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Database Records and "In Plain Sight" Searches

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the but-it's-sitting-right-there dept.

The Courts 154

chriswaco writes "A federal appeals court ruled that database records are not 'in plain sight' when other records in the same database are subpoenaed. The case involved Major League Baseball drug test results, but the implications are far wider."

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Is it just me or..... (1)

Cnik70 (571147) | more than 5 years ago | (#29216767)

does this story point to the wrong article on CNN?

Re:Is it just me or..... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29216785)

It's just you.

Re:Is it just me or..... (-1, Troll)

Itninja (937614) | more than 5 years ago | (#29216843)

Not really. It's called 'pandering'. A few select sentences out of this article kinda sorta mention something about data, so that's massaged into something that will draw in the tech demographic and (hopefully) result in banner ad revenue.

Re:Is it just me or..... (5, Insightful)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#29216961)

No it's news. This really does have all kinds of implications on future data searches. Apparently the cops saw it as "already got this query thingy open... might as well see what else they have in here". That's a huge issue for all kinds of privacy reasons.

Computer related.... check.
Privacy related..... check.
Does it matter?..... check.

And out of curiosity where is your line between pandering and providing a real service to your users?

Re:Is it just me or..... (5, Funny)

fataugie (89032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217087)

is it just me, or does anyone else have a mental image of Barney Fife cocking his hat, scratching his head trying to cobble together a SQL select statement?

"Gee Andy....How do you create an Inner Join again?"

Re:Is it just me or..... (2, Funny)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217389)

I think you forgot barney reaching for his one bullet from his shirt pocket (assuming Andy let him have it back) because this is serious police work.

Re:Is it just me or..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29217575)

I do now...

Re:Is it just me or..... (2, Informative)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217451)

It is as if they would be allowed to do a search in an apartment and find keys to his mothers apartment and his office. Places they did not have a warrant for before.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Nocuous (1567933) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217845)

Nope, "find keys to his mother's apartment" is a terrible analogy.

A slightly more realistic analogy would be that they had a warrant to search your apartment for drugs, they entered your mother's room in the same apartment (yeah, she lives with you), and found illegal weapons. Is the warrant valid grounds to charge you (or your mother) for the weapons? Maybe, I guess that would be a valid issue for the courts.

Yes, my view isn't popular, but if we're going to try to transfer rules for search warrants from the physical world to the digital world, those additional drug testing records certainly qualify as found "in plain sight". Unless you think cops walk around properties they're searching with a warrant with their hands over their eyes.

It's lazy, dangerous, and ineffective to force-fit physical world rules to other realms. We should insist that they throw away rules of physical evidence and create reasonable rules for digital evidence.

Re:Is it just me or..... (5, Insightful)

JourneymanMereel (191114) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218261)

Except they weren't searching the physical premise where these 10 players reside... nor any virtual equivalency. They were searching third party records of drug tests performed on these 10 players. The closest pre-digital analogy I can come up with is bank records. If it was 1909 and the police had obtained a warrant to search my bank records, would that give them the right to also peak at yours that are stored in the same filing cabinet at the bank?

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219635)

Brilliant analogy. Instead of cars or some other odd-ass comparison, paper records are perfect for explaining database-related concepts like these.

Re:Is it just me or..... (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218271)

It's lazy, dangerous, and ineffective to force-fit physical world rules to other realms. We should insist that they throw away rules of physical evidence and create reasonable rules for digital evidence.

Too often that means "reasonable because the cops can snoop around and violate the privacy of other people, regardless of whether those other people don't want that like I do." I'll give an analogy that involves only physical evidence.

At least in my country, an officer is not allowed to just randomly pull over a vehicle for no reason and then search that vehicle. They are supposed to have probable cause; they can't just go search someoneone to see what they can find. Unless they have a dog, that is. That's right. A police dog can decide your vehicle has drugs or whatever else they're looking for and when the dog starts barking, suddenly the officer has a perfectly legal search. Yes, it would be illegal and a violation of civil rights if that officer used his hands and eyes to locate the same drugs. However, the same search performed with a dog's nose instead of a human officer's hands and eyes is suddenly legal and constitutional. Isn't that amazing, how you can take an unconstitutional act, filter it through the nervous system of the lowly dog, and suddenly it becomes legal and has the court's blessing?

Declaring additional records (i.e. those which were not specified in a search warrant or subpoena) as "in plain sight" and legal to search is worse than this. It's worse because it disposes of even the pretense that using a dog to conduct a search is somehow fundamentally different than using your hands and eyes to conduct the same search. It's like declaring everything up-for-grabs so long as the cops can get their hands on it. It's not "in plain sight", it's residing on privately owned hardware on private property. The cops confiscated it by force or by threat of force (what do you suppose a warrant or a subpoena is?) and now that they've dragged it back to their offices and loaded it up on their hardware it's in "plain sight" to them. That sure is a strange definition of "plain sight." This is something that WILL be abused, though I imagine that when this happens a lot of you are going to act surprised. The sad thing is that the surprise will often be sincere.

Re:Is it just me or..... (2, Insightful)

JourneymanMereel (191114) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218743)

At least in my country, an officer is not allowed to just randomly pull over a vehicle for no reason and then search that vehicle. They are supposed to have probable cause; they can't just go search someoneone to see what they can find. Unless they have a dog, that is. That's right. A police dog can decide your vehicle has drugs or whatever else they're looking for and when the dog starts barking, suddenly the officer has a perfectly legal search. Yes, it would be illegal and a violation of civil rights if that officer used his hands and eyes to locate the same drugs. However, the same search performed with a dog's nose instead of a human officer's hands and eyes is suddenly legal and constitutional. Isn't that amazing, how you can take an unconstitutional act, filter it through the nervous system of the lowly dog, and suddenly it becomes legal and has the court's blessing?

The dog still has to be near your vehicle for a reason. That reason could be that you were parked in a lot where the dog was walking, but you still can't be pulled over for no reason other than to have the dog sniff your vehicle.

