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Supreme Court Declines Case Over Techs' Right To Search Your PC 485

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-not-interested dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A few years back, a guy was arrested for possessing child pornography after techs at Circuit City found child porn on his computer, while they were installing a DVD player. The guy insisted that the evidence shouldn't be admissible since the techs shouldn't have been snooping through his computer — and a lower court agreed. The appeals court, however, reversed, noting that the guy had given Circuit City the right to do things on his computer — including testing out the newly installed software (which is how the tech claims he found the video). The guy appealed to the Supreme Court, who has declined to hear the case, meaning that the ruling stands for the time being. So, basically, if you hand your computer over to someone else for repairs, at least in some jurisdictions, they may have pretty free rein in terms of what they're allowed to access on your computer."
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Supreme Court Declines Case Over Techs' Right To Search Your PC

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  • Justice... (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by WgT2 (591074)
    ...WTF!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DuncanE (35734) *

      Here's the keys to my house. Please clean my rug. If you find my porn/drugs/kidnapped child then it will be unusable in court.

  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:01AM (#28291441) Homepage

    So, basically, if you hand your computer over to someone else for repairs, at least in some jurisdictions, they may have pretty free rein in terms of what they're allowed to access on your computer.

    No, but whatever they find is admissible as evidence in court.

    That something is admitted as evidence in court does not mean it was legal to obtain that evidence. Similarly, if something is inadmissible as evidence in court, it could still be legal to obtain that evidence.

    • by Nursie (632944) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:05AM (#28291471)

      Yeah, the real message is that you just don't hand you collection of illegal images over to anyone if you don't want them found.

      Like, if you have to go to the police station to bail out a friend, leave your drugs at home. These things are common sense.

      Also this guy should rot in jail.

      • by QCompson (675963) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:32AM (#28291687)

        Yeah, the real message is that you just don't hand you collection of illegal images over to anyone if you don't want them found.

        You're assuming that "illegal images" is a cut and dry term. Not anymore. Have some myspace photos of your young looking friend in just her underwear? A "jailbait" inspirational photo in your picture folder as a joke? Manga which might be considered obscene?

        No matter how innocuous you may think your hard drive is, if you are a heavy internet user there's a chance there's something on there that someone might consider child porn.

        • by Swizec (978239)

          Yeah, the real message is that you just don't hand you collection of illegal images over to anyone if you don't want them found.

          You're assuming that "illegal images" is a cut and dry term. Not anymore. Have some myspace photos of your young looking friend in just her underwear? A "jailbait" inspirational photo in your picture folder as a joke? Manga which might be considered obscene? No matter how innocuous you may think your hard drive is, if you are a heavy internet user there's a chance there's something on there that someone might consider child porn.

          Heavy internet users store their images on the internets. Why on earth would you store something that is more easily and quicker accessible online?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by cheftw (996831)

            I don't know what sort of latency you get on your HDD but mine is slightly faster than my internet.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Swizec (978239)
              The latency comes from having to move out of my browser. Open something to browse the hard drive. Find something on the hard drive and so on.

              Or I could just leave everything rather useless on the internet. Ctrl+T to a new tab and google it within less than a second. Furthermore, I also get other fun and useless stuff related to whatever useless stuff I was looking for. win-win
        • by WCMI92 (592436) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @08:00AM (#28292007) Homepage

          You're assuming that "illegal images" is a cut and dry term. Not anymore. Have some myspace photos of your young looking friend in just her underwear? A "jailbait" inspirational photo in your picture folder as a joke? Manga which might be considered obscene?

          No matter how innocuous you may think your hard drive is, if you are a heavy internet user there's a chance there's something on there that someone might consider child porn.

          Have any naked baby photos of your kids? Remember the mother who got arrested at Wal-Mart after taking such photos to be developed?

          This sort of thing isn't nearly as black and white as it is made to seem. Child pornography is a really HORRIBLE thing, and people who create it should be castrated, and people who DESIRE it need to be put into an asylum for psychological treatment. But I just pointed out something that could be subjectively called "child pornography" that probably in in the possession of the majority parents out there...

          Hell, I always HATED it when I was a kid and at the family gatherings my mom and grandparents would inevitably drag out my baby pictures... To me, that was annoying. To some freak in law enforcement who's out there trolling the `net trying to entice people to download his government sanctified stash of child porn so they can "bust" them, they were guilty of creating and disseminating child porn...

