Friday, February 21, 2014

Mug shot bills in Minn Legislature are overkill

Next week in the Minnesota House Civil Law Committee there will be a hearing to put restraints and barriers for public access to "mugshots" (public data).  Two bills have been introduced, one by Representative Norton, the other by Representative Myhra.  The purpose of both bills based on discussion with them is to keep people who have booking photos taken of them from being extorted by others who have online websites.

Based on my review of their bills I think both of them are "overkill."  Over the years there's been discussion of public access to the "booking photo" the respectable name for "mugshot."  It has always been decided they should be public for a number of reasons.  There was clarification of our law a decade or so ago.  But mugshots have always been public, generally for decades.

What's the "real" problem?  It's law enforcement agencies known as the Sheriff who runs the jails in Minnesota and puts the "booked" on their websites, then the entrepreneur does "copy, cut, and paste" the photos and now has their own rogues gallery.  Then the bad behavior begins, extortion.

So what's the easy solution, right away?  Do not allow the Sheriff's of Minnesota to put online the decent or indecent photos.  Who's responsible for the people that complained to their Representatives to generate these bills?  Minnesota's own law enforcement agencies, more than likely.

The mug shot is a document that brings transparency, accountability, and scrutiny to make sure there are no such things as secret arrests.  The public must have easy and unblocked access to this public data that documents a power which very few institutions have: to arrest, detain, and hold individuals. It is important that the public have no barriers to scrutinize fully the arrest process.

There should be no special privileges or double standard between the media interests and the public who should have equal access to the data.

There can be easy solutions that allow open access.  To start is not allow Minnesota law enforcement to put mugshots online, wholesale, remember the photos are still public, but just not online.  The proposed bills currently in the Legislature do not meet the standards that Minnesotans should strive for.  There are other alternatives.  One can be do nothing.

An example of  "copy, cut and paste" from two Minnesota counties, Dakota and Renville.  They come with names, but not interested to post.



Monday, February 3, 2014

Cellphone searches, is your 4th Amendment rights compromised?

At the center of discussion across the nation on rights of privacy is a little tool which more than 90 percent of Americans have: the cell phone, smart phone or variation of (personal device).

Why the crucial tool is a central point of discussion, other than a great way to keep track of you, is the enormous amount of data it can collect and holds on you and the ease government can get access to it. To give you perspective, just think of the personal data you have in your desk drawers and cabinets.  Some of it more than likely can be carried in your "personal device".  Also technology is increasing the amount of data you can store on your personal device.  Those files and data would have 4th Amendment protection and would be off limits if they were in your home.  Government would need a search warrant.  But do cops need a warrant if your records and data are in your "personal device"?

In a number of data requests I have done with law enforcement agencies it is not clear.  Some agencies require a search warrant.  Other law enforcement agencies may be doing a search of your smart phone (personal device) based on an exception to the 4th Amendment which the US Supreme Court has allowed.

The "exception" happens when you are arrested, the Supreme Court has held the person and the area squarely around that individual can be searched, that also includes containers in the person's control.

Hence, juxtaposition of technology and the challenge to our privacy and liberty rights......the "cell phone extraction device".  What a "cell phone extraction device" is easily explained in an article named:  "The gadgets police use to snarf cell phone data"

I asked in my data requests whether or not the law agencies had this new tech tool. These devices can be hooked to smartphones/iphones, ie and retrieve phone numbers, text messages, call history, photos, calendars, and documents, etc,.  Many of the urban law enforcement agencies have either one or up to three of these type of devices. These tech tools are inexpensive ranging from $5000 to $20,000.  One of the biggest providers of these type of devices is a company called Cellebrite.

So who is to make sure that our liberty and privacy rights are not being violated or compromised?  The Legislature, the Courts, or you.  I would suggest you.  Start asking your local Sheriff and Police Chief about their policies and whether or not they use a search warrant when they use this "extraction device" and when they use the "exception".

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Caucuses, Education Minn, the Gov and privacy

I went to my first precinct caucuses in 1972 under the umbrella of the "Peace Coalition" represented by a white dove.  I still remember the bumper sticker. The main purpose of the group was to stop our involvement in Vietnam.  Even though "vietnamization" was in swing with US ground troops down from their high in 1969, there was still our heavy use of air power and a fair amount of troops still in Southeast Asia.

Ever since then I have gone on to many state and district conventions.  I encourage "all" people to attend the caucuses of their choice.  It is fun and you can make a difference, particularly on those issue resolutions.

With encouragement by many elected officials and organizations for young people to attend the events next Tuesday night, I ran across an announcement that surprised me.

It was an announcement by Education Minnesota to motivate social studies teachers to encourage young people to attend the precinct caucuses of their choice.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Civic education and involvement should always be emboldened.  But what caught my attention was the involvement of Governor Mark Dayton in what is described as the, "Student Caucus Turnout Challenge".  The crux of the challenge is to have Governor Dayton attend the social studies class that has the most students attend the caucuses and there will be a drawing for one classroom if there is a tie.

But when the activity sinks in to me, several insights come into plain view.  One, it appears the challenge is primarily only for public schools, granted there could be some Education Minnesota members in non-public schools, but may not be as many as in public schools.  I do not think there is less interest to attend caucuses between public and non-public schools.  Secondly, the office of Governor is being used to foster civic involvement which is great, but seems primarily to public schools, why not others?

I have been a big promoter of civic education and involvement for decades from instructing students in Washington DC to talking with young people at the State Capitol in a non-partisan way to all people.  Did Education Minnesota take a broader approach to be inclusive rather than be exclusive?  If not, why not?

By the way, when the poll is taken the next day per the Education Minnesota flyer as to who went to their precinct caucuses it should be done in a way to respect the freedom of association, it is an important element of privacy and liberty.
Student Caucus Turnout Challenge
Student Caucus Turnout Challenge