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Bicycle Thief Barred From Using Encryption 449

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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  • need more input (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:42PM (#33976246) Journal
    well, the bulk of real information about the said thief in TFA says he "recieved a stolen motorcycle". This isn't much to go on and get a sense of how or why the sanctions were applied. Considering the dearth of underlying exposition, this article qualifies as a non sequitur.

    Some additional information worth introducing to the discussion:

    • "how" the thief received said stolen motorcycle
    • "why" /. summary would describe motorcycle as "bicycle"
    • "if" there were computer-related activity leading to discovery and tracking of said thief.
    • etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rotide ( 1015173 )
      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.
      • Is that the type of thing that would have to be in the court documents in order to have any effect on the punishment? If he had, for example, simply used facebook to see when a classmate of his with a nice motorcycle was going to be on vacation so he could steal it, that would normally be part of the court documents you mentioned?

        (obviously IANAL)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icebike ( 68054 )

        Received a stolen motorcycle, probably suggests the receiving was arranged on the internet.

        The court documents state that he only knew the seller as Skye (note the odd spelling, something you wouldn't know unless communication was in writing).

        The only documents you casually read were the Appeal, not the original court documents.

        The kid has a record as long as your arm.

        • by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:19PM (#33977040) Homepage Journal

          Received a stolen motorcycle, probably suggests the receiving was arranged on the internet.

          The court documents state that he only knew the seller as Skye (note the odd spelling, something you wouldn't know unless communication was in writing).

          The only documents you casually read were the Appeal, not the original court documents.

          The kid has a record as long as your arm.

          Probably in the the Receive stolen goods section of Craigslist.

      • Re:need more input (Score:4, Interesting)

        by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:13PM (#33976932) Homepage Journal

        You will note that this was a violation of probation. So it probably relates to a previous crime the we do not know.

        Was he using online contact to acquire drug contacts? to find pellet gun targets? To associated with people who encourage this behavior? Is he dealing with parent issues? It said he is a ward of the court. I'm not sure if that just means he was arrested, or if he is in foster care.

        My point being, there is a lot of information we just don't have. And seeing how he only wanted a loosening of their restrictions, it seems he knows why as well.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dubbreak ( 623656 )

          ..And seeing how he only wanted a loosening of their restrictions, it seems he knows why as well.

          OR he isn't concerned about the other restrictions because they don't apply to him. A smart person would question all restrictions that don't seem related to the crime, your average person will only be concerned with ones that directly affect them.

          Imagine the restrictions were:
          -flying in a hot air ballon
          -guided fishing trips along the amazon
          -eating hot dogs

          Most people would internally think, "Heh, I'd never do that shit anyhow.. joke's on them." in regards to the first two but yell, "Hell naw, ya can

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lgw ( 121541 )

      The way things are going, I believe it's only a matter of time before encryption is simply outlawed, excepting in-flight encryption where there's some provision for the government to listen in. Encryption makes totalitarian control slightly inconvenient. While the constitution prevents some of the easy anwsers that other countries have already used, we'll find some excuse like this - commit any crime (especially the crime of being a ferner) and lose the "privilege" of encryption forever.

      • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

        The good news is that in this era of corporate influences over government - If the government pushes hard for crackdowns on encryption again, the banking industry will push back again and win.

        Outlawing encryption would do serious damage to our already shaky economy. Eliminating confidence in encryption of financial transactions (especially browser SSL) would be VERY detrimental to commerce.

        So regarding the TFA - Is he even banned from using an SSL-enabled browser for online commerce?

        • Re:need more input (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jgagnon ( 1663075 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:13PM (#33976934)

          Also worthy to note: nearly every OS in common use today includes some sort of encryption software. Might as well bar someone from using a computer completely.

          • by Lennie ( 16154 )

            How do you mean almost ? Let's see, QNX, Symbian, iPhone, Android has IPSEC support, so has Windows XP and every version after that. Workstation or Server. Same with Linux and Mac OS X.

            But it is good to see that encryption in hardware was still allowed. ;-)

            • by Lennie ( 16154 )

              Correction about Android, I'm not sure, but I think it does include the ssh-client.

      • Encryption makes totalitarian control slightly inconvenient.

        Wow, nice. This should be sigged.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by StikyPad ( 445176 )

        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.

    • This isn't much to go on and get a sense of how or why the sanctions were applied. Considering the dearth of underlying exposition, this article qualifies as a non sequitur.

      You are right, the article was lame without cites.
      So I applied a little google-fu and came up with the ruling. []
      I've never seen that preamble about "not for publication" before so I can't really say how long it will stay at that URL.

      • by iiii ( 541004 )
        So it's in California, Superior Court of San Diego County. And he was nabbed "less than two weeks after his annual review on a prior offense of shooting a person with a pellet gun."
    • The court order (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      15-year-old ward of the state with history of drug use on probation for shooting someone with a pellet gun found riding a dirt bike hotwired with no papers and bullshit excuse of buying it for cash from "some guy."

      This seems to be a very troubled kid who will soon become a adult criminal.

      It seems the story is spun to get us excited about taking away our encryption.