          • by iamhassi (659463) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @08:09AM (#28292131) Journal
            "Have any naked baby photos of your kids? Remember the mother who got arrested at Wal-Mart after taking such photos to be developed?"

            link [reason.com]: "a WalMart worker in Pennsylvania reported 59-year-old Donna Dull to local authorities after Dull dropped off some film that included shots of her three-year-old granddaughter in and just out of the bath. Dull was arrestedâ"roughly, she saysâ"and charged with producing and distributing child pornography. The charges were dropped 15 months later..."
            • by Tanktalus (794810) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @08:48AM (#28292827) Journal

              The OP did say "arrested" and not "convicted." I don't know about you, but my life would be hell on earth for those fifteen months. And probably for a long time thereafter, too, as idiots remember the arrest, and not the dropping of the charges for being stupid.

              The power to arrest comes with some very serious responsibilities. The police, evidently, aren't aware of that. What I'm wondering isn't why the officer in this case arrested the woman ("stupidity" explains that in a population size of one), but why his/her superior was okay with it. Someone wasn't doing their job, and BOTH of them should be fired with extreme prejudice for simple incompetence.

              Of course, I'm also wondering why it took the prosecutors 15 months to drop a case that 30 minutes of investigation could show was inept (drive to her granddaughter's house and verify the girl there matches the picture). There should have been heads rolling in the prosecutor's office, too, though I'll admit to not knowing if this was the case (I doubt it, though - I just don't trust the gubmint to get this right).

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Shakrai (717556)

                The OP did say "arrested" and not "convicted." I don't know about you, but my life would be hell on earth for those fifteen months.

                Eh, you'd be amazed what you can learn to live with while going through something like that. Once upon a time I was charged with crimes (felonies) I didn't commit. It took eight months to clear my name. During that time frame life was surprisingly normal -- other than the occasional court appearance and the checks I was writing to my attorney. It really sucked knowing those charges were hanging over my head but you push it to the back of your mind and try to get on with life.

                Mind you, I wasn't charged

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Reziac (43301) *

                There's a good point. Cops have the authority to arrest, but take little or no responsibility for the consequences of a bad arrest.

                Maybe they should have to suffer the penalties they'd tried to pin on someone, should the arrest prove bogus.. that would put a damper on it, all right.

      • by StormReaver (59959) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:40AM (#28291755)

        > Yeah, the real message is that you just don't hand you collection of illegal images over to anyone if you don't want them found.

        There's a secondary message in this story, and it doesn't apply just to computers. If you're going to use a piece of equipment for illegal activities, you'd better be able to maintain that equipment yourself. Every time someone else gets access to that equipment, you run the risk of getting caught.

        • Yup! (Score:3, Informative)

          by Constantin (765902)

          For one, I don't know why I'd ever hand a piece of computer equipment with a hard drive in it to the folk at Best Buy, etc. after all the exposes re: naughty technicians surfing the hard drive for porn and other things of interest. There are lots of guides out there on how to do common tasks like hard drive replacement yourself, I'd only hand over a machine with a clean drive, if that.

          Secondly, one has to consider the possibility that the images stored on the computer were not deposited there by the person

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Why should someone deserves to "rot in jail" just because he had pictures of illegal acts? Who are you protecting by jailing someone who has pictures?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ThePhilips (752041)

      ... whatever they find is admissible as evidence in court.

      I agree.

      It would be very surprising if mechanics asked to check a car would ignore a dead body in a truck.

      • by diskis (221264) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:30AM (#28291667)

        I'd say it's more like the mechanic would rip open the door or dashboard to find drugs, when he was supposed to replace the brakepads.

        Dead guy in the trunk is like putting child porn as the desktop wallpaper.

        • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:55AM (#28291923)

          I'd say it's more like the mechanic would rip open the door or dashboard to find drugs, when he was supposed to replace the brakepads.

          Dead guy in the trunk is like putting child porn as the desktop wallpaper.

          I know nothing about the case. I know even less about car repair. However...

          The fine summary is a little vague on the work that was actually done. It says they were "installing a DVD player."

          If they were simply installing a piece of software to play DVDs, they probably wouldn't need to go snooping through his HDD to test it. But lots of media playback software tries to do friendly things like scanning your drive for media it can play. So the DVD player software might very well have done just that, and come up with the movie in question.

