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Blogger Fined €3,000 for 'Publicizing' Files Found Through Google Search 248

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-crafty-hackers-and-your-keyword-searches dept.
mpicpp points out an article detailing the case of French blogger Olivier Laurelli, who had the misfortune to click links from search results. Laurelli stumbled upon a public link leading to documents from the French National Agency for Food Safety, Environment, and Labor. He downloaded them — over 7 Gb worth — and looked through them, eventually publishing a few slides to his website. When one of France's intelligence agencies found out, they took Laurelli into custody and indicted him, referring to him as a 'hacker.' In their own investigation, they said, "we then found that it was sufficient to have the full URL to access to the resource on the extranet in order to bypass the authentication rules on this server." The first court acquitted Laurelli of the charges against him. An appeals court affirmed part of the decision, but convicted him of "theft of documents and fraudulent retention of information." He was fined €3,000 (about $4,000).
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Blogger Fined €3,000 for 'Publicizing' Files Found Through Google Search

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  • Re:French government (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @09:03PM (#46225017)

    Uh, no, they cannot. In the US that is known as "double jeopardy" and is not allowed. If you're acquitted, you're done. They can find new evidence, you can write a full confession, it doesn't matter. When that gavel comes down on the "not guilty" verdict, you're no longer capable of being held criminally liable for that particular crime.

    If a case is dismissed without prejudice, it can be retried. There is no verdict in that scenario. There's also a separate sovereigns exception, which in some circumstances could allow the feds their own shot at prosecuting, though that wouldn't be applicable here since this would have been tried as a federal crime to begin with.

  • Re:Hacker??!! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @09:09PM (#46225063)

    The world wide web was designed to make accessible via hyperlinks (URLs) a whole bunch of documents / generated content. Key word being accessible.

    HTML was designed as a hypertext markup language, and the web evolved around it. It wasn't designed for everybody to be able to access every document, and it certainly wasn't designed for everybody to be able to republish every document. Even if it was, that doesn't mean it has to be used that way.

    If someone is stupid enough to put documents intended not to be public on the public world wide web, that's their issue.

    Even if somebody is stupid, they don't lose the protection of the law. Again, this isn't some weird fascistic "might is right" country.

    It is not a transgression on the part of the person who used the URL to access the content, doing nothing more than the technology is explicitly designed to do.

    Repeat of incorrect origin; repeat of origin fallacy.

    This is just another example of judges who got an A in social studies and a C in technical subjects making asinine rulings about use of technology they don't understand.

    Well, as someone with an LLB (England+Wales), an MSc in mathematics, and a computing bachelors, I'm fairly sure I understand the difference between technology and the law. And I bet the judge you're prejudging does too. There are a lot of judges with a biased axe to grind, and a few who are outright corrupt, but not many at all are dumb - this is something the activist layperson doesn't like to acknowledge, because surely someone who disagrees with you has to be thick? Wrong. Same thing applies to the legislators, fwiw.

  • Re:Hacker??!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike (68054) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @09:42PM (#46225243)

    In the absence of any keep out signs, (there weren't any), even in France, public items are for free for public consumption.

    The only strawman around here is you, and you seem to have most of it in your head.
    This guy did nothing wrong. The documents were freely available on the web. There was no security on the site, and no copyright on the documents.

    As he states on TFA:

    Through a Google search which strictly did not have anything to do with ANSES or with public health, I found myself in the ANSES extranet. Simply by clicking on a search result.

    First observation: there are a lot of documents freely available here.
    Second observation: they speak about public health.
    Third observation: L’ANSES is a public establishment.
    Question: Is it that this ought to be public?
    Response: (too) obvious at the time: yes.

    And he was acquitted!!! But an embarrassed agency appealed..

  • Re:Reasonable (Score:4, Informative)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @09:48PM (#46225271)

    From the article

    UPDATE: Laurelli ended up admitting in testimony that when he found the documents, he traveled back to the homepage that they stemmed from and found an authentication page. This indicated that the documents were likely supposed to be protected. That admission played a part in his later conviction in the appeals court.

    The hung out an "authorized persons only" sign but forgot to lock the door.

