Author: Daniel Solove

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Making Universities Pay for Government Surveillance

computer-surveillance.jpg.gifIn 1994, Congress passed a law called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which requires telecommunication providers to build wiretapping and surveillance capabilities for law enforcement officials into their new technologies.

A recent rulemaking by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) significanty expands the reach of CALEA beyond telephone companies and ISPs:

The federal government, vastly extending the reach of an 11-year-old law, is requiring hundreds of universities, online communications companies and cities to overhaul their Internet computer networks to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to monitor e-mail and other online communications.

The action, which the government says is intended to help catch terrorists and other criminals, has unleashed protests and the threat of lawsuits from universities, which argue that it will cost them at least $7 billion while doing little to apprehend lawbreakers. . . .

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How to Develop a Supreme Court Practice

supremecourt10a.bmpHow does a law firm develop a Supreme Court appellate law practice? Hang out a shingle? Well, yes, if you’ve got Seth Waxman. This interesting article explains how law firms build a Supreme Court practice. The article contrasts the firm of Wilmer Culter, where Waxman argued all five of its Supreme Court cases last term, with the firm of Jones Day, which had five different attorneys argue its six Supreme Court cases.

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Dumb and Dumber

criminal2.jpgAnother entry in the annals of dumb criminals. A duo from Australia, dubbed “Dumb and Dumber” by the Australian media, robbed a bank in Vail, Colorado and made off with $130,000.

Tip: Don’t pose for photographs with your loot in hand.

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Good Media, Bad Media

media1.jpgA 4-year old girl’s mother was murdered, and the girl was left abandoned. She was put on TV, and people’s calls helped her and lead to her mother’s killer. But now it is hard to get the media to leave the girl alone. From the New York Times:

But now, those caring for the girl . . . say coverage by the news media has become a curse. She is trapped inside her relatives’ home on Long Island, they say, unable to play outside or ride the new bicycle she received as a gift.

Eighteen days have passed since [the girl] talked about pizza, pickles and her cat on television, after child welfare officials made her available to the cameras in an extraordinary effort to find out who she was. Reporters have followed every step of her story and, until last night, had been camping outside the home of [the girl’s] temporary guardians, hoping for a new photograph or a word from them. . . .

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Telephone Menu Cheat Sheet

phone2.jpgYou call a company and you want to speak with a human. Instead, you get one touchtone menu after the other, and it seems impossible to find out how you can just talk to a person. There’s usually always a way — but it can take quite a lot of time to discover it. Now, someone has created a handy cheat sheet for how to quickly navigate these menus to reach a human. Good stuff.

Hat tip: Vesterman.com

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Why Orwell’s 1984 Is So Bleak

orwell3a.jpgAccording to this article, the drab and dismal world portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984 was in part influenced by his bouts with illness:

The new study, by John Ross of Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, recounts Orwell’s sickly life. . . .

Orwell was born in India in 1903 as Eric Blair. He suffered multiple bouts of bronchitis and other respiratory ailments, Ross writes. As a young man, Orwell had several episodes of bacterial pneumonia, and also contracted dengue fever while in Burma. He was a heavy smoker, and he suffered fits of coughing from a condition called bronchiectasis. . . .

[D]epressed by his wife’s death, Orwell moved to a windy and damp Scottish island. His health worsened significantly just as he was working on the first draft of “1984,” Ross reports. Fever, weight loss, and night sweats sent him to the hospital, where he underwent “collapse therapy,” a treatment designed to close the dangerous cavities that form in the chests of tuberculosis patients. . . .

“Orwell himself told his friends that 1984 would have been less gloomy had he not been so ill—it was a very dark, disturbing, and pessimistic work,” Ross said. Orwell’s illnesses “made him a better and more empathetic writer, in that his sense of human suffering made his writing more universal.”

I wonder what a less gloomy 1984 would have read like — Brave New World perhaps?

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Revenge of the Splog

splog.jpgI previously blogged about splogs earlier this week. This recent Wall St. Journal article (one of the rare freebies on the WSJ website) has some more interesting information about splogs:

Just this past weekend, Google’s popular blog-creation tool, Blogger, was targeted in an apparently coordinated effort to create more than 13,000 splogs, the search giant said. The splogs were laced with popular keywords so that they would appear prominently in blog searches, and several bloggers complained online that that the splogs were gumming up searches for legitimate sites. . . .

Many spammers are buying special software on the Web that allows them to automatically create scores of phony blogs in mere seconds. One program cited by splog critics is BlogBurner, which starts at $47 a month. The tool “creates a unique blog for your Web site in less than one minute — even if you know nothing about computers,” according to the BlogBurner.com site.

BlogBurner’s founder, Rick Butts, denies that his software is used by spammers. He says it is used by business owners to automatically create blogs based on content pulled from their Web sites. He acknowledges that the blogs being created by BlogBurner are often used to help draw attention to a company’s main Web site. “I’m not going to pretend to say we’re altruistically creating blogs for humans to read,” he says, adding that other companies have mimicked his software and sold it to spammers.

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2

When Google Is King

google3.jpgWe are entering the age of the Google Empire. As Randy Picker at the Chicago Law Faculty Blog notes in a review of John Battelle’s The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture:

Microsoft was the king of the personal computer, and the Windows Desktop represented the most valuable real estate available. The rise of search has changed that. Search is now the front-door to the Internet, and the documents located there are often more important than those that sit on your computer. Google, not Microsoft, is defining the new interface to the Internet.

Babies are now being named after Google.

Google is filing for patents for techniques to target ads based on search results.

Google has recently added features such as Blog Search, Instant Messaging, Email, Video Search, Maps, and more. There’s also the much discussed Google Print in the works.

And Google is now unwittingly entering into international affairs, finding itself in the middle of the squabble between China and Taiwan.

All roads, it seems, are leading to Google.

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Is There One Best Method of Constitutional Interpretation?

constitution4.jpgAlthough the Supreme Court feels some pressure for consistency via precedent, it doesn’t seem to strive at all for consistency in interpretive approach. Thus, the Court’s opinions are all over the map when it comes to the method of constitutional interpretation. Sometimes the Court reads the Constitution broadly and dynamically; sometimes it interprets the Constitution narrowly; sometimes it becomes a textualist; sometimes it becomes obsessed with original intent. And all this can happen in the same year!

When it comes to interpreting the Constitution, the Court will pay attention to precedent as to the substantive meaning of a constitutional provision, but it will often repeatedly shift around in its interpretive method. There seems to be little attempt to develop a precedent for the appropriate method of constitutional interpretation. Institutionally, why does the Court strive for consistency with regard to substance but not consistency with regard to method?

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BlackProf Blog

blackprof.jpg

BlackProf, a new blog created a few weeks ago, has quickly become a must-read in the blogsophere. My colleagues, Spencer Overton and Paul Butler are blogging there, along with a very distinguished group of professors from other law schools. And they’ve recently had a wonderful group of guests, including Michelle Adams (my former colleague from Seton Hall Law School), Congressman John Conyers, and Richard Delgado. Recent topics include school vouchers, the neo-Nazi march in Ohio, journalists and security clearances, race-based medicine, the NBA’s new dress code, affirmative action, law school diversity, and voting rights.

So if you don’t already read it, be sure to check out BlackProf.