Now, let's take the dog out of the equation. Your parked in that same random parking lot and a cop walks by and smells the pot emanating from your car. He's been on the force for a while and has been involved with drug busts before. He knows, with no doubt whatsoever, the smell of pot. He now has a legal reason to search your car. Complete with the court's blessing.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

eth1 (94901) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218925)

At least in my country, an officer is not allowed to just randomly pull over a vehicle for no reason and then search that vehicle. They are supposed to have probable cause; they can't just go search someoneone to see what they can find. Unless they have a dog, that is. That's right. A police dog can decide your vehicle has drugs or whatever else they're looking for and when the dog starts barking, suddenly the officer has a perfectly legal search. Yes, it would be illegal and a violation of civil rights if that officer used his hands and eyes to locate the same drugs. However, the same search performed with a dog's nose instead of a human officer's hands and eyes is suddenly legal and constitutional. Isn't that amazing, how you can take an unconstitutional act, filter it through the nervous system of the lowly dog, and suddenly it becomes legal and has the court's blessing?

Hold on there... Anything in "plain view" of a place an officer is legally allowed to be is fair game. If you leave a bag of weed on the seat, and an officer walks by the car and sees it, he can search. If your car is emitting detectable drug particles into a place an officer is legally allowed to be, how is that any different? Would you be happier if they were using some sort of electronic detector instead of a dog?

Re:Is it just me or..... (2, Interesting)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 5 years ago | (#29220125)

The thing is the "view" in "plain view" is defined totally arbitrarily. The 4th Amendment to the constitution doesn't say anything about plain view; it just prevents unreasonable searches without a warrant. Over the years, the courts pulled this "plain view" stuff out of their asses.

I'm not criticizing them for that; they ultimately had to try to draw the line between what is reasonable vs unreasonable somewhere. So they made up something that most people think is fair. And now it's pounded into all our heads as though the words were actually in the Bill of Rights, even though they aren't.

The courts' decisions that the "plain viewness" of something is relevant, is a very human definition. Our eyes are a big deal, which is why they call it view instead of scent. That doesn't mean scent doesn't apply -- the courts aren't so dumb/rigid/pedantic to be unable to analogize sight with smell and apply the same criteria. But there's a reason the courts used the word "view" -- we all have a very intuitive idea of what it really means, with a lot of consensus.

What if we violate that underlying meaning?

Would you be happier if they were using some sort of electronic detector instead of a dog?

I think allowing either search (dog or electronics) without a warrant or other probably cause, is flirting with disaster. What if the officer (or machine) has radical powers, such as ability to see through walls, read people's minds (in a science fictiony "telepath" way, not by just being socially well-tuned), etc? At some point, the "plain" in "plain view" should be called into question. If the dog or machine can sniff something that a human 1.0 nose can't, maybe that's not really a reasonable search.

If the concentration is so dilute that you can't smell it, then the molecules, even if yes, they really are floating in the air, aren't in plain view. Just like if you have your drugs inside a cardboard box -- some photons actually are going through the box. We humans just can't see them. If you build a machine that can see them, or have a cop with super-powers that can see them, that doesn't mean the contents of the box are in plain view, regardless of how easily that super-powered cop can see 'em.

I do think we would all change our minds about that, if many of us did have such super-powers. If everyone knew a cardboard box does not delimit privacy, we would no longer consider objects in a box to not be in plain view. I don't mean "know" it in a rational hypothetical sense; I mean knowing it in visceral, obvious, day-to-day in-your-face kind of way, just like most of us can effortlessly and instantly perceive that a cardboard box blocks the view of whatever is inside he box.

Likewise, if we all had, and routinely hung out with, trained dogs: we would all know that faint scents that people can't smell, are still in "plain smell."

But we don't. We don't have the super-powers, nor the trained dogs, nor the electronics. I'm not saying we don't have access to them, just that they aren't part of most people's routine lives. So if you need these things to detect something, that something isn't in plain view. And more importantly: a search that uses these things, if there isn't due process, is not a reasonable search.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219031)

It's lazy, dangerous, and ineffective to force-fit physical world rules to other realms. We should insist that they throw away rules of physical evidence and create reasonable rules for digital evidence.

Which is exactly how this looks like, to me. They recognize that information in databases can be no more "hidden" than any other, but they saw that, since allowing that kind of wide searches would open up a huge can of worms as far as privacy is concerned, you aren't allowed to use them in courts without a proper warrant.

Re:Is it just me or..... (2, Insightful)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219675)

The physical analogy everyone seems to be missing is if they went to the drug testing lab and asked for the person's records in question, then followed the records keeper to a room full of filing cabinets, watched him open a drawer labelled something along the lines of 'Baseball players that failed their drug test', and then forcefully took every folder in the cabinet, rather than waiting for him to find the one for which they were given a warrant.

The thing is that if they had formed the query on the database properly, it never would have shown them the other records, but instead they went on ahead and grabbed everything they could get their hands on once someone gave them access to the database.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

cheshiremoe (1448979) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219735)

The key here is that it is not a warrant, its a subpoena. If you get a subpoenaed for a document(paper) you hand over the document, the police don't get to search the filing cabinet that the document was in.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29217829)

This really does have all kinds of implications on future data searches.

I wish this was true, but you and I know if this had been normal people instead of baseball players the courts would have ruled the other way. I watched years of government abuse of RICO laws against normal people. Only when they used them on tobacco companies did they get limited. It's very clear to me the courts are not blind to the defendant in making rulings about searches.

Re:Is it just me or..... (4, Informative)

glop (181086) | more than 5 years ago | (#29216973)

Surely you are jesting.
The ruling is really about data and I don't think that a baseball story needs to attract a few tech geeks and lawyers to increase banner ad revenue.
Personally, I am a bit reassured that there is such a ruling, because it gives some protection against a cop obtaining a warrant to get some data and issuing the wrong sql query that brings too much data including mine (or the tech guy asked to do it that does not refine the query enough, or just give a report that has the relevant data in it and then some not relevant etc.).

Re:Is it just me or..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29218799)

Exactly. The subpoena or warrant should describe the query needed. Any results from queries that don't match the description in the subpoena, regardless of if it's on purpose or just an accident, should not be admissible as evidence. Otherwise, police can use misqueries as a pretext for poking around.

Re:Is it just me or..... (2, Informative)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218985)

Riiiiiight. You're not too familiar with subpoena are you. They deliberately make them as vague as possible so they can use them as a large net. This helps to prevent some of that abuse.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219597)

They deliberately make them as vague as possible so they can use them as a large net. This helps to prevent some of that abuse.

Exactly. And to that end, the entire database will be subpoena'd in the future, and not be restricted to a few specific sql queries. It'll be the same as searching a file cabinet for the results page, and finding 10 names on the page.

Re:Is it just me or..... (5, Interesting)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#29216975)

Actually, it's called pointing out the significant information in the article. If you think this article is about baseball, you're not paying attention.