      • Re:The court order (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:14PM (#33976958)
        So anyone that does something knowingly illegal should be barred from basically touching a computer? Even if not in prison? Because I see no reason why this guy is a menace to or with computers and thus there should be no reason to restrict his use of computers.
        • I agree with you on principal, but fail to see why they need computers in prison. Perhaps they could sell the computers, TVs and air conditioning systems to pay for better guards, to prevent anal rape and gang violence within the system instead.

          In NC, we still have schools with no AC, yet all prisons have AC. How fucked up is that? A student has to break the law just to get an average air temperature under 80 degrees.

      • Re:The court order (Score:5, Insightful)

        by steveg ( 55825 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:22PM (#33977102)

        This punishment sounds a lot like, "You are so grounded."

        • My kingdom for a mod point.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        sounds like john connor
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        It seems the story is spun to get us excited about taking away our encryption.

        Not at all. The specifics of the case are totally irrelevant. Taking away encryption for any reason is a fundamental violation of our most basic rights.

        This should concern you. I assume that you are productive member of society without a criminal record right? You're a good innocent person, so ostensibly, you have nothing to fear from the government right?

        Well when something as low-level as the theft of a bicycle can starting taking away basic rights, you should be concerned. One day you might find you

  • 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:Motorcycle (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:08PM (#33976848) Homepage Journal

      from reading the courts docs, it looks like he has a history of criminal behavior.

      The last time I saw something like this, it was because people online where encouraging the criminal behavior. Speculation leads me to think the judge is just trying to remove the juvenile from the atmosphere. Of course, speculation is just that.

      • Re:Motorcycle (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:40PM (#33979270) Journal

        The last time I saw something like this, it was because people online where encouraging the criminal behavior.

        So if they had been talking to him in real life the kid would have been banned from talking to anyone? Sorry but it is utterly ridiculous for a judge to be able to make up arbitrary rules like this. If the kid cannot be trusted in society then he should be removed from it for a period. Afterall if you don't trust him not to listen to people online telling him to break the law how can you possibly trust him not to ignore the arbitrary rules of one judge and go online anyway?

  • by johanw ( 1001493 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:46PM (#33976348)
    How strange that US judges can order the most stupid things from people. Here, if you are convicted for something, you cvan get a fine, community labour or jailtime. When it's traffic related your license can be revoked in certain cases, and that's it. A judge ordering someone not to use a computer would be laughed out of court.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )

      So people who commit computer crimes get no restrictions?

      Its' not strange. The kid has a history of criminal acts, and the people he communicates with, online, encourage this behavior.

      The judge is simple trying to remove him fro that situation. It's far better the putting him in prison.

  • 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.
  • How could anyone possibly enforce these restrictions besides spying on him 24/7 which seems to be a bit draconian for a stolen bike crime.

    Incidentally, the 4th condition 'not to use a computer for any purpose other than school related assignments' probably would have been sufficient to cover all the other conditions.
    • Considering any modern OS ships with encryption software by default, it'll be almost impossible to use any computer at all. Any common web browser will support HTTPS, for example. Windows and OS-X boxes will have ssh support. Windows boxes ship with encrypted NTFS support, etc. One would have to use something like an old DOS machine to find one with absolutely no software that could be considered encryption software on it. Technically, even getting a new computer and using it for a few minutes to remov

    • I didn't RTFA but I'm guessing that he somehow used instant messaging of some kind to engage in the sale or purchase of the stolen property. Otherwise, what would be the point in limiting such activity?
      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        It is punishment. It is the judicial equivalent of 'you cut the hair off your sister's doll, no TV for you'. Considering he could have gotten jail time, it doesn't look so bad.

  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:48PM (#33976390) does seem quite irrelevant to the offense at hand. But speaking from the gut, I think bicycle thieves ought to be beaten to death, preferably more than once, so I'd say he got off light.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:09PM (#33976866) Journal
      A thief does not deserve "whatever is coming to him". He deserves swift punishment befitting the crime. Punish too little or too much too often, and the public will slowly lose its respect for those upholding the law, and even for the law itself. That's why it is better to pronounce rational sentences, rather than let pity or anger get in the way too much.
    • by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:47PM (#33977560)

      I had my bike stolen several years ago, after having forgotten to lock it up at night. At the time, it was my only means of transportation. It was a brand new bike, so I still had the serial number, and when the thief pawned it, the Austin PD flagged it in their database and I got it back.

      When I was picking it up at the police station, the cop who was filling out the report told me, "Look, we know who stole your bike. It was some homeless woman around town. You can press charges if you want, but personally I don't think it's worth it." Now, maybe it was saving him some paperwork on a misdemeanor larceny, but I tend to agree. I was angry about having the bike stolen, but I don't see the utility in it. You could fine her, but is she going to pay? And if she does, how will she pay---by stealing another bike? You could jail her for nonpayment of the fine, but that's not going to solve anything, either: spend some tax dollars on it, she'll get out quickly and be in roughly the same situation as before. It's just not worth it; there's no point.

