eases

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Flickr Now Officially Supports Public Domain Dedications

van TechDirt - 9 uur 45 sec geleden
As we had noted in our story about Elon Musk declaring all SpaceX photos public domain, Flickr (where most of those photos were hosted) did not allow an official public domain dedication. And while it offered Creative Commons licenses, the CC0 public domain dedication was not among the options. Flickr is not the only site like that -- many sites that offer CC licensing don't include a CC0 option. Last week, there was an interesting piece by Jessamyn West exploring why it was that Flickr chose not to offer a public domain option. She found an old forum post by Flickr founder (and now Slack founder/CEO) Stewart Butterfield, where he explained the reasoning as such: The reasons we don’t have a PD option: (i) Unlike CC licenses, you can’t take PD back — once it is done, it is done. I spec’d out a three stage confirmation (including typing out that you understand what it means) but this was seemed like too much and we didn’t want the support hassle. People are free to use the description field to specify their PD desires. (ii) There are liabilities that we don’t want to take on if we allow people to claim something is public domain without actual checking the chain of title — if they don’t own it in the first place, we can get in trouble. (This is also true of CC images, but at least that can be changed after the fact and there is less of a chance of the image just “escaping” in the wild.) Of course, those reasons really don't make that much sense in reality. You can't really take back CC licenses either. The very first thing that Creative Commons tells potential licensors is that the licenses are not revocable. Once you grant a CC license, it stays that way.

Thankfully, the Yahoo folks who are currently running Flickr realized that this was an opportunity -- and have now announced that it has added both "public domain" listings and a CC0 dedication as options when uploading images:

We’ve been proud to support Creative Commons licenses since 2004, and we’ve become an important repository of U.S. Government works and historic images from galleries, libraries, archives, and museums around the world (check out The Flickr Commons for examples).

But we’ve heard from our community that we’re missing two important designations: Public Domain and Creative Commons 0 (CC0). Many members of our community want to be able to upload images that are no longer protected by copyright and correctly tag them as being in the Public Domain, or they want to release their copyright entirely under CC0.

So, starting today we’re happy to support these two new options. One of the first accounts on Flickr to change its designation was SpaceX, which has uploaded more than a hundred gorgeous images of its launches. These extraordinary photos are now available for others to freely use, enhance, and promulgate without restriction under copyright law.

This is a great move -- and we're thrilled to see Flickr take such a stand (even if it should have happened years ago). Hopefully other platforms will follow suit.

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DailyDirt: Higher Education, Not So High-Minded Anymore?

van TechDirt - 13 uur 9 min geleden
Going to college used to be a reliable education path to a well-paying career -- as well as a way to create a society of engaged and informed citizens. The workforce has changed a bit over the last few decades, and college degrees aren't necessarily the best indicators of employee performance anymore. Sure, everyone still needs an education, but being able to learn on your own and pick up skills years after you've been handed a diploma are far more important than where that diploma was printed. Considering that student loans are rarely ever forgiven, people might want to choose their institution of higher learning with a bit more deliberation. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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Subway, McDonald's And Burger King Sued Over GPS Tracking Patent... Or Something

van TechDirt - 14 uur 22 min geleden

GPS technology has been around for a while. Wikipedia puts the start of development at 1973. But it wasn't until the 1990s that it became available for consumer use. And even then, it took some time before the government removed restrictions on accuracy that it had on its use by civilians. (The government had added an intentional error to the signal that made GPS variably inaccurate up to 50 meters.)

With the loosening of restrictions on GPS came furious development in consumer applications—and a flurry of patents.

Which brings us to this month's Stupid Patent of the Month. The dubious honor goes to U.S. Patent No. 6,442,485, "Method and apparatus for an automatic vehicle location, collision notification, and synthetic voice," filed in 1999. The "Background of the Invention" talks about a need for an automatic voice system that could speak for a driver involved in a collision and transmit location details to 911. For example, the patent says that "[i]t would be desirable to have an automatic vehicle location and collision notification system that would ascertain if a vehicular collision had occurred and communicate directly with an emergency facility."

But after this background, the patent devolves into a wilderness of made-up words and technobabble. The patent includes fabricated phrases such as "Location Comparator-Indicator Module" and "Automatic Speed Controlled Location Detection Module." (Google searches of these phrases turns up nothing other than results related to the patent.) Reading the patent to try to figure out what it means becomes an exercise in cross-referencing and guesswork. Even worse, key terms in the claims (this is the part of the patent that is supposed to clearly explain what that patent covers) don't even appear in the description of the purported invention. This means  that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to understand what the claims mean and to guess how a court might interpret them.

This sort of made-up gobbledygook is likely what has allowed NovelPoint Tracking LLP, the owner of this month's Stupid Patent, to sue over 90 companies for infringement. The latest round of lawsuits, filed on March 27, 2015, includes companies such as Subway (the sandwich artists, not a company related to transportation), McDonald's, and Burger King.

And what do these fast food franchises have to do with vehicle location, collisions, and synthetic voices? With respect to Subway, NovelPoint claims that Subway's Windows phone mobile application infringes NovelPoint's patent.

Here's the description of Subway's app from Microsoft's website:

Don't know where to find a local Subway? We're here to help. This app will display a list of local Subway locations along with the ability to get directions and let your friends know where to meet you.

We don't know what, exactly, NovelPoint thinks it owns, but it looks like it is accusing Subway of infringing because it has an app that shows a map with directions. And given the incomprehensibility of its patent, it can get away with this, at least enough to secure a quick settlement and get out before a court rules that no, in fact, it doesn't own a map with directions.