The Appeals court specifically indicated how this ruling should be applied to cases you'd probably be more interested in, such as if Google's servers were searched.

If anything, cnn.com is pandering to its audience by focusing on the baseball aspects of a story that's really about the legal bounds of search where databases are involved; and while the court reached its conclusion via a line of logic I don't care for (essentially an appeal to force - "if I decide this way, the consequences would be harmful, so I'll decide a different way"), it is a pro-privacy conclusion that a lot of folks around here are probably interested in.

But by all means, argue that the information shouldn't be made available here because it happens to come from a case that deals with sports and I suppose you think nerds don't do sports.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Stauken (1392809) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217329)

Trust me, just about nobody does baseball at this point. :) Even if you watch ESPN highlights of baseball, which is the only way to tolerably watch baseball, you see just how empty the majority of the teams stadiums are. Most of them seldom even have a few thousand people in them.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

rozthepimp (638319) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217521)

I call BS. 2009 attendance data (to date) - Best are the Yankees, with a 45K per game average. Worst are the Marlins, with a 18K per game average.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217799)

Baseball on TV is unwatchable. In person, it is the best game to go to. When my kids get older, I will go back to watching a lot of our minor league team's games. You can get the whole family in for a few bucks. No waiting in lines. Entertainment is wonderful. You'd have a hard time coming up with a better value than that in any other US sport.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218573)

Yeah, I'm not really into sports... however, sometimes I like to think about baseball.

Re:Is it just me or..... (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217011)

It is just me or did I miss the part of the US Constitution that said Congress shall have the power to ensure the integrity of Major League Baseball? I can't be the only one that finds it absurd that our Government is devoting resources to outing cheating athletes. Surely there are more pressing issues for them to worry about?

Re:Is it just me or..... (1, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217109)

in government, when you can't be EFFECTIVE, yet you are asked 'what are you doing with your time' its shit like this that keeps the burrocrats (sic) 'busy'.

clearly, they don't want to touch any 3rd rails (real issues that need real attention yet will get them unelected next go-round). so they go for easy fruit.

pathetic.

I have zero respect for lawmakers, judges and those in the position of power. lately, all 'understandings' of things technical make me puke. legal guys are worse than children in how illogical they really are, once you look close enough.

Re:Is it just me or..... (3, Insightful)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217825)

in government, when you can't be EFFECTIVE, yet you are asked 'what are you doing with your time' its shit like this that keeps the burrocrats (sic) 'busy'.

clearly, they don't want to touch any 3rd rails (real issues that need real attention yet will get them unelected next go-round). so they go for easy fruit.

pathetic.

I have zero respect for lawmakers, judges and those in the position of power. lately, all 'understandings' of things technical make me puke. legal guys are worse than children in how illogical they really are, once you look close enough.

So when was the last time you went to your rep's office and told them about yourself?

"Hello, I'm a constituent, and I'd like to talk to [ my rep ] about technical issues being proposed / in the news / reflecting the upcoming election.

"I represent a group that [ tech tech tech ], and I wanted to let you know about services we can provide for you. You're an expert on government and the law, and sometimes you'll hear about technical bills. Some things proposed may be impossible, or split very fine hairs on details that you don't have the time to devote to total research. If there are ever questions we can answer for you, we're here, for you, as a resource, to provide a high-level summary."

Since you're complaining on /., I'd say you're a slacktivist who has never done such a thing. Do you even know your rep's name?

Re:Is it just me or..... (3, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218011)

Do you even know your rep's name?

Maurice Hinchey and he doesn't give a damn what I think because my political views do not align with his own and his district is so gerrymandered that he only has to worry about what his supporters think.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1, Offtopic)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218533)

Welcome to 70% of the districts in the US. They're all gerrymandered one way or the other. Most of them don't even give a crap what their "supporters" think, because the votes that keep them in office are not "supporters", just idiots who vote based on whether they see that "R" or "D" next to the name.

And it won't change, because that 70% would never vote to outlaw gerrymandering, or anything else that threatens their power.

Re:Is it just me or..... (5, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218917)

>>>"Hello, I'm a constituent, and I'd like to talk to [ my rep ] about technical issues being proposed / in the news / reflecting the upcoming election.
>

Several times. They just don't listen. For example I spoke to my Senator about the DTV conversion, and how the power levels were set too low for VHF channels 6, 8, 10, 11, and 13 such that they could not be received with the indoor antennas most viewers use. He thanked me and then promptly did nothing.

Next I talked to him about Comcast's monopoly and how it is working to "lock up" television programming (cable shows) behind walls, such that only Comcast subscribers could access them, but not Verizon subscribers (like me). He gave told me he supports net neutrality and that's why he's not going to interfere with Comcast's running of its business and he sees nothing wrong with the practice. (Huh?) I later checked and found he gets million from Comcast in contributions.

And of course I've witnessed what's happening with the townhalls, where he basically told the people he's not listening to their cries to "leave my healthcare alone". He's taken a Nixon-like tactic of saying there's a silent majority and he's serving them. (I would argue if such a majority existed, it should speak up not be silent.)

Democracy doesn't work if the reps refuse to hear what we're saying.

Re:Is it just me or..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29219843)

I happen to share this persons' opinion, and I write my representative and congress person frequently. What is your basis for saying that he/she is a slacktivist? You sound like a politician: avoid the statement or question posed, and attack the person making the comment with accusations that you randomly pull from the air. Worse yet, you have somehow been modded up! Sad....

Re:Is it just me or..... (0, Offtopic)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218309)

I think that burrocrats [wikipedia.org] might actually be quite right in this case.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217385)

I'd rather them screw up the game of baseball than everyone else's lives. Unfortunately they opted for doing both.

Neither branch of government has respected the Constitution in its original intent. If people want to keep their freedoms and liberties they'll have to do it themselves.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217469)

I highly doubt they were interested in "cheating" athletes. They were interested in athletes who were doing illegal drugs. The difference is that cheating my involve legal substances, and I doubt the government was interested in those. Instead, they were looking for drugs in their systems that the athlete in question probably did not have a legal prescription for, including controlled drugs that one cannot get via prescription.

And the court said, "That's fine, but to go searching for it in these computer records, you need a warrant for THAT individual. Having a search warrant for information regarding others does not allow you to peruse at will."

Re:Is it just me or..... (2, Insightful)

dfxm (1586027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217493)

The U.S. government has granted this league monopoly status, so they have a big interest in making sure this entity is operating on the up and up.

