Sunday, October 13, 2013

ACLU of Virginia holds reception, discusses surveillance issues, mentions Section 230

Today I attended a reception hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU) in a penthouse highrise condominium in Alexandria, VA.  The unit was truly palatial, with views to the north (all the way to the Washington Monument) and west (to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial). The unit reminded me of the site of a concert by Timo Andres in a large highrise condo near Central Park in New York City (drama and music blog, Dec. 11, 2010).
The largest focus of remarks by Claire Guthrie Gastanaga did concern all the concerns about government surveillance.  There was mention of Verizon’s turning over of cell phone metadata, and considerable discussion of the fact that the Fourth Amendment does not protect citizens from examination of data or effects held by “third parties” (see my Book Review blog, Daniel Solove’s book “Nothing to Hide”, July 23, 2013).  There was discussion of how new “real world” technology like the use of drones can go around the 4th Amendment, too.  There was mention that Virginia State Police had kept license plates of drivers going into Washington on days of major political events, but apparently the legislature has stopped it.

I mentioned the Section 230 issue, and the desire of state attorneys general to gut it with respect to state criminal codes.  There was no mention of any specific action in Congress yet (given its distraction), but there was an acknowledgement of the idea that the measure seems motivated by a tangential desire to “protect children” (as had been COPA) from trafficking, when it could have a severe impact on the ability of adults to make normal postings on the Internet without supervision or regulation. 

There was also discussion of the “do not track” issue, and that companies keep data on consumers that could be turned over to government in the future, or that could be hacked. There was a feeling that social media have gone too far in trying to monetize user content, especially endorsements (yesterday’s post); yet, when people sign up for someone else’s free service, the price is that “you” are the product. Maybe Reid Ewing can make an “It’s Free” video on the way companies monetize “free” services, and make it funny and silly (which he would). 

 ACLU Virginia (site ) reports that the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Jane Perez, who had been ordered to take down some of the material in her Yelp posts critical of a contractor, covered here Dec. 5, 2012, in what seemed a bit like a SLAPP suit.  The case was Dietz v. Perez.  

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