          If they were installing a more general-purpose piece of software for playing back all sorts of media - VLC for example - they might very well have gone looking for a movie on his HDD to test. Depending on the hardware/software used to create a movie it can be in all sorts of different formats... And I've had clients come back and complain because we didn't associate the right filetype for their specific videos. So I always make a point of taking a quick look in My Documents to make sure everything is associated correctly.

          If they were installing hardware, like a DVD drive, then they might very well have tested its burning capabilities. I'll routinely do that here at work. I've got a CD-R/W and a DVD-R/W that I carry around for just that purpose. I'll pop the disc in, grab something random off the desktop or My Documents, and try to burn it. Again, a good opportunity to stumble across something unsettling.

          Again, I don't know anything about this case. Maybe the guy was just snooping. But maybe he wasn't. I know I've stumbled across some images on client drives that I wish I hadn't... Nothing illegal, that I noticed, but some stuff I really didn't need to see.

      • by WCMI92 (592436)

        I agree.

        It would be very surprising if mechanics asked to check a car would ignore a dead body in a truck.

        There is a big difference between seeing drugs on the back seat, or a dead body inside the car, and reporting that, and reporting on drugs found under the carpet in the trunk or in the glovebox if the car was brought in for an oil change...

        The mechanic would have had no reasonable need to have searched those two areas to perform the job he was hired to do. Same with a PC tech, if someone brings in a

        • ... drugs found under the carpet in the trunk or in the glovebox...

          The mechanic would have had no reasonable need to have searched those two areas to perform the job he was hired to do.

          Agree about the carpet. But glovebox is fair game. Maybe the mechanic only wanted to put his stamp into the service book (which is usually kept in the glovebox...)

          In my case I was permanently cured of that the first time I found GAY pr0n, not the good kind, ie: girl on girl, the OTHER kind :)

          Please keep your bigoted homophobia to yourself.

          Just let's hope my mechanic won't freak out the next time he sees brown stains on the back seats of my car, and a mysterious white sweet & salty liquid on the filter of my air conditioning.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by JPLemme (106723)
            If your mechanic is licking your A/C filter to see what the mysterious white goo tastes like, then he's not going to be freaked out by much...
        • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @08:01AM (#28292015)

          I agree.

          It would be very surprising if mechanics asked to check a car would ignore a dead body in a truck.

          There is a big difference between seeing drugs on the back seat, or a dead body inside the car, and reporting that, and reporting on drugs found under the carpet in the trunk or in the glovebox if the car was brought in for an oil change...

          The mechanic would have had no reasonable need to have searched those two areas to perform the job he was hired to do. Same with a PC tech, if someone brings in a PC to have a CD-ROM drive replaced, there is absolutely NO REASON for the tech to need to search the browser cache or the images directory...

          Now, I know, it's a rite of passage thing. We've ALL done it, looked at a customer's PC to see what pr0n he has.. In my case I was permanently cured of that the first time I found GAY pr0n, not the good kind, ie: girl on girl, the OTHER kind :)

          But still, I shouldn't have done that then, and techs hired to replace a bad CD drive shouldn't be doing that NOW.

          I know nothing about the case. I don't know what they found or where it was hidden. I don't know if they had to brute-force decrypt some huge stash of pornography, or if they just tripped over it. So I'm not defending anyone at this point.

          But there's a big difference between whether they should have been snooping in the first place, and whether what they found should be admissible in court.

          If someone breaks into my house planning to rob me blind, but finds I've got several dead people stashed in my basement, should that be admissible? Should he be able to go to the police and say "hey, this guy's got corpses in his basement!" And if he does so, should that be admissible in a court case against me? Or should that all be thrown out because he shouldn't have been in my house in the first place?

  • by pthisis (27352) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:04AM (#28291465) Homepage Journal

    There's a difference between what they're "allowed to access" and what's admissible in court once they've seen it. The techs aren't the government--things they've seen don't automatically get excluded because they shouldn't have seen them.

    If a private citizen breaks into my house and sees something illegal, they can usually alert the cops and have knowledge of that thing be admitted in court, even though they themselves can still be prosecuted for trespassing and breaking and entering.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sigxcpu (456479)

      If the tech is allowed to access and he sees something that is illegal to posses, he then gives a tip to the police, who now have probable cause for a search.
      Wouldn't the stuff be admissible?