Baseball is also something that greatly affects many Americans (congressmen included). I think they'd be remiss if they ignore these illegal acts coming from an American icon (the league).

Lastly, the Federal Government is pretty big and has a lot of people working for it. Yes there are more pressing issues to worry about, but rest assured they can worry about those and this issue concurrently.

Re:Is it just me or..... (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217903)

The U.S. government has granted this league monopoly status

No, they granted it an exemption from the anti-trust laws. There's no law stopping you from starting your own baseball league to compete with the MLB.

Baseball is also something that greatly affects many Americans

No it's not. It's something that a great many Americans (myself included, Let's Go Mets!) enjoy watching but it doesn't "greatly affect" you unless you are unlucky enough to get killed by the police [wikipedia.org] while celebrating the victory of your favorite team.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218971)

Baseball affects me?

I'm not even sure what baseball is. Why I am I paying to subsidize this?

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

sho222 (834270) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217657)

The supreme court granted MLB an exemption from anti-trust laws. The court then said that only congress can undo the exemption. Therefore congress meddles in baseball to make sure that it's still for the public good (and therefore can keep its monopoly). That's why they have the power to ensure the integrity of MLB. Like many things congress engages in, it's not in the constitution explicitly, but rather an interpreted power. Don't get me wrong. I agree it's a waste of their time and they have better things to do. But, that's why they're involved.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219771)

Surely there are more pressing issues for them to worry about?

I would much rather our Federal Government waste their time and my money investigating MLB, as opposed to to wasting their time and my money improving healthcare, out failed/failing companies, saving every single last banker, and figuring out new ways to let illegals vote for them.

I have my conservative HOPES, and they can keep the socialist CHANGE.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 5 years ago | (#29220505)

Except that wasting their time and my money investigating MLB hasn't stopped them from screwing up anything, since they've been doing both for years now.

Re:Is it just me or..... (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#29220835)

It would make sense that the "Law of lesser evil" would apply. Unfortunately, this is American Government where no laws apply.

Re:Is it just me or..... (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217089)

No. From TFA:

The decision recommended new guidelines for computer searches to prevent investigators from using information about people who are not named in a search warrant but whose private data is stored on a computer being searched.

If the cops subpeona records looking for Cowboy Neal's crhacking somebody's porn server, thay can't use evidence of Cnik70's use of illegal hamburger buns that they find in that database.

It is relevant.

OffTopic - Re: Sig (1, Informative)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217411)

The threshold for your abacus is 24601^911th beads.

Re:Is it just me or..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29217639)

Cnik70's use of illegal hamburger buns that they find in that database

Greatest. Database. Ever.

OffTopic - Re: Sig 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29217747)

Just finally responding 'cuz TaoPhoenix did. That sig is awesome - I really love it. I need a poster version for my office. I like my sig just fine, but it's just a line ripped off from the Red Dwarf theme.

AC 'cuz I suffered plenty of Karma burn yesterday from some dim-wits who can't detect sarcasm even when they're tied down and beaten with it and this is blatantly off-topic.

Also, nice summarized analogy - Well done. Cheers.

Makes sense to me (5, Insightful)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29216899)

Otherwise, what would keep someone from gaining access to information completely irrelevant to the records being subpoenaed in the first place? I'm actually surprised HIPAA didn't get involved sooner since patients' privacy could have been compromised.

Re:Makes sense to me (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217101)

Otherwise, what would keep someone from gaining access to information completely irrelevant to the records being subpoenaed in the first place?

Isn't that the whole point of warrants to begin with. They get it on some technicality, then go on a fishing trip. This applies to private companies as well as governments by the way.

Re:Makes sense to me (2, Informative)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217187)

The "P" in HIPAA stands for Portability, not Privacy.

-Rick

Re:Makes sense to me (4, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217247)

The "P" in HIPAA stands for Portability, not Privacy.

And the "A" stands for "Accountability" (which refers, in large part, to 'accountability for use of personal information'.) The major regulatorions under HIPAA include the Privacy Rule which controls use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI) by covered entities, the Security Rule which covers the required protection of electronic PHI held and communicated by covered entities, and the Transactions and Code Sets rule which establishes standards for how insurance-related transactions are conducted in electronic media. The first two of those rules are directed at protecting privacy.

HIPAA isn't all about privacy, but privacy protections are an important part of it (they were incorporated largely because privacy fears were one of the reasons people were resistant to the rest of the pieces aimed at acheiving efficiency by promoting and standardizing use of electronic transactions for health insurance billing and related activities.)

Re:Makes sense to me (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217645)

And sarbanes Oxley is defined as a pain in the ass for all the IT people.

Re:Makes sense to me (4, Informative)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217717)

On the Privacy rule, from HIPAA's own web site:

Who Is Not Required to Follow This Law

Many organizations that have health information about you do not have to follow this law.

Examples of organizations that do not have to follow the Privacy Rule include:

        * life insurers,
        * employers,
        * workers compensation carriers,
        * many schools and school districts,
        * many state agencies like child protective service agencies,
        * many law enforcement agencies,
        * many municipal offices.

Once your employer has your health information, they are not bound to the Privacy Rule.

I'm not saying HIPAA is all bad, but a lot of people have the misconception that the "P" in HIPAA stands for Privacy and that HIPAA is designed solely to protect them. Neither of which is true.

-Rick

Re:Makes sense to me (2, Insightful)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217801)

I don't care what the "P" stands for. I should have a right to privacy regardless of what acronyms some jackass decides to use to implement bullshit regulations and policies to convey a CYA facade.

Re:Makes sense to me (2, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219157)

On the Privacy rule, from HIPAA's own web site:

HIPAA isn't an entity, and doesn't have "its own web site". You appear to be referring the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights web site about HIPAA.

Once your employer has your health information, they are not bound to the Privacy Rule.

OTOH, the privacy rule prevents them from getting the information without your consent from your insurer or provider. But, yes, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies almost entirely to health providers and insurers.

I'm not saying HIPAA is all bad, but a lot of people have the misconception that the "P" in HIPAA stands for Privacy and that HIPAA is designed solely to protect them.

IME (and I work directly with HIPAA rules a lot) more people, including a disturbing number whose jobs are touched by HIPAA, think that the acronym pronounced 'Hi-pah' is spelled HIPPA and have no idea what any of the letters stand for.

As the Privacy Rule is the only aspect of HIPAA that most people who don't actually work in a health care, health insurance, or in IT directly related to handling health insurance related transaction will ever actually deal with, thinking that the "P" stands for "privacy", while factually wrong, is hardly a big mistake.