And indeed that is what appears to have happened. Of the almost 100 cases NovelPoint has filed, exactly none of the cases has had a decision on the merits of NovelPoint's claims. From what we can see, all of the cases have settled very quickly, most likely for small nuisance sums.

Patent owners shouldn't be able to get away with this. Patents should be clear and understandable. If new words are used, they should be defined. And if words already exist in the relevant art, they should be used. NovelPoint's patent is a great example of how using fake terms can be used to obfuscate what the patent actually claims, and then used to claim infringement by something no one would have considered the patent owner to have invented. We have laws that should prevent this sort of gaming. The Patent Office and courts need to start actually enforcing them. 

Reposted from the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deeplinks blog

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DOJ Inspector General: ATF, FBI's Drones Worthless, Expensive And Completely Mismanaged

van TechDirt - di, 03/31/2015 - 23:40

The DOJ's most infamous drone deployments involve justifications for extrajudicial killings. But its agencies also have fleets of (nonlethal) drones, something these agencies tend to avoid discussing until sued into doing so.

The Office of the Inspector General has taken another look at the drones deployed by DOJ agencies and found that, while plenty of money has been spent acquiring and maintaining drones/operators, very little deployment is actually occurring. Our September 2013 interim report found that between 2004 and 2013, the FBI spent approximately $3 million to acquire small UAS it deployed to support its investigations. As of August 2014, the FBI had acquired 34 UAS vehicles and associated control stations, of which it considered 17 vehicles and a smaller number of control stations to be operational. $3 million spent on drones, with only half currently considered "operational." In eight years (2006-2014), the drones have only been deployed to assist in 13 investigations, with nine of those occurring in the last four years. This may be good news for those concerned about extensive domestic surveillance, but it's not good news for those interested in how their tax dollars are being spent.

The FBI may have the desire for more unchecked surveillance and the drones needed to do the job, but it apparently lacks the manpower… During the time of our review, the FBI maintained its UAS at one location in the United States and had only one team composed of two pilots on staff who were adequately trained to operate its UAS. ...or Fourth Amendment concerns… The FBI told us that that it determined it did not need to obtain search warrants for any of its UAS operations. That's the nice thing about making your own in-house "determinations": they'll rarely be challenged.

As for the half-functional 34-drone fleet "manned" by the FBI's two pilots, it couldn't be more unlike the agency's earlier assertions. This approach differs from the decentralized deployment approach that FBI officials told us they employ for the FBI’s manned aircraft. If you're wondering where more of your tax dollars are being misspent, it's right there in the following paragraphs. Because the FBI has only two drone pilots, these operators are driven or flown to locations where the drones are needed, sometimes arriving more than a day after the request for assistance was made. The FBI, despite being a national law enforcement agency, houses both its pilots and its drones at the same location.

Considering the FBI claims the drones have been used in potentially life-threatening situations (search-and-rescue efforts, suspected kidnappings), spending a day shipping drones and pilots where needed seems like the sort of thing that would result in unnecessary deaths/injuries. In response, the OIG has asked the FBI to handle its drone fleet less stupidly.

The ATF also has a few drones of its own. (The US Marshals Service and DEA were queried by the OIG, but both claimed to have no drones in their possession, which is true, but misleading. [More on that below.]) And, like the FBI, the drones are expensive, underutilized and, far too often, not worth the money that's been spent on them. One UAS program manager told us ATF found that one of its smaller UAS models, which cost nearly $90,000, was too difficult to use reliably in operations. Furthermore, the TOB discovered that a gas-powered UAS model, which cost approximately $315,000 and was specified to fly for up to 2 hours, was never operable due to multiple technical defects. The lack of functioning flying eyeballs resulted in the Special Operations Division shutting down the ATF's drone fleet in June 2014. Those drones were transferred to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service "at no cost" -- a fair price for non-functioning drones. With its drones and drone program dead, the ATF did the logical thing: bought more drones. Less than a week after ATF’s Special Operations Division suspended its UAS program, ATF’s National Response Team (NRT) purchased five small, commercially available UAS at a total cost of about $15,000. These new drones were deployed exactly once. At that point, the ATF determined it would need to permission from the FAA before deploying its drones in the future. With that, the ATF's drone program returned to its briefly interrupted hibernation.

For those agencies claiming they have no drones (US Marshals Service, DEA), that's only true if limited to direct ownership. Every major DOJ agency has availed itself to the DHS's fleet of drones, a majority of which belong to the CBP. Specifically, four DOJ law enforcement components – the FBI, ATF, DEA, and USMS – have received UAS support from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which operates a fleet of Predator-B UAS. In response to our request, the CBP provided to us evidence indicating it operated UAS at least 95 times on missions that involved DOJ components in some way. Of these flights, the CBP identified that DEA was involved in 73, the FBI in 13, ATF in 4, the USMS in 3, and 2 for multiple DOJ components. So, when the DEA says it has no drones, it's technically correct. But the drones it doesn't own have flown more times than the 34 drones the FBI actually owns. The CBP's drone fleet seems to have enough drones for everyone, and this division of labor (so to speak) allows the DEA and other DOJ agencies to minimize their drone paper trails. But more drones doesn't mean useful drones. The CBP's drone fleet may perform well in other agencies' hands, but it's next to useless when deployed by Customs itself.

While the investigation generally points to limited drone usage -- which is a good thing -- the discovery that the DOJ's drone fleets are expensive, mismanaged and almost completely worthless isn't.

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