      Or am I missing something?

      • by Corbets (169101) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:26AM (#28291629) Homepage

        No, you've got it right, though I don't see much of a difference between what you wrote and what the GP said.

        Police and agents of the state are prevented from obtaining evidence illegally; doing so makes it inadmissible in court. However, information collected by private citizens can be used in court regardless of how it is obtained, though the private citizen can of course be prosecuted for any crimes committed during the collection of that evidence.

        Look at it this way: the laws regarding collection of evidence are not designed to protect criminals, they are designed to protect individuals from an overreaching state. But if the state is handed information without doing anything wrong (which includes asking private citizens to illegally obtain evidence, mind you), then it has the right and obligation to act upon that information.

        IANAL, though I did just read the chapter on forensics in my CISSP study guide.... :)

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      If a private citizen breaks into my house and sees something illegal, they can usually alert the cops and have knowledge of that thing be admitted in court

      Even if that private citizen happens to be collecting information on behalf of the RIAA?

      Let's try to pick a consistent position, rather than just one that happens to agree with our cause de jour.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dragonslicer (991472)

        If a private citizen breaks into my house and sees something illegal, they can usually alert the cops and have knowledge of that thing be admitted in court

        Even if that private citizen happens to be collecting information on behalf of the RIAA?

        Let's try to pick a consistent position, rather than just one that happens to agree with our cause de jour.

        What's inconsistent about that position? Contrary to their belief, the RIAA is not a government organization. If the RIAA tells someone to break in to your house, anything that person finds is admissible in court. That person is, of course, still subject to arrest for breaking and entering. If you can also prove that the person committed the crime at the direction of a RIAA official, that official could also be subject to conspiracy charges.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      There's a difference between what they're "allowed to access" and what's admissible in court once they've seen it. The techs aren't the government--things they've seen don't automatically get excluded because they shouldn't have seen them.

      Guess what? No more Fourth Amendment [msn.com]. No, really. [usatoday.com]

      If a private citizen breaks into my house and sees something illegal, they can usually alert the cops and have knowledge of that thing be admitted in court, even though they themselves can still be prosecuted for trespassing and breaking and entering.

      If a private citizen breaks into my house and sees something illegal, they can place you under citizen's arrest which for you is legally equivalent to being arrested by a police officer, even though they themselves can still be prosecuted for trespassing and breaking and entering. There, fixed that for you.

      The difference in an arrest between a cop and an citizen is that a) the citizen is usually assumed to be a jackass in court, because the system hates com

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by muridae (966931)

        In both of the cases you cited, the police were acting under the impression that they were within the law in conducting the search. It would be great if every officer could know every clause of the state law book, so that the first case wouldn't happen. And it would be great if every clerk never made a mistake and let an out-of-date warrant be sent out-of-state, and that the cops in the field would recognize it as being out-dated. That's not going to happen, though.

        The Fourth Amendment is still there. It st

  • by ultraexactzz (546422) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:04AM (#28291469) Journal
    "Thou shalt not get caught"
    This is right up there with handing the cop your beer or dimebag as you get your driver's license out after being pulled over - if you have something illegal, don't give it to people who A) know that it's illegal, and B) know who you are.
  • Not always... (Score:2, Informative)

    by vintagepc (1388833)
    I should point out this is not always the case.
    I know of at least one PC repair company that, when doing any sort of recovery/repair work, asks the customer to sign a form giving permission for them to look at the data files on the computer.
    This is just so they can verify a successful fix/file recovery. If the customer doesn't sign the form, fine, but then they have absolutely no guarantee that the repair will be okay, or that their recovered files are not just illegible garbage.
    Seems the logical appr
  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:08AM (#28291489)
    You know, you could always choose NOT to have child pornography on your computer.
    • by plover (150551) * on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:38AM (#28291741) Homepage Journal

      While I completely agree that this is the best option, this is one of those cases that would screw the rest of us if it was decided on the basis of "OMG - think of the children!" instead of on its own legal merits.

      What if the repair guy had found naked pictures of the guy's wife, and posted them on the Internet? Or posted pictures of him naked with his girlfriend, and his wife saw them? What if he found plans to tempt a Senator with a bribe? What if he gave those plans to his competing candidate, instead of the police?