Thinking that HIPAA is designed solely to protect them is not far from truth--its designed to protect consumers against:
1) Not being able to get new health coverage after losing eligibility for previous group coverage, such as through job changes.
2) Not being able to get the right health care even with coverage because providers can't afford to operate, or can only afford to operate with a single insurance carrier, because the cost of dealing with a multiplicity of different billing forms and systems mandated by different insurance, some paper and some electronic, is prohibitive.
3) Harms resulting from deliberate but unnecessary and unauthorized (by the patient) exposure of personal health information by parties that must have access to it in the health care and health insurance chain to others that do not need that access for that reason.
4) Harms resulting from accidental exposure of personal health information stored and transmitted in the health care and health insurance chain, due to lack of security.

The bigger problem than believing that HIPAA is focussed on "privacy" (which HIPAA rules actually do to a considerable extent) is mistaking the scope of their applicability; It's not that people get the "P" part wrong that misleads them as to the impact of HIPAA, but that they don't appreciate the significance of the "HI" part -- that HIPAA is focussed on health insurance industry, and has little impact outside health care and health insurance industry, even where it concerns health information.

Re:Makes sense to me (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219797)

HIPAA isn't an entity, and doesn't have "its own web site". You appear to be referring the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights web site about HIPAA.

Don't be a pedantic ass.

disturbing number whose jobs are touched by HIPAA, think that the acronym pronounced 'Hi-pah'

Can you cite an authoritative source regarding the correct pronunciation? Only use official DHHS or Congress websites, please. Otherwise, again, quit with the pedantry.

The bigger problem than believing that HIPAA is focussed on "privacy" (which HIPAA rules actually do to a considerable extent) is mistaking the scope of their applicability; It's not that people get the "P" part wrong that misleads them as to the impact of HIPAA, but that they don't appreciate the significance of the "HI" part -- that HIPAA is focussed on health insurance industry, and has little impact outside health care and health insurance industry, even where it concerns health information.

Good point. Unfortunately, though, the scope is far too narrow with too many holes.

Re:Makes sense to me (1)

hesiod (111176) | more than 5 years ago | (#29220721)

He's correct. If C-Span has video archives you could go back to when it was being debated and listen to the authors of the bill pronounce it that way. Of course websites aren't going to tell you how it's pronounced, it's irrelevant to what they are trying to tell you.

Re:Makes sense to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29220065)

The major regulatorions under HIPAA include the Privacy Rule

Weren't the Regulatorions destroyed by the Klingons?

From a technical standpoint (5, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#29216931)

SELECT Results, TestingLab FROM SteroidTests WHERE LastName = 'DiMaggio' AND FirstName = 'Joe' does not mean that SELECT * FROM SteroidTests is in plain sight.

Especially since large databases keep track of more and more things (like your credit cards, names, address, ssn, what you last purchased, credit scores, ...) legitimate seizures of data should be severely limited by the judges issuing a warrant. Right now the feds can get away with: "Judge, this terrorist location is stored in this companies database, let's seize all the database servers of the company" and the judge not understanding how records are stored or how databases work practically gives a warrant for all the data the feds can find including 'collateral' records.

Re:From a technical standpoint (1)

solocommand (1626167) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217221)

I can't agree more, but there's still a giant gap between how judges/courts understand this difference in technology. Hopefully this ruling is another step in the right direction. :(

Re:From a technical standpoint (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218001)

FYI, according to the wired article, this wasn't about a database, it was about a excel file. I think since "in plain sight" is not in the constitution; it is a interpretation of the Constitution that clearly shouldn't apply to computer data (and thats the only justification I can think of for this ruling.) If we assume we have one row for each name, and we have 10 names to look for, sorted by last name, if those 10 names are each on different pages, we then have 10 pages * 30 results per screen, so ~300 results were clearly in plain sight, during this search.
I do applaud the decision, since in this case they did seam to have a willing 3rd party (not the prosecution or defense), willing to supply exactly the data they needed, they should have allowed this 3rd party holding the data to strip out all other results. But clearly in this case, anyone going through the original data was going to see "in plain sight" many more results than the 10 requested. So the ruling made it clear to me: since the cops could have received only the results they wanted, they should have only obtained those results.

Re:From a technical standpoint (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 5 years ago | (#29220621)

You can still run a query against an Excel file, it just takes a little more work than scrolling through the cells of data.

How they ended up with a spreadsheet with 100 or so names on it is the real question, since most people would keep the results in a database and it would include all of the results, not just a selection of people that tested positive.

Of course, in most of the databases I work with, the names of people are stored separately from most of the other data related to those people, so if I wanted information about a specific person, I would first query their ID number to use in the where clause of the rest of my queries, and would never see anyone else's data.

Re:From a technical standpoint (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218277)

This is yet another reason to use encryption to ensure that one has some measure of control over privacy and disclosure. For instance, if they want to actually read the data then they will have to inform you so that you can decrypt the data for them which means that you would at least be aware of the request and probably have an opportunity to present your side to the judge and negotiate the terms and conditions of the disclosure. This is better than the judge meeting privately with the government agents and deciding what is and what is not a valid scope without any input or reply from you.

Just read this somewhere else... (5, Informative)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 5 years ago | (#29216995)

Oh yeah, a much better article on Wired! [wired.com] Despite the bad link and very short summary, it is still an important issue. They key is that they say "Ideally, when searching a computerâ(TM)s hard drive, the government should cull the specific data described in the search warrant, rather than copy the entire drive, the San Francisco-based appeals court ruled. When thatâ(TM)s not possible, the feds must use an independent third party under the courtâ(TM)s supervision," So basically, they had a warrant for 10 drug results, but happened to find 104 results, and took them all. This ruling is a good one in my eyes. Now, they keyword I see there is "ideally", which seems to mean it could be stretched both ways by a smart lawyer, but still overall good stuff.

Re:Just read this somewhere else... (2, Interesting)

urulokion (597607) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217151)

"Ideally" might be try to be stretched but the courts would have to err to the side of the defendant. IF the Feds do go overboard and grab more data than what their search warrant states, all a defense lawyer is to pose a very plausible method the government could have followed to get the data. Any excess data gathered would become tainted, and therefore inadmissible.

But I agree with the quoted laywer in teh Wired article. I doubt the ruling would survive scrutiny of the SCOTUS with it's current makeup.

