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Why It Matters That Vizio Collected Personal Data For Years

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Why It Matters That Vizio Collected Personal Data For Years

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In the age of smartphones and mass Internet communication, it isn’t a surprise to learn that smart TV makers like Vizio and Samsung have been gathering and storing personal user data for years. What’s surprising is to know that some continued doing so without letting its customers know anything about it.

vizioWhile this action alone is grounds for a lawsuit, going to the courts won’t guarantee government agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) won’t explore this privacy breach. And that is the problem.

The security breach was unveiled after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) struck a $1.2 million settlement with the smart TV vendor Vizio. The agency alleged Vizio had used its smart television sets to track user behavior starting in 2014. While this action isn’t uncommon, Vizio failed to disclose this information to consumers and potential consumers. For years, the company advertised its “Smart Interactivity” feature by claiming it was designed to “program offers and suggestions.” Nevertheless, suggestions were never made. Instead, the company collected a great variety of consumer data, such as IP addresses, metadata, and much more using its interactivity feature. And without alerting consumers.

According to the FTC complaint, the company was so good at collecting data that it was able to “[append] specific demographic information to the viewing data, such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value,” selling this information to third party organizations. These organizations then used the info to target advertising to certain consumers. Of course this was the only issue brought up by the FTC. And not the fact that law enforcement agencies could have explored this breach in order to boost its surveillance of households across the country without using due process or respecting the U.S. Constitution.

But as a consumer, the individual has the power to sue a company or service provider that broke its contractual obligations. As a citizen, the American or resident has no power to keep law enforcement from spying on his every move.

Thanks to whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, we now know that agencies like the NSA went far and beyond to obtain access to data that would have been otherwise unreachable without a warrant — and not a mass warrant covering countless of innocent individuals at home and abroad.

While we’re grateful the FTC made this discovery, it’s time to complain about this type of action over why it matters. Because we are still powerless before a big, out of control government but we aren’t powerless as consumers.

No Property Rights: CO Supreme Court Allows Cops to Destroy Seized Pot

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

No Property Rights: CO Supreme Court Allows Cops to Destroy Seized Pot

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that police are allowed to destroy marijuana seized in criminal investigations, reversing the requirement that police store marijuana as personal property.

Property RightsAccording to the Associated Press, local police disliked the requirement that forced officers to care and store marijuana gathered as evidence correctly. As a result, the recent decision has been welcomed by local law enforcement.

The decision stems from a 2011 case revolving around a medical marijuana patient from Colorado Springs whose plants were seized after he was accused of having more plants than allowed by law. Currently, residents are allowed to grow up to 12 plants .

As a result of the investigation, the Colorado Springs resident lost more than 60 pounds, which were held by the police and then returned moldy. While the accused was later acquitted, he lost access to his possessions because of police’s lack of proper care to the product.

According to Colorado Justice Allison Eid, a possible Supreme Court nominee, the return provision that had been en vogue violates federal law. The decision supported that Colorado law enforcement should thus follow federal rules, despite comments made by dissenting judges who argued that the return provision does not violate federal law.

To libertarians, this decision sounds beyond appalling for a simple reason: it ignores property rights altogether in the name of the U.S. government’s long lasting war on personal choice — also known as the war on drugs.

While Colorado set an example to the entire country by legalizing marijuana for recreational use, restrictions concerning growth of the plant require law enforcement officials to violate property rights of the individual in question by not allowing individuals to do what they please in their own property. And by ruling that even during an investigation seized marijuana is not to be treated as personal property, the state’s highest court just emphasizes both the state and local governments’ lack of dedication to the individual’s right to the fruits of his labor.

Instead of spending precious resources seizing, investigating, and arresting individuals for exercising their right to keep and maintain personal property, it’s time to put an end to the madness that the nationwide war on substances seen as immoral or damaging. After all, it’s up to the individual whether he is willing to expose his own body to whatever substance available or not. And the government has no moral obligation to stop him.

Indiana to Reform Asset Forfeiture Laws, Rendering the Feds Useless

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Indiana to Reform Asset Forfeiture Laws, Rendering the Feds Useless

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The Institute for Justice, famous for fighting against civil asset forfeiture, once ranked Indiana as a “C+” state. According to the institute, the Hoosier State “earned an average grade for its laws and practices compared to other states” but “recent reporting suggests that these laws are often flouted.” In order to address this problem, IJ added that reform was badly needed.

Now, it looks as if their wish is about to come true.

car-1590508_1280According to the Tenth Amendment Center, a bill has recently been filed in the Indiana Senate that would prohibit the state from seizing property without due process. The bill, which is known as Senate Bill 8 (SB8), would effectively reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws, requiring state prosecutors to bring a criminal conviction to the judge before proceeding with the activity.

Currently, Indiana officials are allowed to seize property and cash from an individual without having him arrested first. Even if he was never found guilty of a crime.

If SB8 is signed into law, the new requirement would keep prosecutors in check, while also making it nearly impossible for state officials to send these cases to the federal government.

Currently, state laws allow prosecutors to bypass restrictions by sending cases to the federal government. This move is allowed due to the Equitable Sharing program, which gives states the option to keep a portion of liquidated seized assets. But if the new bill passes, Equitable Sharing will no longer be an option.

