Archive for July 24th, 2015


Constitutional malware

July 24, 2015

Paul sends a link to an interesting paper by Jonathan Mayer which appears at Social Science Research Network.

The United States government hacks computer systems, for law enforcement purposes. According to public disclosures, both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration are increasingly resorting to computer intrusions as an investigative technique. This article provides the first comprehensive examination of how the Constitution should regulate government malware.

When applied to computer systems, the Fourth Amendment safeguards two independent values: the integrity of a device as against government breach, and the privacy properties of data contained in a device. Courts have not yet conceptualized how these theories of privacy should be reconciled.

Government malware forces a constitutional privacy reckoning. Investigators can algorithmically constrain the information that they retrieve from a hacked device, ensuring they receive only data that is — in isolation — constitutionally unprotected. According to declassified documents, FBI officials have theorized that the Fourth Amendment does not apply in this scenario. A substantially better view of the law, I conclude, is that the Fourth Amendment’s dual protections are cumulative, not mutually exclusive.

Applying this two-stage framework, I find that the Fourth Amendment imposes a warrant requirement on almost all law enforcement malware. The warrant must be valid throughout the duration of the malware’s operation, and must provide reasonable ex post notice to a computer’s owner. In certain technical configurations, the Constitution goes even further, requiring law enforcement to satisfy an exacting “super-warrant” standard. Reviewing public disclosures, I find that the government has a spotty record of compliance with these foundational privacy safeguards.


We can do without the knee-jerk outrage

July 24, 2015

From all the politicians reacting to Donald Trump’s idiotic remarks about immigrants. (May Trump emigrate to some place looking for a Fearless Leader. Please.)

Here’s an interesting article at FEE about a study of crime rates among immigrants by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

By the Numbers: Does Immigration Cause Crime?
The preponderance of research shows no effect

The alleged murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has reignited the debate over the link between immigration and crime. Such debates often call for change in policy regarding the deportation or apprehension of illegal immigrants.

However, if policies should change, it should not be in reaction to a single tragic murder. It should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost the US crime rates.

With few exceptions, immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates. As described below, the research is fairly one-sided.

(Via Coyoteblog)

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial in a similar vein. I don’t know whether it cites the same study as the FEE article snce I’m not a subscriber.

Regular readers will recall that I think our immigration laws are too restrictive, not too lax. And in that vein, here’s a little visual snark:


I can just imagine some 19th century Donald-Trump-like-idiot going on about my Irish great-great-grandfather.

(And for that matter, where the hell did Trump’s forebears immigrate from?)

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