Actual implications (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29217185)

Here's my opinion, I have done search warrants like this before.

The issue is not subpoenas, but search warrants. Obviously, if the government requested a subpoena on all players even though they only had probable cause for 10, then that would be unreasonable. Consequently, nobody would be surprised if the subpoena got shot down (which is why I think the summary is wrong. If it's right, then this isn't news).

The other half of the summary deals with "plain sight" seizure. Plain sight refers to contraband found during a search for something else. I.e., if you are searching a house for stolen money, you can search anywhere a stolen bill could fit and any contraband found during that search is admissible in court. However, if you are searching for a stolen elephant, you can only search in areas large enough to house an elephant.

So, what is exciting in this case deals with is search warrants for electronic information. Every slashdotter should know this: searching for electronic information is a pain, and information can easily be hidden. The file can be called "negative testing results.xls" and actually be the database of positive results. It can be called "my cat.jpg" and be the database of positive results. So, when agents request search warrants for electronic they articulate a need to search the entire media. Again, any slashdotter knows this is the ONLY way to find the requested information. Consequently, search warrants for small amounts of information usually include all media. And, according to plain sight doctrine, any information found indicating illegal activity would be admissible in court. I doubt that a court has changed this doctrine to say anything different (but I can't find the actual opinion!).

warrant != permission to ransack (3, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217343)

It can be called "my cat.jpg" and be the database of positive results. So, when agents request search warrants for electronic they articulate a need to search the entire media.

And unfortunately thinking like that is why they can literally tear your car down to the nuts bolts and wires at the border when doing a search for drugs. When they're done, and haven't found a thing, you know what you get? A toolbox full of tools and a space in their parking lot to try to put your entire car back together by yourself. (I know two that have had this happen to them when traveling between the USA and Canada)

By your logic they could literally tear a house down, tear apart the walls and the joists and dig up the foundation if they could suggest that a crack rock could fit in there, when searching a house on a drug warrant.

Unfortunately this is one of the innumerable examples of where the law is given overly broad power and it's left up to someone's judgement as to "how far to go" with it. Unless you have good evidence to suspect the perp has gone to extreme measures to hide something, you can't just ransack the place.

Re:warrant != permission to ransack (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217547)

Unfortunately this is one of the innumerable examples of where the law is given overly broad power and it's left up to someone's judgement as to "how far to go" with it. Unless you have good evidence to suspect the perp has gone to extreme measures to hide something, you can't just ransack the place.

The appeals court rightly decided that this violates two major constitutional doctrines: (1) Void for Vagueness and (2) Overbreadth. Laws cannot be written so vaguely as to grant the enforcer extra arbitrary power and, additionally, may not be written in such fashion as to go well beyond the scope of its original intention.

Re:warrant != permission to ransack (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218653)

the problem is though, until they are appealed and overturned, they're LAW and if someone wants to abuse them, they can. (and eventually, ALL laws that can be abused, will be abused, usually with increasing frequency until someone revolts and creates change) And until enough precedence is established, they REMAIN law. and even after that they can still be challenged. Until the law itself is clarified or struck down.

Re:Actual implications (3, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217345)

I think the point is that once you find said database you can only go looking in it for information that is within the scope of your warrant, ie: within that database you're searching for references to elephants your search should be limited to elephants, not major league baseball players.

If you're looking for MLB players but have a list of 10 specific ones, you should be limited to searching for those players names... if they use an alias you're out of luck and will need to convince a judge that this is so important that you need a 'john doe' warrant to search all records for evidence. Better yet just find some other specific criteria that is likely to pull up your aliased individuals records - such as a data, address, etc. that will properly narrow your results so as to exclude as many false matches as possible.

Re:Actual implications (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#29220463)

will need to convince a judge that this is so important that you need a 'john doe' warrant to search all records for evidence

I get the impression that you (and many others) believe that because itscommonsense to work this way, that it actually does work that way. The flaw is in the definition of "convince", whereby many assume its a difficult requirement.

Re:Actual implications (2, Insightful)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217359)

Fail. I don't think this has anything to do with searching for child porn. This is dealing with a highly organized collection of data at some company/organization. In that case, if you need to find 10 guys test results, then you use a where clause; otherwise it is the same thing as searching where an elephant cannot be housed... you will never find the test result of ARod housed in the record for McGwire. So you must use a properly formed query... just as you would when trying to pull a report on sales to make a business decision.

Re:Actual implications (1)

strech (167037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218913)

The decision is here [uscourts.gov] .

It explicitly sets down a rule applying to *all* electronic media search warrants (though it will only apply to federal courts in the 9th circuit). The ruling's core is about the method of electronic searches and the plain sight doctrine, and eviscerates the usage of the latter for electronic media :

In general, we adopt Tamura's solution to the problem
of necessary over-seizing of evidence: When the government
wishes to obtain a warrant to examine a computer hard
drive or electronic storage medium in searching for certain
incriminating files, or when a search for evidence could result
in the seizure of a computer, see, e.g., United States v. Giberson,
527 F.3d 882 (9th Cir. 2008), magistrate judges must be
UNITED STATES v. COMPREHENSIVE DRUG TESTING, INC. 11891
vigilant in observing the guidance we have set out throughout
our opinion, which can be summed up as follows:
1. Magistrates should insist that the government waive reliance
upon the plain view doctrine in digital evidence cases.
See p. 11876 supra.
2. Segregation and redaction must be either done by specialized
personnel or an independent third party. See pp.
11880-81 supra. If the segregation is to be done by government
computer personnel, it must agree in the warrant application
that the computer personnel will not disclose to the
investigators any information other than that which is the target
of the warrant.
3. Warrants and subpoenas must disclose the actual risks of
destruction of information as well as prior efforts to seize that
information in other judicial fora. See pp. 11877-78, 11886-87
supra.
4. The government's search protocol must be designed to
uncover only the information for which it has probable cause,
and only that information may be examined by the case
agents. See pp. 11878, 11880-81 supra.
5. The government must destroy or, if the recipient may
lawfully possess it, return non-responsive data, keeping the
issuing magistrate informed about when it has done so and
what it has kept. See p. 11881-82 supra.

So while it hasn't changed the plain sight doctrine per se, it's basically ordered magistrates to require cops to not use the plain sight doctrine when issuing a warrant for electronic data, among other restrictions to help ensure privacy. (Tamura is about a set of restrictions around searching things like filing cabinets, which have some of the same issues with the "plain sight" doctrine). Orin Kerr has a good post [volokh.com] about the decision, which is part of a series of posts [volokh.com] he's done on the situation.