      Each of those cases may represent a different legal case, but they could all be "colored" by precedent set in this case.

      That's why it's dangerous to think of this as simply "I'll never have child pr0n on my PC." The case isn't just about the content, but about how it was dealt with. I think the SCOTUS was wise to not take this case, and they just let the guy hang for the pr0n. If they had ruled fairly that this was an illegal search, the pornographer would have walked and they would have been ridiculed as "supporting the pornographers" and labeled "activists" by a bunch of morally bankrupt wingnuts, regardless of the correctness of their decision. I think they're wisely saving the "technician searches your PC" decision for a case with less 'radioactive' content.

      • Another problem (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770)

        Is that with child porn, people get a very "witch hunt" mentality with little consideration for the whole situation. What I mean is if a 19 year old kid has a naked picture of his girlfriend, taken when she was 17, that is "child porn" in the same way that a picture of a 10 year old being sexually abused by a parent is where the law is concerned. You get charged with the same thing for possessing either. Now most rational people would agree that these are not the same things, however it doesn't matter in th

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WCMI92 (592436)

          Is that with child porn, people get a very "witch hunt" mentality with little consideration for the whole situation. What I mean is if a 19 year old kid has a naked picture of his girlfriend, taken when she was 17, that is "child porn" in the same way that a picture of a 10 year old being sexually abused by a parent is where the law is concerned. You get charged with the same thing for possessing either. Now most rational people would agree that these are not the same things, however it doesn't matter in th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by CodeBuster (516420)

        I think they're wisely saving the "technician searches your PC" decision for a case with less 'radioactive' content.

        Then they may be left waiting for a very long time indeed since most cases that I can remember where the "technician searches your PC" involve the 'radioactive' content in question.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      Yeah, it worked well for those that didn't want to be charge with illegal content distribution to have no copies of recent blockbusters...

      And we're not even talking about a rather clear cut law here (steer clear of content you didn't make and you shouldn't be charged... well, you can still get charged but you have an almost 100% chance to get out clean). Look up the definition of "child porn" in your area. For me it's pretty much "anything the judge deems child porn".

      So I'm at the mercy of the dirty mind of

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by b4upoo (166390)

        Not only has the law gone insane in regard to a parent taking a photo of their kid in the tub the law has also gone insane on real sex offenders.
        For example Florida has a confined camp where offenders who have completed their sentences can be held for the rest of their lives. We also have two communities that have so greatly restricted permitted housing for former offenders that they are allowed to only live under a bridge as it is the only spot greater than

    • One would like to believe it's that easy, but I doubt most people know enough about computing to make decisions so that they can fully control what their computer does. Proprietary software + Internet access can easily equal someone else determining what's on someone's computer. Proprietary software is untrustworthy by default, no amount of testing an executable binary's behavior makes that program trustworthy because the program can be written to do something undesirable after a delay. Other than source

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695)

      "Its all about the kids".

      BS

  • I wonder of the Supreme Court would have been more inclined to take the case?
    • by CajunArson (465943) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:27AM (#28291639) Journal

      No they wouldn't have been, because there is nothing about this case that is legally novel or particularly controversial. The techs were not state actors (meaning working for the government either officially or at the direction of somebody from the government). Therefore, the 4th amendment rights to protection from unreasonable search & seizure do NOT apply (notice how I'm NOT talking about expectation of privacy... you don't even get to that issue when there's no state action).
            There have been cases in the past where criminals have broken into people's houses and stole items that prove crimes (like say papers proving bank fraud or something like that). Later when the cops bust them and recover the items, those papers were completely valid as evidence against the original owners of the papers, even though the police would have needed a warrant to get the papers if they had conducted a direct search & seizure. If a criminal breaking into your house doesn't count as state action, then voluntarily handing over your computer to techs who are supposed to know how to fix the computer is not the brightest move.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:09AM (#28291499) Homepage Journal
    A month ago a friend of my nephew was killed by a driver [theage.com.au] in a hit and run collision (I won't call it an accident). My brother in law told me that the way the police found the driver was that her boyfriend took the car to a repair place to be resprayed in a different color. Staff at the repair place looked at the damage and called the police.