By repealing Section 9 IC34-24-1-9, the bill closes the federal loophole, helping to protect Indiana residents and their property.

In other states like California, referring to Equitable Sharing to get away with government-sponsored theft is no longer an option. If the Indiana legislature chooses to follow into the Golden state’s steps and this loophole is finally closed, the spark of property protection and constitutional rights will continue to ignite other local movements, helping to nullify this immoral law.

Now that SB8 was introduced, it will first be reviewed by the House Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. If passed by a majority vote, it will move to the full Senate for further consideration. According to Tenth Amendment’s Mike Maharrey, “‘equitable sharing’ provides a pipeline the feds use to incentivize state and local police to serve as de facto arms of the federal government by funneling billions of dollars into their budgets.” Without this pipeline, the incentive to steal people’s property is gone. Striking the problem at its root.

The Pentagon Wasted a Ton of Taxpayer Money Then Buried the Evidence

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

The Pentagon Wasted a Ton of Taxpayer Money Then Buried the Evidence

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Seems counterproductive to say this out loud, after all, which bureaucracy in the world does not waste taxpayer money? But here it is: The Pentagon, which serves as the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (DOD), has been wasting taxpayer money for a very long time.

PentagonBut in January 2015, a report released by the Defense Business Board — a federal advisory panel of corporate executives — was finally able to illustrate the scope of the waste and offer a solution. Instead of taking heed and allowing Congress to have access to this report, Pentagon leaders decided that having Congress look into the report would lead to a budget cut. And how could they survive that?

In order to make sure nobody would see the likes of this study, the Pentagon imposed a series of secrecy restrictions on the data used by the Defense Business Board. Even after being made public in its website, the Pentagon removed the 77-page summary of the report for good measure. According to the chairman of the Defense Business Board, Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, this particular move was reprehensible.

“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money,” he told Washington Post, so “[w]e proposed a way to save a ton of money.” As it turns out, the Pentagon wasn’t interested in being frugal with the taxpayer dough. Nevertheless, Stein added, the Pentagon’s decision to make it hard for the public or Congress to have access to the report is a “travesty.”

“We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter,” he concluded.

According to the Washington Post report, this irresponsible approach to its finances could result in less money over time to the DOD.

But what about the DOD leadership? Are they OK with this disregard for the public?

As you may have guessed, nobody within the leadership of the defense community has, so far, been able to admit that the DOD is an entangled bureaucracy, living large and oblivious of the sacrifices Americans have to make to pay their taxes and keep the DOD afloat.

A great example of this lack of commitment to the taxpayer’s well being is easily spotted in comments made by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, who ordered the Defense Business Board to conduct the study.

When talking to the Washington Post about the study, Work dismissed the Defense Business Board’s plan to save $125 billion, claiming that “[t]here is this meme that we’re some bloated, giant organization, … [while] there is a little bit of truth in that … I think it vastly overstates what’s really going on.”

We’re not surprised. After all, those who are part of the high levels of command within government agencies — whether we’re talking about the post office or the Pentagon — will always defend their actions and their agencies’ hands-off approach to accountability.

When we earn our own money, we’re wiser about how we spend it. When someone else is in charge of spending our money, however, their actions are no longer grounded on the notion that the cash on hand is scarce and restricted.

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

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QUESTION: National landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are symbols of national unity, strength, and sources of inspiration. They are monuments of a national republic. How would these monuments be constructed for the entire nation in a libertarian society?

Monuments

MY SHORT ANSWER: They would be constructed and maintained through private donations rather than taxes. Donations are given freely; taxes are forced.

We honor Jefferson, Washington, and other American icons because they believed in the importance of individual freedom, even though they may not have practiced it perfectly (e.g., Jefferson had slaves). We dishonor their memory and the values they cherished by forcing our fellow Americans to pay for their memorials.

Without tax funding, the edifices of these great men might be less grandiose than they are today. (Of course, they might just as well be even grander, better preserved and staffed, and better funded.) However, they would be a truer symbol of the freedom that made our nation great.

Even today, many renowned historical sites and monuments are privately funded. George Washington’s home Mount Vernon — the most popular historic estate in America, open 365 days a year — has been maintained and made available to the public since 1853 by the Mount Vernon’s Ladies’ Association, which proudly declares it “does not accept grants from federal, state or local governments, and no tax dollars are expended to support its purposes.”

Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello is maintained by a private, non-profit corporation, in cooperation with the University of Virginia.

Colonial Williamsburg was restored with private funds and is run as a private national museum not dependent on government funding.

A libertarian society, based on free enterprise and free from today’s crippling tax burden, would be far wealthier than our society today and thus better able to fund such monuments and landmarks. And the drive to collect the funding for them could unite and inspire the country every bit as much as the actual monuments themselves.

 

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

When collectivists get their way, life gets complicated. And over time, even expensive.

The movement to ensure pets are properly taken care of has created a nightmare to some residents in Seattle, Washington, to the point that their privacy is now at risk.

PetsAccording to Komo News, thousands of pet owners in the county are receiving letters from local officials telling them to license their pets. The letter adds that, if they do not comply, they could face a 250 fine.