  • Re:Hacker??!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by dnavid (2842431) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @10:22PM (#46225455)

    In the absence of any keep out signs, (there weren't any), even in France, public items are for free for public consumption.

    The only strawman around here is you, and you seem to have most of it in your head. This guy did nothing wrong. The documents were freely available on the web. There was no security on the site, and no copyright on the documents.

    As he states on TFA:

    The article has an update posted:

    UPDATE: Laurelli ended up admitting in testimony that when he found the documents, he traveled back to the homepage that they stemmed from and found an authentication page. This indicated that the documents were likely supposed to be protected. That admission played a part in his later conviction in the appeals court.

    In other words, he admitted to the court that he deliberately attempted to determine if the documents were intended to be publicly accessible or not, and had determined *to his own satisfaction* that they were likely not intended to be made public. That's probably why he was not acquitted on the basis of the documents being public. They were, to an uninitiated person. But Laurelli actually knew what he was doing and admitted to the court that he himself believed the documents were not intended to be publicly accessible. So while he thought they "ought to be" public, he also knew they were not intended to be. So by his own admission, he had the requisite intent to steal them from people who did not want them taken.

    It seems the lower court acquitted him because all they knew was he got the documents through a public search, and did the right thing by acquitting him. And the appeals court also did the right thing in upholding that acquittal. What they convicted him of was the different crime of retaining and disseminating those documents *after* he realized they were not intended to be public.

  • Re:Hacker??!! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Chas (5144) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @12:54AM (#46226159) Homepage Journal

    Thing is. In the US you can be tried twice for the same crime. It all depends on how far the prosecutor (and you) want to push things. This is what various appeals courts, all the way up to the Supreme Court are.

    In the US, you can be convicted in absentia as well. Take Andrew Luster [wikipedia.org] as an example.

    Also, you CAN be interrogated without a lawyer present. Reread the Miranda Warning again.

    - You have the right to remain silent when questioned.
    - Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law. (Modern readings have can and will in place of may)
    - You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
    - If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.
    - If you decide to answer any questions now, without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
    - Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

    Nothing in there says they CANNOT interrogate you without an attorney present. Merely that you have the right to demand that one be present.

    Maybe this makes me come off as a pedantic asshole. But before casting aspersions and talking about how GREAT you have it here...

    Oh, and maybe talk to Cassandra Feuerstein about her treatment while in custody:

    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/20... [cbslocal.com]

  • Re:Reasonable (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sabriel (134364) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:05AM (#46226819)

    Hmm. It's not clear to me from reading the article whether he knew before downloading them that he was not authorised. That said, I will grant that as soon as he did find out, he had a problem and should have acted accordingly.

    Concerning the court's competence, I found this part disturbing:

    Incredibly, although a lower criminal court ruled that Laurelli could not be penalized for accessing data that was not secure, the DCRI decided to appeal the decision. That's after ANSES, the organization from which the documents were “stolen” in the first place, decided not to pursue any civil action. Although the court documents are not yet available, French technology news site Numerama and the French-language version of Slate both quote a baffling scene from the first appeals-court hearing in December 2013, which Mediapart (paywalled link) attended. During those opening arguments, a presiding judge appeared unable to pronounce Google (saying “gogleu” instead) and demonstrated an ignorance of how logins occur. The prosecutor did not help this perception, saying at the hearing, "half the words I heard today, I did not even understand."

    The appeals court acquitted Laurelli of fraudulently accessing an information system but saw fit to convict Bluetouff of theft of documents and fraudulent retention of information. The court wrote: "It is well demonstrated that he was conscious of his irregular retention in automated data processing, accessed where he downloaded protected evidence; and that investigations have shown that these data had been downloaded before being... disseminated to others; that it is, in any event, established that Olivier Laurelli made copies of computer files inaccessible to the public for personal use without the knowledge and against the will of its owner"

    1. The first court ruled the Laurelli wasn't guilty. ANSES, the source of the documents, subsequently declined to pursue any civil action. Despite this, the DCRI appealed and pursued _anyway_, yet the prosecution didn't have a proper understanding of what they were prosecuting!

    2. It was actually established by ANSES that those files (however inadvertently) were _accessible_, not inaccessible, to the public, so the court has rendered judgement directly contrary to the evidence presented by the same national agency from which the data was downloaded.

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