Thursday, June 26, 2014

Supreme Court Rules to Protect Cell Phones

WASHINGTON — In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled  that the police need warrants to search the cell phones of people they arrest. (Adam Liptak, New York Times June 25)

Wow!  Although I am quite pleased with this decision, I’m shocked that the 9 individuals, who make up the highest court in the Nation, could actually come to the same conclusion!  Maybe it’s because each one of them have a smart phone that contains a great deal of their private and personal information.

A 2013 study shows that 92 percent of adults in the U.S. have some sort of a cell phone and 85 percent have a ‘smart phone’ with access to the internet, email and who knows what else.  The reality is that our cell phones have become something more than a simple ‘telephone’.  (do we even use the term telephone anymore?)

My ‘smart phone’ is a portable file cabinet; it contains my calendar, my contacts, my clock and alarm for when I travel, various notes to remind me of certain electronic formulas (yep I’m a geek), pictures that are special to me, music to listen to when I’m traveling and a bunch of other stuff that I have no idea how it got there!  I’m not sure if my social security number is in my phone, but certainly my birth date is, along with a few different passwords, for access to email, Facebook and who know what else.  In other words, the digital age has combined with the miniaturization of electronics to allow me to pack around a 4 drawer filing cabinet and several other items…..all contained in one device.

Because the Bill of Rights did not initially apply to the states, and federal criminal investigations were less common in the first century of the ation's history, there is little significant case law for the Fourth Amendment before the 20th century. The amendment was held to apply to the states in Mapp v. Ohio (1961).  Since ‘Mapp’, due care and consideration has been the law, even if sometimes overzealous law enforcement officials and legislators violate the intent of the amendment. 

In the recent case ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, launches us further into the digital age, inasmuch as the cell phone is now considered under the same protection as my 4 drawer file cabinet or my computer. To view things inside of those items requires my permission or a duly authorized ‘search warrant’.
However, as I don’t have anything stored in my file cabinet, computer or cell phone that is criminal or important to law enforcement, I’m not as concerned as maybe the 12 million criminals that are referred to in the Courts decision.

The reality is a warrant may not be the useful tool that law enforcement thinks it is.  I've met many of the folks who obtain warrants; I have also looked for days to find something I thought I stored on my smart phone and never found what I was looking for; if they think they can find something, they're better geeks than me.  Is the search warrant an automatic key to the mysteries stored within?  If it is, the next time I’m looking for a text message sent to me by my son, I’ll take the phone to the local Police Department or I’ll call the NSA.

By the way, does the NSA need a search warrant?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Redskins vs National Economy

Do You Have Skin In The Game?

To have "skin in the game" is to have incurred monetary risk by being invested in achieving a goal. (from Wikipedia) 

In a recent ruling from the US Patent Office, the trademark used by the Washington Redskins, has been deemed offensive to some people.  The first thing that comes to my mind is: with a huge deficit and government spending out of control and no relief in sight, why is the government (congress and agencies) dealing with an issue between some people and the National Football League?  When did the government get some “skin in the game”?

Although I am vehemently against any form of racism, I am opposed to the selective overreach of government agencies and politicians who are only looking for headlines – not equity. 

‘Washington Redskins’, has once again become a target for special interest groups and members of congress who want to grandstand, with total disregard for other logos that may offend a few people:

  • Detroit Tigers – Tigers?  You would make sport of an endangered species?
  • Cleveland Indians – Are you serious?  The government hasn’t desolved their copyright logo.
  • Seattle Seahawks – How dare you use a logo with a revered religious icon, held sacred by some indigenous peoples
  • USC Trojans – This has to be offensive to some Greeks and a violation of a trademark of a condom company
  • Vikings, Pirates, Titans, Seminoles, Raiders, Bulls (that should offend PETA) and Volunteers, should offend some people who are Northern Europeans, Seafarers, Greeks again, a Tribe still at war with the U.S., and who knows what else.

Yes, I make sport (pun intended) of the whole nonsensical subject.  We don’t need government agencies, congress or the President getting involved in the private business of ‘sports teams’.  Do they think that the parties concerned have no ability to resolve their problems without government intervention?  Did they miss the recent story about the National Basketball Association?

Mr President, members of Congress and your agencies that are totally out of control:  Stay out of things that don’t need or have your participation.  Get the heck back to work on the economy, the world scene and those things that you were sent to Washington DC to do.  We didn't send you there to be involved in Football, Baseball, Basketball or Tiddly Winks.  (golf is on you).

By the way; have you ever seen the trademark logos for – Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s Rice or Rosarita?  Just saying!