For the last four years, King County officials have been using the data gathered by the company paying stores such as Safeway and QFC, a supermarket chain based in Bellevue, Washington, to have access to customer data registered in their system every time consumers use a reward swipe card. By having access to this data, King County officials have access to information on what these consumers are purchasing, making pet owners an easy target of local authorities.

When thousands of residents received this letter, many felt officials were “snooping around in a place where they shouldn’t be.”

But according to representatives from the local Animal Services, this is just a “standard marketing practice.”

But should government have access to this information?

To defend their actions, local officials claim residents are being made aware of the requirements and benefits associated with pet licensing. But to companies like Safeway, the county’s approach is wrong and in the long run, it might even cost them business considering the company promises its customers it does not give their data to third parties.

Last year, this sneaky practice helped county officials bring in $100,000 in new pet license revenue. But at what cost? Data on how much King County pays third parties for customer information doesn’t seem to be factored in, and with what pet owners pay the county yearly to keep their pets licensed, they could be instead investing in other much more necessary pet-related purchases.

As far as the privacy issue is concerned, the fact that a county official has access to your grocery list opens up your private life to further scrutiny. Instead of minding their own business, officials might soon be using this privilege to target you for other products you purchase regularly, going as far as using this access to help piece together criminal enterprises that never took place.

In the great haystack of data, officials end up targeting innocent individuals at time, wasting taxpayer-backed resources just like mass online surveillance does.

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Department of Justice’s proposed Rule 41, which would allow U.S. judges to provide law enforcement with search warrants for devices outside of the DOJ’s and its agencies’ jurisdiction, could soon become law, unless Congress does something.

DOJWhile Rule 41 could make Americans less safe, putting their privacy at risk, that is not the only issue with the proposed change to the law. According to Tech Dirt, Rule 41 could also turn millions of computer users across the world into criminals, simply because they use privacy tools to communicate with one another.

“From journalists communicating with sources to victims of domestic violence seeking information on legal services, people worldwide depend on privacy tools for both safety and security,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But if the DOJ wins this battle, the reality is that the U.S. government will be given the power to access phones and computers remotely with little to no oversight.

By allowing law enforcement to seek warrants to computers or other devices equipped with privacy tools, many have argued, Rule 41 adds a presumption of guilt to an activity that is part of the daily lives of most innocent American technology users.

In order to make sure the DOJ is not successful in its battle against privacy, several congressmen and senators from both political parties sent a letter to the DOJ asking for clarification on how the agency seeks to interpret the proposed changes to the law.

According to EFF, if Rule 41 becomes law, “anyone who is using any technological means to safeguard their location privacy could find themselves suddenly in the jurisdiction of a prosecutor-friendly or technically-naïve judge, anywhere in the country.” In their letter to the DOJ, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), and several others argue that Rule 41 would give law enforcement the power to hack into any device, expanding the scope of the DOJ’s authority, and risking our safety and privacy as a result.

Tech Dirt argues that while the DOJ claims that Rule 41 would not interfere with current laws, which already establish the need to demonstrate probable cause before the warrant is produced, judges have already been caught signing on warrants that exceeded existing jurisdiction limits.

Claiming that Rule 41 would keep those safeguards in place, Tech Dirt adds, is simply dishonest.

Unless Congress acts fast, Rule 41 will become the law by December 31st. Unfortunately for privacy, all the media seems to be talking about is the presidential election. Is anyone even paying attention?

WE Will Build the Roads

in Communicating Liberty, From Me To You, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Property Rights by Brett Bittner Comments are off

WE Will Build the Roads

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I’m trying something new with the From Me to You column this week, and I’d love to get your feedback on it. Please send me an e-mail to let me know if you like this, hate this, or even if you’re indifferent.

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

in First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Censorship never works. Especially when it comes to speech that is considered offensive or criminal. Why? Because when individuals are given a platform where they may express themselves openly, they become more visible, giving others who disagree with their methods or philosophy an opportunity to spot them and stay out of their way.

TwitterBut when fear is at play, people tend to lose grasp of their emotions and what could have turned into a reasonable debate turns into a witch hunt.

As politicians and others urge companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to crack down on users who identify as Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) fighters and sympathizers, encouraging these users to be banned from their platforms, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admits that banning ISIS users from online platforms pushes them “to a place where they’re less able to proselytize broadly but more able to communicate in a secure way.” Meaning that, when users are blocked from Twitter, it makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them down.

Who would have thought?

According to Tech Dirt, intelligence officials are usually able to get good intelligence from paying attention to social media accounts from ISIS fighters. But in spite of what many consider to be a risk associated with how easily ISIS fighters are able to recruit by keeping active accounts on social media, Tech Dirt points out that nearly every single study on radicalization shows that online recruitment is not as effective as many would think.

Silencing users might help to keep social media websites “clean” from speech we find offensive, but instead of making us safe, it just pushes individuals who follow dreadful philosophies into the shadows, making it harder for us to spot them and keep an eye on what they are up to next.

When translated into enforcement, the banishment of users from online platforms only makes it hard for officials to track terrorists down.