So it's an extremely important case for computer privacy, at least in the 9th circuit, although it will probably end up being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Also, I have no idea why "database records" keeps coming up; the records searched were an excel sheet. The summary is terrible.

Re:Actual implications (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218851)

Who's to say you didn't cut the elephant up into little pieces. One couldn't be sure unless they checked every single little space.

The dangers of screening tests (5, Insightful)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217365)

While the matter at issue involves celebrity figures, the question at hand applies every bit as much to people in industries like technology where drug tests are used.

The salient facts of the matter were that:

1. A group of people took tests, the results of which were guaranteed to be confidential.

2. The government subpoenaed some of the test results.

3. Investigators collected substantially more test data than the subpoena allowed, stretching the "plain sight" doctrine to the breaking point to do so.

4. Investigators leaked the test results to others.

5. The people who took the tests suffered adverse employment consequences, years after the tests were taken.

Exactly that same sort of thing could happen to you. Let's imagine. Five years ago you tested positive for THC when a random test was required the day after you were, uncharacteristically, at a party thrown by an old friend where there was a great deal of smoke in the air (You don't remember inhaling). Your employer sent you through the spanking mill for the next year and there were additional tests and you were forced to endure flash presentations on drug abuse against your will. You figured that was the end of it.

Little did you know that the Anytown Police Department happened to hang onto a list of positives they got from ABC Testing and Compliance Services (where you took the test) as the result of an unrelated investigation into a person you do not know. The list was leaked via a cop's wife to the local Human Resources Disucssion Group that meets every 2nd Wednesday at the Perkins. And guess what? Now you can't get a job in Anytown and you don't know why.

The ruling at issue is a step in the right direction, because it helps plug one of the holes through which some of this data gets out. If you don't care, you should -- unless you have nothing to hide.

Re:The dangers of screening tests (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217725)

do not take these tests. ever.

nothing good comes from volunteering to be 'examined' for things that nature deems are perfectly normal.

if enough people took a stand as refuseniks, then change would happen.

any pre-employment papers that say I have to be tested, I cross those lines out. some employers are ok with you refusing it and those that aren't, well, that's tell about THEIR priorities, isn't it? don't work for them. just say no (lol).

Re:The dangers of screening tests (1)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217923)

do not take these tests. ever. nothing good comes from volunteering to be 'examined' for things that nature deems are perfectly normal. if enough people took a stand as refuseniks, then change would happen. any pre-employment papers that say I have to be tested, I cross those lines out. some employers are ok with you refusing it and those that aren't, well, that's tell about THEIR priorities, isn't it? don't work for them. just say no (lol).

That's a valid strategy if you're willing to constrain your universe of employers to startups and other smaller employers that are not in a highly regulated business. I went for 15 years without having to take a drug test. Then the economy tanked and I had to take a job with one of the companies you read about in the newspaper, and so I got to piss in a plastic cup for them under the supervision of some minimum-wage nursing school dropout. Or welch on my mortgage. It was, frankly, an easy choice to make.

Of course, if you want to live by yourself in a rusted-out pickup camper at the end of some Forest Service road, you can afford to be more principled in these matters.

Re:The dangers of screening tests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29218045)

Public Universities don't seem to be requiring drug tests for employees yet. They can be a nice place to work.

It's the same with flying, if you don't want to put with that crap then don't. If a large enough group refuses to fly or work at jobs with mandatory drug testing, things will change back.

Re:The dangers of screening tests (0)

dcollins (135727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218057)

"Industries like technology where drug tests are used... Exactly that same sort of thing could happen to you. Let's imagine. Five years ago you tested positive for THC when a random test was required..."

I'd like to know what you're smoking. :) I've worked in agriculture, I've worked in technology, I've worked in academia. I've never been asked by any employer for a drug test. I've never had any prospective employer even suggest drug testing. I've never even *heard of any friend or aquaintance* ever being asked for a drug test by any employer.

I'm sorry that you've been convinced to let yourself be drug tested, and suffer fear from it. But you must understand that you're in a teeny-tiny minority of jobs that ask for that. Just say no.

Re:The dangers of screening tests (2, Informative)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218915)

See, and I've worked for the Military, the State of Idaho, and currently a software company. They all required drug tests to start and the military tested regularly (nearly every month). All of the employers have in the contract that I could be tested at any time with or without reason. My current employer also states that if I am ever convicted of drug use or I test positive, that it is grounds for immediate termination. So, I'm not sure where you live; Amsterdam? And yeah, I have known people being terminated by the military and state for drug use. This company is rather small, so I'm not sure anyone here partakes in such activities.

Re:The dangers of screening tests (2, Informative)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219097)

It's not a teeny minority. IBM, all the banks, all financial firms, most manufacturers, most construction jobs, all transportation jobs (truck drivers) require drug testing and often background checks. I had to take a pee test when our small software company got bought by one of the fortune 500. When I got a job offer with IBM years back, I had to take a drug test. It's pretty common.
   

Re:The dangers of screening tests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29220325)

I used to work at a theme park that did drug tests randomly.

I *loved* getting tested. I was always clean, so it was a paid 20-30 minute break.

Fantastic. A+++++. Would pee again.

Re:The dangers of screening tests (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218081)

Five years ago you tested positive for THC when a random test was required the day after you were, uncharacteristically, at a party thrown by an old friend where there was a great deal of smoke in the air

Or had eaten some poppy seed cake, which can cause you to test positive for heroin. Some ulcer medications will cause you to test positive for THC.

Re:The dangers of screening tests (1)

Darth Cider (320236) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218895)

I have mod points, but will refrain from moderating any other comments in this discussion and post a reply instead, because you've nailed it. Wish you could be modded +6

Major Victory (0, Troll)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217387)

This a major victory for our rights as individuals and highly unexpected! My guess is the system is trying to correct itself from the abuses of the Bush Administration. I wonder if this would over-ride the Patriot Act?

Re:Major Victory (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217721)

My guess is the system is trying to correct itself from the abuses of the Bush Administration. I wonder if this would over-ride the Patriot Act?

Interesting that you reference the Patriot Act while talking about the abuses of the "Bush Administration" but fail to mention the fact that the vast majority of Democrats in the House and all but one in the Senate voted in favor of it.

You'll forgive me if I'm skeptical that they will do any better now that they are in charge.

