Privacy and Obscenity?

Put bluntly, the law of obscenity, no matter how longstanding, has never satisfied constitutional requirements, and it never will. Finally, a judge has been brave enough to say as much. This opinion is notable for that reason – and for Judge Lancaster’s novel approach. His opinion attacks the obscenity laws on privacy grounds – and thus may be more effective than pure free-speech attacks mounted in the past.

Noise pointed me to Julie Hilden’s article at Findlaw.
The argument in a nutshell seems to be that the interest of the government in banning obscene matter is less than the privacy interest of the viewer of that matter, wherein privacy means the ability to contemplate icky stuff in one’s own home. The decision, for you law buffs, bypasses Miller, and focuses on Lawrence v. Texas and Stanley v. Georgia.

In addition, the Lawrence Court also reached another conclusion highly relevant to the Extreme Associates case. It concluded that the fact that a given law is a longstanding prohibition grounded in widely-held moral beliefs is not, in itself, a reason for a court to hold that law to be constitutional.

Sounds moral to me.

Small Bits of Irony: Secure Flight, Insecure Borders

Bruce Schneier talks about the Secure Flight being an improvement over the current watchlist system, but can’t give us details. The new system will rely on more information in the reservation. But if we don’t have that more information on the person on the watchlist, what will happen? Eg, if there’s no known birthday for David Nelson, will all the other David Nelsons still be in trouble? Will it store information on gender and race, which would be useful in reducing false positives for folks like Johnnie Thomas?

Oh, and while putting in place this expensive, ineffective system, Congress isn’t funding border guards.

More on Nothing to Hide

Chapell points out a very interesting correction at the top of this Seattle Times story:

A previous version of this story on Tukwila firefighter Lt. Philip Lyons being charged with first-degree attempted arson incorrectly stated that police reports indicated he had used his Safeway Club Card to purchase 16 fire-starters between June and August. Lyons had actually purchased only one fire-starter during that time, according to charging papers. The police report indicated that 16 fire-starters were purchased by all customers at the Safeway store where Lyons purchased his fire-starter between June and August.

Were these Safeway brand fire-starters? Did the police check only one Safeway, or every one (or every grocery store) within some distance of the fellow’s house? Did they have a warrant to get that information? Is it routinely shared by local Safeway stores?

[My earlier post on this is “Nothing to Hide, Plenty to Fear.”]

Small Bits of Hope

Some moving blog posts from Iraq include Hammorabi, Messopotamian, and Iraq the Model

The first thing we saw this morning on our way to the voting center was a convoy of the Iraqi army vehicles patrolling the street, the soldiers were cheering the people marching towards their voting centers then one of the soldiers chanted “vote for Allawi” less than a hundred meters, the convoy stopped and the captain in charge yelled at the soldier who did that and said:
“You’re a member of the military institution and you have absolutely no right to support any political entity or interfere with the people’s choice. This is Iraq’s army, not Allawi’s”.
This was a good sign indeed and the young officer’s statement was met by applause from the people on the street.

(Here’s an archival link for Iraq the Model.)

Good Luck to Iraqis!

In tomorrow’s elections. I have to say that despite a great deal of skepticism in the feasibility, and disappointment over the execution, of Bush’s vision for the Middle East, it represents the one of the core American beliefs. Lincoln called the ideas of democracy the last, best hope of mankind, and in that, he was right. Democracy represents a belief that we can peacefully work together and find ways to allow each of us to pursue our own dreams. I hope that tomorrow, hope will overcome fear, and we’ll see a strong turnout, no violence, and the start of a legitimate government in Iraq.

New York Times Links

Aaron Swartz has produced a link generator for the New York Times. It takes a URL and makes it archival, so that it doesn’t expire, and you should be able to visit it after two weeks are up. Its a lazy Saturday afternoon; Atlanta is shut down by the half inch of snow that fell last night, so what the heck. I’ll post some stats in just a minute, but wanted to explain why old posts are (probably) going back into the RSS queue. [Update: It seems they’re not.]

I’ve written 421 posts, an average of just over 2½ per day. Of those, 31, 7.3% included links to the Times. Of those 31, 4, 12.9% did not have perma-links available. One, on Kerik for DHS, relied on an associated press story. The other 3 were: Perverse Incentives, Bin Laden Unit downsided?, and Airport Screening Still Fails Tests. All three touch on secrecy in government. Oh, the irony!

And finally, Aaron, you rock. Your code took all my fugly url pastes and made them clean again. And a nod to the editors of the Times, for trying to remain the newspaper of record.

More on Economic Analysis of Vulnerabilities

Dave Aitel has a new presentation (“0Days: How Hacking Really Works“) on what it costs to attack. The big cost to attackers is not vulnerability discovery, but coding reliable exploits. (There’s an irony for you: Attackers are subject to the same issues with bad software as their victims.) The presentation is in OpenOffice format only right now, so the OpenOffice Viewer (in Java) may be helpful.

[Previous posts: Towards and Economic Analysis of Vulnerabilities.]

Small Bits of Chaos: Vidal, SP2, Iraq

Gore Vidal has a few choice words about the President’s Inaugural address, at DemocracyNow.


A Russian company, MaxPatrol, has published a paper on bypassing heap and stack protection for Microsoft Windows XP with SP2.


Winterspeak has an interesting summary of Iraq:

The big bet that President Bush placed all these months ago, the bet that the root cause of Islamic Fundamentalism was the repressive, totalitarian regimes these people lived in, is being called as Iraq has elections tomorrow.

Nothing to Hide, Plenty to Fear

Longtime security and privacy researcher Richard M. Smith tells Farber’s IP list about Philip Scott Lyons, a Tukwila, Washington firefighter. Lyons was accused of arson because he’d bought the same type of fire starters at Safeway. Or, that’s what Safeway’s “Club Card” records show. How or why they were obtained isn’t clear.

The charge was dropped after “another person accepted responsibility for the fire,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Jim Townsend said Thursday. “This person made statements to numerous people and statements officially” to Mountlake Terrace police.

Stories in: The Seattle Times, KOMO-TV and he’s been cleared.

Added slightly later: The title of this post refers to the common quip that someone has ‘nothing to hide,’ and thus doesn’t care about their privacy. Even if you have nothing to hide, the electronic datastreams that are believed to be true may contain lies about you that cause you to be suspended from work for six months.