As US officials continue to press private tech companies to open backdoors so that law enforcement is able to closely spy on American citizens, public pressure to ban offensive speech adds fuel to the fire, oftentimes giving officials reasons to lobby for the expansion of government’s spying powers.

Instead of allowing our feelings to speak louder than reason, we must always remember that what may seem as the best solution superficially might not produce the desired outcome. No matter how many times we implement the same policy.

What Would It Take To Make You Leave Everything Behind?

in From Me To You, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What Would It Take To Make You Leave Everything Behind?

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The actions that could lead one to leave everything behind is the central theme discussed by Oliver Stone’s newest film, “Snowden.”

Framed by the June 2013 release of information to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill, along with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, the film takes us on a course of a young man enlisting in the Army Reserves, being discharged after an injury, and moving on to a series of information security positions both inside and contracted by the CIA and the NSA.

LeavePrior to the screening, a special message from Oliver Stone spoke to the danger to privacy that our smartphones create, a theme made quite prominent in the film. Stylistically, Stone really drives home the point by including the privacy invasion in his directorial vision to depict the dragnet being run on the entire world by the American government.

Those of us who know the story of the whistleblower/dissident/patriot/traitor will appreciate the way in which the film chronicles his journey through the CIA, as an NSA contractor, and finally, as the person who exposed the extent to which the American government collects data both domestically and abroad. More importantly, the story will offer those who aren’t as aware of what occurred a dramatic look at his story, especially the “why” behind his actions to expose the federal government’s actions.

A theme present throughout the film was about how the surveillance and data collection did not present as a means to safety or security, rather an opportunity to exert control, both economically and socially. Whether in his time in Geneva in the CIA, or as a contractor for any of the other alphabet agencies, the use (and misuse) of access and authority passed by legislation exemplifies the danger of giving authority over from one’s self to another.

Ultimately, the connections we make with others when we communicate our thoughts, actions, and even our deepest secrets are what can be held against us, should the time come that we are to be a pawn. The merging and sharing we do make us feeling, connected, empathetic human beings. We crave the attention, as well as to give it.

In real life, Snowden exposed that we, through our lives, thoughts, and actions, are simply sitting in a database somewhere in a rack inside a data center, waiting to be looked at, manipulated, and controlled. In the film, Stone helps explain that to an audience that may not understand the full extent that exposure affects us all, whether libertarian, conservative, liberal, centrist, or even authoritarian.

Oakland Officers Fail to Find Suspect Through Surveillance so Feds Step In—All Without a Warrant

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Oakland Officers Fail to Find Suspect Through Surveillance so Feds Step In—All Without a Warrant

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In Oakland, California, feds were caught helping local police departments to spy on suspects without warrants. And in at least one instance, the individual targeted, Purvis Ellis, wasn’t even the main suspect in the murder case that led to his capture.

OaklandAccording to Tech Dirt, court documents obtained by Ars Technica show that the Oakland Police Department used stingray technology without seeking a warrant first against Ellis in 2013. The use of the device was deployed in order to catch the suspect who had been associated with the attempted murder of officer Eric Karsserboom.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), stingrays “are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information.”

Oakland police attempted to use an older version of the device in 2013 to find one of the suspects in the attempted killing of a police officer, but officials were unsuccessful. They then reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), asking federal agents to step in. Promptly after, FBI officials were able to locate the suspect using a more advanced stingray technology.

But despite the successful operation, state and federal officers failed to follow the constitution, ignoring the need for a warrant.

During the suspect’s trial, both the FBI and the Oakland PD stated that they didn’t need to obtain a warrant at the time due to “exigent circumstances.” In the FBI case, officials also claim the warrant requirement was not in place at the time of the operation, making the evidence obtained through surveillance tactics less likely to be tossed by a judge.

Nevertheless, news sources were finally able to report on this story since the judge presiding over the suspect’s prosecution ordered the government to submit detailed information on how Ellis was located. But despite the commotion surrounding Ellis, he has not been accused of actually shooting the officer, prompting privacy advocates to wonder whether the police has used the same surveillance tactics in other similar cases, targeting individuals who have not been accused of a crime and going to the lengths both the FBI and the Oakland PD went to keep this a secret.

Two years after the 2013 incident, the Oakland Police Department tried to secure a grant from the Department of Homeland Security in order to upgrade their stingray technology, suggesting that local police had been invested in this type of surveillance tactics long after the Ellis case. The technology local officials had at the time was unable to locate the suspect, but the latest system used by the FBI got the job done pretty quickly.

But details regarding why the suspect was targeted and why only his phone was intercepted were never revealed. All we know up until now is that two law enforcement agencies suspended the potential suspect’s rights to privacy, even as they knew that he hadn’t shot the officer.

Whether Ellis was directly involved in the attempted murder remains a mystery. But what should also be addressed in this case is the fact that individuals who haven’t been formally accused of a crime nor charged are being targeted by both local and federal law enforcement agents who continue to ignore the unconstitutionality of their actions.

States have been pushing their own anti-federal surveillance laws as the nullification movement initiated by groups like the Tenth Amendment Center gains more ground. But the American individual’s privacy rights won’t be truly upheld until federal agencies have been stripped of their surveillance powers.