Re:Major Victory- Hollow Victory? (2, Interesting)

grendal2 (1622049) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218055)

I am not sure how you arrived at the "System" is correcting itself from the abuses of the Bush Administration. In case you haven't been following the news lately the current administration is stepping up law enforcement at every level and in May of this year Obama not only renewed the Patriot-Act, but his DOJ has issued a number of rulings and guidance that have taken the Patriot Act even further than the Bush administration did in violating our civil rights. For example did you know that the Obama administration claims the Patriot Act renders the U.S. immune from suit under other surveillance laws. This means that the government cannot be held accountable for illegal surveillance under any federal statutes. So in many of the above example even if you are harmed and the court rules in your favor, once the cat is our of the bag you have no recourse against the government?

Seems like there's another problem here... (3, Insightful)

parkrrrr (30782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29217647)

From the article:

The players were assured that the results would remain anonymous and confidential

So the question is, why isn't the players' union suing Major League Baseball for breach of contract? Anonymous and confidential is not the same as identifiable but confidential; if the results actually had been anonymous as promised, this breach never could have happened.

Re:Seems like there's another problem here... (2, Informative)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218437)

From the article:

The players were assured that the results would remain anonymous and confidential

So the question is, why isn't the players' union suing Major League Baseball for breach of contract? Anonymous and confidential is not the same as identifiable but confidential; if the results actually had been anonymous as promised, this breach never could have happened.

In order to administer the program, which included retests, MLB had to retain some information about the identity of each person tested. A promise that information will remain anonymous is not a promise to destroy all information relating to identity.

You can't win a lawsuit alleging that someone permitted law enforcement to conduct a search in compliance with a valid federal subpoena.

You can't win a lawsuit against a newspaper forcing them to identify anonymous sources.

You can't win a lawsuit against an anonymous source for leaking sensitive information unless you can determine their identity and prove it in a court of law.

Re:Seems like there's another problem here... (1)

parkrrrr (30782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219055)

A promise that information will remain anonymous is not a promise to destroy all information relating to identity.

Well, yeah, actually, it kinda is. That's what anonymous means.

There are protocols that could allow for retesting without the testing or collecting parties needing to know anything about the identity of the party being tested. The simplest one I can think of off the top of my head: randomly issue a sheet of identically numbered labels to each participating player, without tracking which player gets which labels, and have each player apply one of their labels to each test sample. Obviously, there might need to be additional protocols in place to prevent correlation of labels with players after the fact, but the point is that it's a solved problem, and one that the medical testing community has dealt with before.

I'm not saying the players should sue for the breach of confidentiality; there's really nothing that can be done about that. But there was never any serious attempt made at anonymity, despite promises that the data would be both anonymous AND confidential, and that should be a concern.

Re:Seems like there's another problem here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29218539)

I have some advice for people. Any time says that your participation will be anonymous, don't believe them. They are just trying to increase participation rates and are normally either ignorant about how hard it is to truly protect anonymity or are outright lying.

Why player's union isn't suing? (1)

codegen (103601) | more than 5 years ago | (#29220419)

They are suing. They are suing the government. The court decision is from that lawsuit.

Re:Seems like there's another problem here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29220551)

From the article:

The players were assured that the results would remain anonymous and confidential

So the question is, why isn't the players' union suing Major League Baseball for breach of contract? Anonymous and confidential is not the same as identifiable but confidential; if the results actually had been anonymous as promised, this breach never could have happened.

Because you can't sue someone for complying with a court-issued warrant.

in general, i agree with the ruling (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218319)

but in this specific case, i would rather these assholes using steroids and destroying the sport of baseball be exposed and embarrassed

the rule of law is important

the rule of moral behavior is more important (especially since law and morality are often in conflict, unfortunately)

outing steroid abusers who are destroying a national pasttime by making it more about artificial enhancement rather than natural skill, and convincing impressionable boys to inject themselves with drugs which put their health in jeopardy for the sake of a pursuit which most likely will not be their career in their adult lives, serves a greater cause then adhering to the otherwise legal and moral idea that database search warrants should be strictly constrained

Re:in general, i agree with the ruling (1)

Tired and Emotional (750842) | more than 5 years ago | (#29219997)

So you are arguing that the rights of individuals should be subservient to the interests of the state. This is equivalent to the "tear up the consitution; there are terrorists out there" argument that has prevailed in a lot of places in recent years.

Certainly such systems of government (where the individual is subservient to the state) have existed and still do, and there are those who want to restore them, often but not exclusively in the name of religion. A lot of blood has been shed over the last three centurys to overthrow such governments, and no doubt will be again. Trying to stop things getting to that point by defending the US Constitution against depredation from short term expediencies makes a lot of sense.

Makes sense (4, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 5 years ago | (#29218595)

The "in plain sight" doctrine came about as a result of an old Supreme Court case. What it boils down to is, if the cops execute a search warrant or other lawful search, and they happen to spot evidence of another crime "in plain sight", they can use that evidence to arrest and charge someone. Say the cops are checking your motel room for an escaped prisoner. They can't go rifling through your bag looking for drugs once they've searched the room. But, if you have a meth lab set up in the room, they can get you for that.

The same thing with this database search. Databases can be any arbitrary size : a database could have records on every citizen in the United States. If the cops were given a warrant to check on the records of a specific citizen, the rest of the database should be off limits. Otherwise, there's no real limit to the games the cops could play, and they would effectively have the power to investigate every citizen in the United Stats for a crime at all times. What if the "database" contained the banking records of every citizen in the U.S.?

Could someone please explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29219383)

In some detail, what exactly is meant by the term 'In-Plain-Sight-Searches' ? Yeah, I know, im one of those ****** Europeans with different laws than in the US and doesn't have a clue what the laws are in the USA. Of course, I can make an educated guess here and probably wouldn't be too far off, but it would have been nice if the practice would have been summarized in the article for those not familiar with the laws in the USA.

Re:Could someone please explain... (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 5 years ago | (#29220769)

The term is already a summarization of an abstract that is only really defined by whatever a court allows to occur. It's not a real law in the sense that it's written into a book in clear and definite terms, and this case is just one of many that help to define it better under certain circumstances.

That being said, your guess would more than likely be as accurate as anyone's summary could be. You go looking for something else with a legal right to search and instead find something you weren't looking for, but really weren't likely to have missed being a normal person with the normal senses. You don't go looking for a gun with a warrant and step over a dead body in the hallway as if it didn't exist because your warrant didn't specify that you were looking for corpses.

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