    If you see evidence of a crime you have to call the police. Thats the law where I live.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      that may be. but you live in australia; which is entirely populated by criminals, as everyone knows

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:10AM (#28291503)
    ... RIAA dumps Mediasentry in favor of new sweeping deal with Circuit City. Details are currently kept silent, but if you've been downloading music and your computer breaks down, you'll know.
  • by Mistshadow2k4 (748958) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:11AM (#28291511) Journal
    It would be almost brain-dead easy to put anything you want on a computer and then change the file properties to look like it was there before you gained access to the machine. I could do it on any given morning before I've even had a sip of coffee.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zwei2stein (782480)

      And that is seriously scary. Perfect way to plant evidence that destroys ones personal and professional life pretty much forever. No matter what you do, incriminating material can appear on your computer given someone has it for you.

      I have heard on browsing history assassination nearly getting fired guy (he left machine on, did not lock it and left for lunch, someone took it for porn ride and called HR. Luckily for him, his boss was there with him when he was on lunch and took stand for him.)

      I wonder, is th

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      Circuit City put child porn on my computer! If this is the sort of "fix" I paid for, then I want my money back!
  • Easy solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EvilGrin666 (457869) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:14AM (#28291535) Homepage
    Keep your 'private' data on an external hard drive and just leave the system drive for the OS + applications. Extra paranoid people can encrypt it to for good measure.
    • Keep your 'private' data on an external hard drive and just leave the system drive for the OS + applications. Extra paranoid people can encrypt it to for good measure.

      Stupid people will continue to do the obvious.

    • by QCompson (675963)
      Until the circuit city lackey starts to comb through thumbnail images in your browser cache and sees something that might be considered child porn, so he calls the police, who are anxious to bust some scary pedos and take you into custody. Presto! Your life is ruined!
  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:16AM (#28291551) Homepage

    While I certainly despite people who desire or who peddle in child porn (and that includes the government "sting" entrappers themselves who are the LARGEST distributor of the stuff in the country, and who keep the largest amount of it around) this decision dumps barrels of oil onto the slippery slope.

    I guarantee that the aforementioned "stingers" are going to start pressuring IT shops to search for the disgusting stuff and report to them. I can even see localities passing laws REQUIRING technicians to search hard drives for illegal material, and probably not just porn, but imagine the RIAA buying themselves some laws requiring techs to report file sharing software and MP3's...

    It's a HUGE loophole that needs to be closed. If the evidence would be inadmissible in a criminal court if government actors collected it in that manner (ie: no warrant, no probable cause, no witnessing something happening in front of them) then evidence collected by civilians passed to the government should also be inadmissible. Indeed, in those circumstances, a citizen getting involved in law enforcement by implication is part of the "unorganized militia" and should be subject to the same limitations because they ARE, in effect, a government actor.

    • If the evidence would be inadmissible in a criminal court if government actors collected it in that manner (ie: no warrant, no probable cause, no witnessing something happening in front of them) then evidence collected by civilians passed to the government should also be inadmissible.

      Hold on there. What makes you think that, if a cop had done what the Circuit City techs had, that evidence would have been inadmissible?

      • by WCMI92 (592436)

        Hold on there. What makes you think that, if a cop had done what the Circuit City techs had, that evidence would have been inadmissible?

        The police couldn't have gotten away with doing this because that would have amounted to an illegal search without a warrant, without probable cause, done "just because I can". That hardly meets even the loosest standard applied to the 4th/5th Amendments.

        A PC is private property, after all.

        The reason why searches are restricted by the Constitution is to prevent exactly tha

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Corbets (169101)

      I posted a comment above about this, but if the state coerces private citizens to act on its behalf, then they are in essence state actors, and illegally obtained information becomes inadmissible.

      If on the other hand the citizen stumbles across some information, regardless of how, and chooses (without being ordered, requested, payed, etc. to do so) to share it with the police, the court will allow the evidence.