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In Omnipotent Government, Ludwig von Mises writes that tending toward “a transgression of the limit” of the application of violence is a natural impulse among professionals who use violence in their line of work, even if the particular application of violence is seen as legitimate.

These transgressions are seen everywhere, from instances of police brutality to the ever-growing presence of law enforcement agents on our borders and airports.

SmartphoneNow, this transgression is entering another realm, making way for law enforcement to have an even more formally accepted online presence.

According to a new Department of Homeland Security proposal, officials are considering asking visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program to disclose information pertaining to their social media presence.

If the DHS has its way, visitors would have to fill out a form with links to their Twitter, Facebook, and other online applications. According to the DHS, the collection of this information would “enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

But the wording in this new proposal is broad enough to allow officials to dig at will, increasing the risk of abuse of power—a surveillance issue that has already been associated with 4th Amendment violations in the past. To privacy advocacy organizations like Restore The 4th, this new transgression is everything but legitimate.

In a press release, the organization explained that the DHS new proposal is toxic.

In a letter addressed to the US Customs and Border Protection, the group along with “over two dozen human rights and civil liberties organizations” outlined the program’s “disproportionate risks, excessive costs, and other serious shortcomings.”

According to the letter, the DHS will be further invading individual privacy, putting freedom of expression at risk if this proposal is implemented. Furthermore, the federal government would have to worsen the national debt due to the high cost of implementation. The maintenance of this program would also cost taxpayers greatly, Restore The 4th added, and these costs “appear to be unaccounted for in the DHS Paperwork Reduction Act statement.”

The advocacy group also claims that the DHS would ignite the expansion of the surveillance state by opening a new window into the traveler’s private life. If implemented, this new rule could impact particular groups of travelers, allowing law enforcement to refer to their racial and religious bias in order to do their job.

Restore The 4th explains:

“This ‘disparate impact will affect not only travelers from visa-waiver program countries, but also the Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans whose colleagues, family members, business associates, and others in their social networks are exposed to immediate scrutiny or ongoing surveillance, or are improperly denied a visa waiver because of their online presence.’”

The letter urges CBP to dismiss the DHS proposal altogether. ​

California: Closer to the End of ‘Policing for Profit’

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

California: Closer to the End of ‘Policing for Profit’

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

California has just taken another step to nullify a federal rule over its unconstitutional nature.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the California Assembly passed a bill that would keep state officials from using civil asset forfeiture to seize private property without due process while also effectively preventing federal agents to do the same in the Golden State.

Police StopSenate Bill 443 was introduced last year, and it was a response to the growing trend against civil asset forfeiture taking over the country. Organizations like FreedomWorks and Tenth Amendment Center are some of the leaders in this area, helping state legislators have access to reform ideas that render the federal rules unenforceable.

According to the libertarian justice firm Institute for Justice, civil asset forfeiture is “legal plunder,” because the practice gives federal and state law enforcement agencies the power to take a person’s property or assets, even if the owner hasn’t been arrested or convicted of a crime.

After passing the state Senate last summer, the bill failed in the Assembly. But once Assemblyperson Chris Holden made a motion to reconsider, the bill was placed in the inactive file and then brought up for a vote in the full Assembly on August 15.

If the bill is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, the loophole in California law that allows officers to refer to federal agents in civil asset forfeiture cases in exchange for a portion of assets seized will be gone. Equitable sharing has been the only issue with California’s civil asset forfeiture laws, which are considered to be some of the strongest in the country. But up until now, the local protections against the practice meant nothing if federal agencies were involved.

Between 2000 and 2008, federal agents doubled their equitable sharing earnings. By the end of 2008, state officials across the country had helped the federal government seize about $400 million through the program.

With SB443, state prosecutors would be prohibited from going around restrictions imposed on state officials by passing cases off to the federal government. While this is good news, the bill still isn’t perfect.

If the amount seized is above $40,000, SB443 would allow state prosecutors to refer to federal officials under the equitable sharing program. The state could also have access to a portion of the assets seized if the owner of the property is convicted in a related criminal activity.

Despite its potential shortcomings, SB443 goes a long way to roll back federal intervention in local law enforcement activities, removing the financial incentive often tied to the practice.

Will other states follow?

What the Village of Tyneham Can Teach Us About Eminent Domain Abuse

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

What the Village of Tyneham Can Teach Us About Eminent Domain Abuse

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Great Britain’s compulsory purchase orders are the equivalent of America’s eminent domain laws. These powers give UK government bodies the ability to retain property even if the property owner is reluctant to give it away.

TynehamMuch like eminent domain laws in America, certain UK bodies are allowed to obtain these properties by claiming that the land should be used for “public betterment.” But whether or not government is allowed to exercise this power if compensation is provided shouldn’t be the crux of the matter because value is subjective.

Ludwig von Mises wrote in Human Action that value “is not intrinsic, it is not in things. It is within us; it is the way in which man reacts to the conditions of his environment.” So if a man finds value in his land, even if he is being compensated for leaving against his will, the action imposed by the governmental body forcing him out is, indeed, immoral. Because value, Mises adds, “is not what a man or groups of men say.” It’s how they act that counts. Even if you agree with the government’s rationale, taking a man’s land against his will is inhumane. After all, Mises adds in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, “there is no yardstick to measure the aesthetic worth of a poem or of a building,” so who are we to judge what is or isn’t valuable to an individual?

