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Bicycle Thief Barred From Using Encryption 449

Posted by timothy
from the ssl-is-encryption dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A teenager found in possession of a stolen bicycle was given probation, with a whole bunch of computer-related restrictions. He wasn't allowed to use social networks or instant messaging. He wasn't allowed to use a computer that had 'encryption, hacking, cracking, scanning, keystroke monitoring, security testing, steganography, Trojan or virus software.' The kid appealed, noting that the restrictions on social networking seemed overly broad, and restricting him from using a computer with a virus was difficult since viruses and trojans and the like tend to try to stay hidden, so he might not know. While the court overturned the restrictions on social networking, and changed the terms of computer restrictions to include the word 'knowingly,' it did keep the restriction on against using any computer with encryption software. Remember, this isn't someone convicted of malicious computer crimes, but of receiving a stolen bicycle. So why is perfectly reasonable encryption software not allowed? And what computer these days doesn't have encryption software?"
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Bicycle Thief Barred From Using Encryption

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  • Motorcycle (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:43PM (#33976258) Homepage

    While I detest the whole idea of this, I do think that somebody should edit the original post to mention he was in posession of a stolen motorcycle, not bicycle. Although motorcycles are similar to bicycles-- they both have two wheels--there is a difference.

  • Re:need more input (Score:3, Informative)

    by rotide (1015173) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:47PM (#33976360)
    Reading the court document posted in TFA, there is no mention of the crime being related to or associated with a computer of any kind. There was mention of a pellet gun, some drug use, etc. No mention of a computer.
  • Violated Probation (Score:5, Informative)

    by fliptw (560225) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:47PM (#33976374) Journal
    He violated his probation - which means the court can throw whatever books it wants at him.
  • by moronikos (595352) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:00PM (#33976656) Journal

    ...and allow him to finish the rest of his sentence in jail or prison. If he's on probation that means he was convicted of the crime and therefore bail is not involved at all. If not being allowed to use a computer is cruel and unusual punishment, then my whole childhood was cruel and unusual. I guess he'll just have to learn to read books, talk to people, play board games, and play sports.

  • Re:need more input (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:21PM (#33977090)
    The court document in TFA says what he was on probation for: shooting a person with a pellet gun.
  • Re:The court order (Score:3, Informative)

    by bws111 (1216812) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:03PM (#33977782)

    The government is this kids parents. He is a ward of the state.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:28PM (#33978170) Journal

    And, dude, seriously? ... it's a bicycle, and you want to get on with the old-testament wrath, like branding someone's forehead or hacking off appendages?

    I think you may need some perspective.

    Perhaps you need perspective.

    So "it's a bicycle", eh? What's that represent?

    How much did it cost? How much labor went into earning that money? Suppose the thief had enslaved the owner and put her to hard labor for that amount of time? What would be an appropriate punishment for that? (Suppose the thief had done that to YOU. Would that change your estimate?)

    But the value of something is normally higher than its price (or it would never have been bought). What is the actual value of the bicycle which was lost by the owner when it was stolen? Was it transportation to school? How many classes were missed? What will be the effect on the gradepoint? On the ability to get into a good college? On the future lifetime income? Was it transportation to work? What will be the effect on tardiness, job performance, paid hours? Will the owner lose the job? How much of her own free time will the owner lose by walking to work or using slower transport? How much extra cost to use public transit?

    In the old west a horse was the car and the farm tractor. Stealing a horse could end up killing the owner and perhaps his family - by stranding in a hostile environment, crop failure, loss of access to markets for necessities or to medical help, etc. So horsetheft was a hanging offense. Similarly with cattle rustling. (Even today, cattle rustling is big business - and the rustlers often kill any chance witnesses, resulting in the deaths of kids riding out of the supervision of armed adults from time to time.)

    Now loss a bicycle in an urban setting MIGHT not rate quite that level of penalty. But when assessing what punishment fits the crime you need to look at the actual costs to the victim. Dismissing it as "just a bicycle" or "just property that's (allegedly) easily replaced" doesn't cut it.

  • Re:need more input (Score:5, Informative)

    by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:33PM (#33978250)

    San Diego County, California. The kid said he bought the motorcycle from a guy named "Skye" for a few hundred bucks. Nothing in the court record shows anything about using a computer to arrange the sale, so I don't see why they would impose all the draconian restrictions on him other than an attempt at a legal-system version of "You're grounded, kid."

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101020/04513511498/court-rejects-probation-rules-on-teen-that-ban-him-from-using-social-networks-or-instant-messaging-programs.shtml [techdirt.com]

    Scroll down - you can see the appellate court decision at the bottom.

  • Re:need more input (Score:2, Informative)

    by FatdogHaiku (978357) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:36PM (#33978292)

    TFA includes a Scribd copy of the appeal. "State of California".

    Oh, well it will be OK once they all start smoking pot and chill out a bit...
    "Your Honor, In order to understand the defendant's frame of mind, I motion that the court get a bit baked before proceeding."

  • Re:need more input (Score:3, Informative)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:50PM (#33978496) Homepage

    Good luck defining encryption such that the scope is neither overly broad nor too narrowly tailored. The former would all but guarantee that the law would be struck down in the courts regardless of any other Constitutional challenges, while the latter would make circumvention trivial.

  • Re:The court order (Score:3, Informative)

    by nschubach (922175) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:13PM (#33978878) Journal

    Being a ward of the court (from the first page of the order... I didn't read it all I admit, so if you saw it otherwise, I apologize) does not mean you are a parent-less child. It simply means that you are under guardianship by someone other than your natural parents. That could be for breaking the law or abuse so we can't know for sure if he has parents or is being held in juvenile detention. (from what I understand of "ward of the court.") Though, IANAL so I could be wrong.

  • Encryption??? (Score:2, Informative)

    by ritcereal (1399801) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @06:53PM (#33980890)
    As many have stated, this was an appeal to remove restrictions the minor was unhappy with. Specifically he had issues with the following provisions of his probation:

    A. Use of Computer for Non-School-Related Purposes
    B. Use of Instant Messaging or Social Networks
    C. Use of Computers Contaminated with Viruses or Unwanted Software

    The important point is that this appeal did _NOT_ address his right to use encryption at all. The Judges involved in the appeal did as asked, they reviewed the limitations that were appealed only (see above). This does not say that the original Judge should have restricted use of encryption software to begin with, it just means the defendant did not specifically question his right to use encryption. One could argue that he in fact did argue based upon vagueness, but he didn't point out the word encryption, however as worded its insane to believe anyone with a technical background would agree to that.

    My guess, the defendant, judges, or anyone involved probably doesn't read /. and probably doesn't know how common encryption is.

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