      Frankly, I think that's fair. If I am, say, breaking into the school at night to have a little fun

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:33AM (#28291697)
      If the government required the IT shop to look for that stuff and report it, I am pretty sure the Supreme Court would intervene and rule any evidence so obtained inadmissible. Such a law would move the IT shop from private citizen to government agent. The "loophole" you are referring to has existed for quite some time.
      It has long been accepted that if someone breaks into your house and finds evidence that you committed a crime, that evidence is admissible in court, as long as they were not asked to do so by the authorities. If the person was asked to do so by a government official, courts have ruled that they become a government agent and illegal search and seizure rules apply.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:19AM (#28291573)

    "the techs should have not snooped" is a defense that implicitly admits the guy had downloaded the video. He get jailed, that's the spirit of the law.
    What's troubling is that a pc which is tampered with by a third person, that is the tech repair guy, is then admitted as proof.
    A random technician is elevated to the rank of police forensic tech! but how can you trust him not making mistakes (restoring somebody else's partition) or him being corrupted into intentionally downloading illegal stuff to a client PC? nevermind child porn, all you need to ruin a person are a bunch of mp3s, in this brave new world.

     

    • by WCMI92 (592436)

      A random technician is elevated to the rank of police forensic tech! but how can you trust him not making mistakes (restoring somebody else's partition) or him being corrupted into intentionally downloading illegal stuff to a client PC? nevermind child porn, all you need to ruin a person are a bunch of mp3s, in this brave new world.

      A good lawyer should, in that case, call upon another tech as an expert witness to explain to the court how easy it is, with admin/root access to a PC AND physical access to put

  • by TbB_thund3rp33l (1054546) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:34AM (#28291707)

    I dont work at CC .. but a larger "repair centre" in canada ...

    We have, as part of our SOP, child pornography related rules. They call them "criminal images" in the verbage, however, it is the same. I have yet to "find" something criminal, but to my knowledge, no one goes "fishing" though a computer to look at a persons data. I think true repair techs don't really care WHAT is on someones computer, just get paid your paycheck to fix the thing. IF we are testing a burner and need to use data from a system (ie pictures folder) again .. drag drop, dont care what it is .. test .. label DVD "test burn" give to customer when they come to pick it up.

    After doing this for 20 years now .. I can tell you what you ALWAYS will find on a computer that comes in for "repair".
    1. Lime/Frostwire - the bane of my job - and telling a "customer/uneducated person" that those types of programs make it more likely to get a virus, they immediately ask you "well, how else can I download free stuff" - my response " you can't"
    2. Some sort of torrent client - see #1
    3. expired/outdated or no antivirus - which leads to #4
    4. massive amounts of spyware/malware/virals

    This is my daily grind. Trying to inform the public that just because you CAN do something doesn't mean it makes it A: legal or B: not harmful to your computer environment - "You mean downloading all that porn got me a virus? You mean my limewire folder has massive amounts of trojans in it? ---- but I paid for it ....

    Sucker # 12,488 line up please ....

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ArsenneLupin (766289)

      You mean downloading all that porn got me a virus?

      Practice safe downloading. Put a condom on your network connector.

  • by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:41AM (#28291761)

    Years ago, I worked for $BIG_PHARMA, and in one of the labs, there was a shared printer and some shared PCs. Each PC required a user to log in, using their own credentials.

    One day, one of the female scientists walked over to the printer to retrieve some print jobs, and found full-color pr0n prints sitting on the printer that someone had printed from one of the shared PCs in that lab.

    An investigation ensued, and they found the offending machine, but couldn't pinpoint who had actually browsed to the site or printed the images. What they did find, was a VERY organized local directory of pr0n on the machine.

    When they were looking through the upstream proxy and web logs, they found the site that the images were sourced from, found the date and time they were viewed and requested, etc. They finally figured out who the culpret was... and terminated him.

    HOWEVER , they also found hundreds of other PCs across the company visiting the same site all over the logs, including some VERY high-level directors.

    So now what do you do? Do you just fire the one person who was caught because of the reported incident, or do you start firing everybody because they're guilty of the same "offense" (browsing restricted content on company resources).

    I don't know how it ended up, but I do know a lot of people were talked to and put on probation/had their public web browsing rights restricted or removed (only internal/intranet allowed).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If they are important they get a slap on the wrist. Termination is only for you peons, it's how capitalism works! Love it or leave it.

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:55AM (#28291921) Homepage Journal
    http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Feb/05/ln/ln01a.html [honoluluadvertiser.com]

    "Each member of the computer crime squad (FBI) is given a list of local businesses, Laanui said, with the idea of establishing a
    working relationship with all of them."

    and

    ""We're trying to build a rapport with companies, a lot of computer guys don't necessarily know we exist," Laanui said.
    "Virtually anyone in the high-tech arena is up for a visit with the FBI.""

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