But history is full of anecdotes that teach us that much and yet we ignore it. Allowing generation after generation to place bureaucrats in charge of telling us what our most sacred rights truly mean.

Take the story of a village formerly known as Tiham, but which is now referred to as Tyneham.

In 1943, Tyneham and the neighboring area residents were asked to leave. They were given 28 days to walk away from their homes so Allied forces could use the place as a post where they would train for the D-Day landings.

As villagers left with the belongings they could carry, villager Helen Taylor waited until the very end, posting a note on the door of the limestone church of St Mary that read “We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”
As villagers left believing they would one day come back, government later proved them wrong. The 13th Century church endured, but folks like Taylor would never have the pleasure of holding mass there as a community again.

In 1948, the Army resorted to compulsory purchase order laws and put a hold on the village and its standing properties, claiming soldiers needed the place for military training. Up until this day, that’s what the village and its remains are used for. Now, littered with scrap and shells from decades of target shooting, only dead former members of the village are allowed to come back to be buried in the churchyard.

The image of a concerned villager asking soldiers to treat her home well may have vanished from English people’s memories, but the message remains the same. What right does a man have if not to do what he pleases with his own property? Stripping citizens from their belongings under the guise of fighting for peace may sound honorable, but in practice, all that is often left behind is garbage—and heartbreaking memories.

Pokemon Go Creators Face Lawsuit Over Possible Property-Related Crimes

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Pokemon Go Creators Face Lawsuit Over Possible Property-Related Crimes

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

It’s no secret that Pokemon Go, the augmented-reality game, is currently one of the most popular apps in the country. But as users become involved in accidents due to their outdoor adventures trying to catch Pokemon characters, reports related to individuals being chased away and at times even shot at for trespassing are also becoming more common.

PokemonNow, a man from New Jersey is escalating the fight against Pokemon trespassers by suing the company behind the game—not the actual players. If he has it his way, individuals who own property listed as a Pokestops or Pokemon gyms in the app could be added to the list of plaintiffs.

According to the suit, Pokemon Go encourages players to go after Pokemon characters placed close to or at private properties without the owner’s consent. The suit also states that at least five individuals approached the plaintiff asking if they could have access to his backyard in the past. Interestingly enough, the suit alleges these individuals knocked “without plaintiff’s permission,” confusing anyone who believes that knocking and formally asking for access means that he was properly approached and that his property was never trespassed against.

To players, however, the concern brought up by the New Jersey man may seem illegitimate since the system alerts users they should not trespass, warning that attempting to gain or gaining “access to any property or location where you do not have the right or permission to be” should be out of the question.

Despite the warning, Niantic Labs, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Co. have all been named in the suit. California’s federal court should soon rule on whether the man who filed the complaint will be able to legally keep Pokemon hunters off his property.

The game, which has been downloaded more than 30 million times, generating over $35 million in revenue, continues to be both praised and criticized for the several consequences of its launch. But blaming the company behind the app for a potential trespassing incident might not have a positive outcome after all.

Pokemon Go players have an opportunity to learn a thing or two about property rights and voluntary cooperation while playing, taking the example of other players who have been involved in delicate incidents while catching Pokemon into consideration while roaming the streets in search of new characters. Instead of putting the blame on the game, why not help players understand that playing safely can also be fun? All they have to do is follow the company’s instructions and play responsibly.

After all, suing Niantic Labs over risks potentially associated with the act of playing the game is like suing a weapon manufacturer for a potential gun injury incident that hasn’t even materialized.

Allowing players to take responsibility for their actions could be yet another reason to believe Pokemon Go is one of the best things about modern life.

Nullification Works, Colorado & Other States Show How

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Nullification Works, Colorado & Other States Show How

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Colorado, the state of legal recreational marijuana, may soon be able to kick the federal government’s erratic surveillance policies to the curb, proving that state nullification is worth the effort.

Iphone

A bill signed into law earlier this year that has been active since May 11, 2016 applies state law rules to federal agencies, effectively barring agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from taking actions locally that infringe on certain rules. The result is important, since the refusal to enforce federal rules on Colorado soil means that federal acts that go against the Constitution could be thwarted.

The piece of legislation (HB1109) was a bipartisan effort that, according to Tenth Amendment Center’s Mike Maharrey, could help to put an end to federal efforts that infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights such as the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs. Since massive databases used by the NSA require a great deal of water to keep computer systems cool, refusing to provide resources to federal agents may help to prevent the expansion of the surveillance state.

This type of approach to federal laws has been upheld in court in the past.

In 2007, when the federal government sued the state of Nevada for refusing to give the Department of Energy (DOE) access to its water supply to build a nuclear waste disposal site on Yucca Mountain, US District Judge Roger L. Hunt ruled that the state of Nevada had a right to say no the federal government, basing his decision on the fact that state rights are protected and shouldn’t be violated by a federal agency.

