Finding Location… Giving Location

60962456Think your cell phone location is private? Think again…

Privacy advocates took a major blow this week with a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals 12-3 ruling on cell phone location data. The decision out of Virginia upheld that consumers have “no reasonable expectation of privacy” because the information is ‘willingly given’. In other words, because you ‘agree’ to use your location in cell phone services and apps, that information can be collected and used without a warrant.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects personal privacy and the right to be free from ‘unreasonable government intrusion’ into their persons, homes, businesses, and property. The “search and seizure” protections require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant from the court to so intrude, with an exception – the “third-party doctrine”.

Under this legal theory, consumers who knowingly and willingly surrender information to third-parties have “no reasonable expectation of privacy” in the information provided – regardless of how much information there is, or how revealing it may be. Research clearly shows that cell-site location data collected over time can reveal significant personal information — including where you live, where you work, when you travel, who you meet with, and who you sleep with. So when do you willingly surrender that data? … More often than you think.

Unfortunately, technological growth outpaces the law. As our society becomes more and more dependent on the technology we use, and we grow more numb and complacent to the services required for that use, an increasing burden is placed on our legal system to keep up and evolve. In the meantime, consumers must remain vigilant in understanding what rights and protections they sign away for the conveniences provided.


Prayer at the 50-Yard Line: Praise Be…. Satan?

The “Free Exercise Clause” – Literally

Foosball Is the Devil

A Seattle football team may soon be visited by Satanic rituals on the game field… Yes, really… Why?? In demonstration against the coach’s refusal to stop forcing Christian prayers at the 50-yard line.

The “Free Exercise” Clause (coincidentally punderful) is a Constitutional mandate. Interpreted by Jefferson himself to mean the “separation of church and state”, this provision keeps religion out of governmental activities. But what does it really mean? And where do you draw the line between a Hail Mary, and a “Hail Mary pass” on the football field?

Our Founding Fathers believed in a secular government – one where religious doctrine didn’t mingle with our government (like the Papacy and political structure in Ye’ Olde England so fervently left behind). To enforce that belief, the Constitution (Article VI) was drafted to create a divide between the two. Although the text itself specifically addresses political office, Jefferson eloquently elaborated on its meaning in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Beautiful, ain’t it? I’d like to see any politician write something half as eloquent today.

For Joe Kennedy, the coach of a Seattle public high school football team, the Constitution has no connection with his game day prayers at the 50-yard line. Why? Because the games are “after school”… Never mind that everything is held on school grounds, with school students, who convene in and use the school locker rooms – Kennedy claimed he is at that point no longer a public school employee bound by this. The superintendent nevertheless told him that the prayers must stop, “so as to avoid alienation of any team member,” and to avoid breaking the law.

Kennedy, of course, didn’t. His lawyers got involved, and the matter continues. But that’s not what’s really interesting about this case… No, no. It’s the response of Lilith Starr – head of The Satanic Temple of Seattle.

It began with a general offer of mockery and mischief – Satanic services can be provided at the request of any team member. It continued with an actual request by Bremerton High School senior and class President, Abe Bartlett. Simply put – if Christian prayer is acceptable on the field as a religious forum, then the forum must be open to all groups.

To be fair, it’s not as if this hypocrisy isn’t commonplace:

nfl prayer

Constitutional Law on this matter is actually pretty well settled after decades of litigation. But, you have to give Bartlett and Starr some credit for their novel approach at pointing it all out.

Speeding Ticket “Complaints” – Protected Speech?

“F**k Your S**tty Town Bitches”

Simpsons Speeding Ticket

If you’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket – this is for you.

It wasn’t your fault, right? Or maybe you were caught at just the wrong second, maybe passing a slower car? ‘Just moving with traffic’? Or, perhaps, it’s entirely accurate, but just really pissed you off…

Well, thanks to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, sharing exactly those feelings on the ticket itself just might be protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In 2012, Mr. William Barboza (a Connecticut resident) was driving in the town of Liberty, NY when he was issued a speeding ticket by local enforcement. Not traveling back to NY to contest the ticket, Mr. Barboza pleaded guilty on the payment form. However, that just wasn’t enough to accurately convey his feelings about the matter.

On the payment form itself, Mr. Barboza struck out the name “Liberty” and replaced it with “Tyranny”. Because that just wasn’t enough, before placing the form and his payment in the mail, he wrote this across the top:

Ticket Profanity

Although payment was remitted with his guilty plea, Justice Brian P. Rourke notified Mr. Barboza that it was rejected and he would have to return to NY to appear in court. When he did return, Justice Rourke proceeded to lecture Mr. Barboza about his use of foul language, before arresting him on charges of aggravated harassment (it being illegal in NY to “harass, annoy, threaten or alarm” someone)…  Mr. Barboza was booked, finger printed, and jailed, until paying $200 bail for release.

Here’s where it gets constitutional…

Mr. Barboza filed a lawsuit against the town of Liberty (among others), arguing that the NY statute for aggravated harassment was misinterpreted and, further, that Mr. Barboza’s constitutional rights were violated by his arrest. Just this month, the court issued its ruling agreeing with Mr. Barboza.

As stated my Mr. Mariko Hirose, a staff attorney with the NY Civil Liberties Union, “New Yorkers should not be afraid to protest or complain about a speeding ticket — or any other government action — because they might be dragged to jail for using a few harmless words. The First Amendment protects people’s right to express their opinions about the government, and our government is better for it.”

Important here is the court’s finding that the language, although crude and profane, did not convey an imminent threat. Rather, it was made in the context of complaining about government activity.

So, pay attention to your local statutes, but feel free to share your feelings in all their glorious form about government activity.