Maharrey explains that the legal basis for this refusal to cooperate is known as the anti-commandeering doctrine, which came to be due to four Supreme Court cases, including the Printz v. US from 1842 that serves as the doctrine’s cornerstone.

The anti-commandeering doctrine reassures the states that they are free to refuse to cooperate, while also making it clear to the federal government that its agents are prohibited from forcing state officials to comply. If Colorado is able to use its water rights to thwart the growth of programs that effectively infringe on our constitutional rights, that means that other states may join the effort.

Recently, Louisiana took an important step toward hindering the surveillance state by passing a law that requires a court order for the use of stingray technology, which is often used by law enforcement to track the location of phones and give officers access to their contents. The law is now into effect.

Illinois has also passed a very similar bill, which will go into effect on January 1, 2017. According to the bill’s wording, stingray technology use will also be restricted by court orders. But the bill goes further by prohibiting the use of the technology to gather the contents of phones targeted by law enforcement. Instead, officials with a warrant will only be able to use the stingray system to track the location of a device or identify it as a communications device, effectively protecting the individual’s conversations.

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Airbnb, the short-term rental app, has recently agreed to go along with officials in Los Angeles by requiring users to collect hotel taxes from their clients. The three-year agreement was signed early this week. And according to LA city officials, money collected by Airbnb in Los Angeles would bring $5.8 million in annual revenue.

ProtestThe agreement follows the city’s efforts to regulate Airbnb and similar companies locally.

As City Council members discussed what to do with Airbnb in the past few months, the company lobbied its users to stand up against suffocating regulations in a series of emails sent out regularly.

In one of these emails, Airbnb explained that the LA City Planning Commission was considering putting a 90 day cap on the number of nights Airbnb hosts can list their space, a rule Airbnb called “restrictive and arbitrary.” City officials were also considering limiting the number of listings hosts can have, which could affect users who have more than one room to rent, and instituting a registration procedure that would render the process of hosting through Airbnb difficult and expensive.

Another rule LA city officials had considered would also force Airbnb to turn over users’ personal information to the authorities, giving them information on how many nights a host books through the site and how much money renters make. Airbnb warned its users that the city did not detail how this information could be used.

Accusing property owners of evicting tenants to turn their properties into “commercial hotel and motel businesses,” Councilman Mike Bonin was one of the first in Los Angeles to propose Airbnb regulations. But while it is true, many users have, in fact, evicted their tenants in order to list their properties on Airbnb, that alone is not an excuse to regulate Airbnb out of existence. After all, the system works because it’s still affordable.

To tourists looking for an affordable accommodation option, the extra financial burden tied to the hotel tax could mean that renting through Airbnb might not be that affordable after all. To those who use the service as renters to make ends meet, being part of Airbnb may not be as appealing if rates are high because of the new rules.

In an article for US News, Mercatus Center’s Matthew Mitchell urges regulators to “deregulate traditional industries” if their goal is to help all industries and local businesses thrive. Instead of regulating the sharing economy and stifling competition, deregulation could also make it easier for visitors to stay and spend money locally.

Airbnb’s decision to go along with Los Angeles city officials may represent the company’s willingness to compromise, but a real solution to this dilemma will only be produced when lawmakers are honest about their goals.

After all, regulation will always makes things difficult for the consumer and the businessman, no matter how you slice it.

Arizona Court Rules that Weed Smell Enough Justification for Search Warrant

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Arizona Court Rules that Weed Smell Enough Justification for Search Warrant

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In current-day America, the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government is nothing but a suggestion. In Arizona, the careless approach to the law of the land is now even backed by lady Justice.

WeedAccording to an NBC affiliate, a recent ruling supports that officers are allowed to have access to a warrant to search a person’s property over the smell of marijuana. The decision came after the state Supreme Court ruled that the enactment of the medical marijuana law does not eliminate a legal doctrine that supports that the smell of marijuana is sufficient to establish probable cause for a search.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruling added that only with the “person’s presentation of a valid [medical marijuana] registration card” attorneys would be able to challenge the legal foundation for a search based on the smell of marijuana alone.

The case that resulted in this ruling involved an officer who noticed the odor of marijuana while contacting an individual. The encounter led him and other officers to discover a marijuana operation that counted with hundreds of marijuana plants.

To medical marijuana users in the state, this ruling is concerning. Rebecca Calloway, a local dispensary worker and college graduate with a medical marijuana card, says that this ruling makes matters worse since “a lot of pedestrians [already] feel they are being harassed by cops with nothing better to do.”

To privacy advocates, the ruling gives officers a loophole, giving them the freedom to use smell as a reasonable cause for searches in different occasions.

Instead of looking at the Constitution for guidance, the Arizona justices decided to continue giving drug warriors legal justifications to send more non-violent “criminals” to taxpayer-funded prisons, managing to step on the 4th Amendment rights of citizens who do not happen to be marijuana users in the process. But this is not the first time Arizona justices stand with drug warriors.

In May, Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state’s medical marijuana laws do not give physicians immunity against prosecution in case doctors claim to have reviewed a patient’s medical records from the previous 12 months before issuing a written statement allowing for the use of medical marijuana.

While the state has come a long way by passing a medical marijuana law that helps residents suffering from a series of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, and others, anti-drug war advocates in the state are hoping to get an initiative added to the November ballot that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

In early July, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 258,582 signatures to secretary of state officials. To quality for Arizona’s statewide ballot, the campaign must have 150,642 valid signatures from registered voters.

If passed, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would legalize marijuana for recreational use and establish a network of licensed cannabis shops that would collect taxes on the sales of marijuana and marijuana-related products. The proposal resembles the model used in Colorado.

Remember: the FBI Is Still Trying to Have Full Access to NSA’s ‘Unfiltered’ Data

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Remember: the FBI Is Still Trying to Have Full Access to NSA’s ‘Unfiltered’ Data

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

As the country follows the cries of politicians in Washington doing their best to undermine our security and freedom in the name of the war on terror, don’t forget that, just a few months before the deadly Orlando shooting, the Obama administration was reportedly looking into allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to share data on private communications with other intelligence agencies without the benefit of privacy protections.

NSAOn paper, access to the contents of phone calls, emails, satellite transmissions, and communications between individuals abroad gathered by NSA employees is restricted, meaning that agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are not allowed to use data collected by the NSA without due process. But due to executive order 12333, an order signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 that binds US intelligence agencies to cooperate with CIA requests for information, the NSA may soon be sharing information on innocent Americans with the FBI.

According to the New York Times, the current administration is interested in expanding the NSA’s reach by giving the intelligence community access to unprocessed information pertaining to countless Americans who were never accused of any crime to begin with. But by augmenting the intelligence community’s access to more information, the haystack becomes much larger, making it harder for officials to find the needle.

According to Alexander Abdo, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, the country should not be allowing the NSA to “spread that information further in the government” if protections on people’s personal information are not being erected. But according to the spokesman for the office of the Director of National Intelligence, the final rules under consideration by the current administration would help to “ensure that they protect privacy civil liberties and constitutional rights while enabling the sharing of information that is important to protect national security.”

Despite the US government’s claims that officials are doing all in their power to protect innocent Americans from the government’s overreach, abuse exists. Giving agencies such as the NSA and the FBI blanket access to the private information of others has and will continue to backfire, allowing employees and officials to abuse their power whenever possible.

The framework under review by the current administration has been under development since when President George W. Bush triggered the change but now, the Obama administration is carrying on with the task of developing a framework to put the changes in motion. And as officials work on a way of continuing the NSA’s involvement with the country’s war on drugs while boosting the agency’s role, progressive and conservative politicians, and even presidential candidates, continue to justify their support for mass surveillance by evoking the war on terror.

Expect to hear more on this and other efforts to boost the surveillance state, especially after the tragic killing of Pulse club goers in Orlando, Florida.

Supreme Court Upholds Illegal Searches Prompted by the War on Drugs

in Drugs, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Supreme Court Upholds Illegal Searches Prompted by the War on Drugs

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

When discussing the ongoing surveillance programs run by the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, Dr. Ron Paul said that “the Fourth Amendment is clear; it says we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects, and that all warrants must have probable cause.” But while Dr. No from Texas has always been a consistent defender of liberty, few other members of any of the branches of government can say they take the task of upholding the US Constitution seriously. Recently, yet another powerful group in Washington joined Congress and the Executive branch by using its political power to ravage the 4th Amendment: the Supreme Court.

Supreme CourtIn a 5 to 3 ruling of the Utah v. Strieff case, the Supreme Court decided that police officers are allowed to stop anyone without probable cause, going against restrictions imposed by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. What TechDirt calls “bogus traffic stops predicated on nonexistent laws” is now protected thanks to the Supreme Court, causing the reach of these same stops to be expanded to individuals on foot as well.

But while this decision is damaging because it expands the police’s unchecked powers, the factors that prompted the stop that led to this case in the first place are being widely ignored.

In 2006, the Salt Lake City policy received an anonymous tip concerning a drug activity hotspot. An officer was sent to monitor said hotspot, noticing that, for several days, the house in question received a high volume of foot traffic. One of the individuals seen entering and leaving the property was Edward Strieff, who was stopped by an officer while on his way to a convenience store.

During the so-called routine check after he encounter, police found Strieff had an outstanding “small traffic warrant,” prompting the officer to arrest him and search him. That’s when the officer found a bag of methamphetamine, as well as drug paraphernalia, in his pockets.

What prompted the unconstitutional stop, and then search, wasn’t just due to police abuse. Instead, the drug war was what prompted the anonymous caller to reach out to law enforcement, and before that, what prompted the black market to provide Salt Lake City customers with the products they wanted.

According to TechDirt, the evidence found on Strieff should have been suppressed in court since the officer stopped the individual without probable cause. The state of Utah had already conceded to that much, but once it decided the case should be appealed, Utah v. Strieff made it to the highest court in America, where the justices decided that the “fruits of the illegal search” should remain unsuppressed. To TechDirt writers, this decision gives the government precedent, giving law enforcement agencies across the land even more expanded powers than they had before.

Instead of keeping Americans safe, the war on drugs has produced yet another unintended consequence, destroying our 4th Amendment protections and putting the lives of innocent individuals in danger in the face of police abuse. Isn’t that the opposite of keeping us safe?

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