      But that might just be me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sg_oneill ( 159032 )

        Your a good man, and you should be proud of yourself for with-holding those charges :)

        I had a similar thing. When I was a teenager, I got pretty badly assaulted for my wallet by some other young guys, leaving me in hospital with blood loss , a busted kneecap and a pulverized nose. The cops pretty quickly caught the kids, and pressed charges. Anyway, a week later I was visited by the mother of one of the kids, an elderly Aboriginal woman (Im in australia) and she basically gave me his story and the story of

  • He can use a Commodore 64. Or a Speccy. :)

  • by Defenestrar ( 1773808 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:48PM (#33976406)

    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    So how does the punishment fit the crime? How is it even relevant? How is forbidding this kid from using an online bank (or anything else with https, or a physical network with a properly secured wireless connection) not excessive bail, or cruel, or unusual?

    Take this on up the chain of justice you bike-thieving scoundrel. I'll fight to have you punished for your crime, but I'm fully in support of prohibiting our law from water-boarding you or forcing you to live in the last century. From a practical standpoint the water-boarding is probably less cruel - outside of the psych damage - it's over when it's done. The other prevents you from becoming a normally functioning member of modern society.

    • ...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.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      What happened to reading up on something before replying and looking like an idiot?

    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Cruel and unusual punishment? Come one - given the choice of probation while limiting your computer usage (NOT prohibiting it) or spending a year in prison, you think the *former* would be worse?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by idontgno ( 624372 )

      So how does the punishment fit the crime?

      It doesn't. It's completely offtopic.

      And that makes me think: court decisions need Slashdot moderation! This ruling: -1 Offtopic. Software patents are valid? -1 Overrated. Blizzard can disable your copy of Starcraft II for local single-player cheating? -1 Flamebait!

      And everyone will clamor to have their cases tried in front of high-karma judges! I tell you, this could completely revamp jurisprudence! It's the best thing to happen to justice since trial by jury of p

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:51PM (#33976474)

    Poor kid, cannot use a cell phone. Cannot use a bank machine. Cannot use a bus or subway with automatic ticketing.

    If you want to force the definition of "encryption" to character encoding there are going to be microwaves, refrigerators and washing machines he cant' use.

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:51PM (#33976482) Homepage
    Perhaps ignorance is bliss -- it sure seems so for the Judiciary. Every browser I know (except lynx and links) has encryption software to handle https:/// [https] links. Most banks and reputable business require it.

    Perhaps this is judicially considered "security software", but how can it be reliably distinguished from the forbidden "encryption software"? This seems unconstitutionally vague.

  • by Tei ( 520358 )

    he can't use browsers

  • It was a motorcycle, not a bicycle.

    And the juvenile has a history of drug use, violence, and other criminal activity.

    So consider that when replying.

    From what I read, this kid needs some one more positive in his everyday life. Also, this result is better then putting him in jail.

  • Well duh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:05PM (#33976786) Homepage

    It's so that if he steals another bike, he won't be able to hide it in an encrypted partition on his hard drive.

  • 1) Bicycle != Motorcycle. 2) Poorly/not cited. 3) My first question was "what country was this in"? And you can't find that directly in the article. BAH HUMBUG.
  • Isn't there something in the constitution about unusual punishment? When the punishment does not fit the crime, I have to say that it is unusual.

  • It's tough to research this case based on the information given, so I suppose we'll all just have to guess; but I don't believe the judge just arbitrarily decided to put these restrictions on the kid if they were truly unrelated to the crime.

    How did he arrange to receive the stolen motorcycle (which, btw, is not a bicycle; it's likely a lot more valuable and the crimes involved in stealing it were likely a lot more serious in nature)? I bet his end of the deal was brokered over the Internet.

    Does that make

    • How did he arrange to receive the stolen motorcycle

      He didn't, not really. He was found riding a dirt bike which had obviously been hotwired. He said "Oh, didn't noticed that, I bought it from some guy". I.E. he stole it, but they can't prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was no "some guy", but at least can prove beyond reasonable doubt that he knew it was stolen (no key, hotwired).

  • by tomkost ( 944194 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:14PM (#33976966)
    I have mod points today and would mod this whole article down... it's a complete waste of time.
  • Encrypting email!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 )
    The articles author asks incredulously whether that means that he can;t even encrypt his email.

    Strange as it may seem, email encryption is not all that common amongst anyone except geeks, professionals in certain fields and some of the more tech-savvy criminals. I suspect that this kid is none of these. Preventing email encryption was probably the specific reason this was included in the first place.

    Here's a bigger problem - go to Log in. Notice how you get directed to an encrypted web
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:19PM (#33977054) Journal

    It already starts bad when an editor doesn't know the difference between a bicycle and a motorcycle. Yes, the work bike is used to describe them both and the US is NOT alone in this (in Holland the term is "fiets" and this can be used for a motorcycle) BUT in both English in Dutch this is ONLY done if there is no possibility of confusion.

    In this case there is.

    Further more, there is NO such thing as being MERELY in possesion of stolen property. If you are found guilty it is because you are a criminal, typically because you stole it directly OR obtained it at an unlikely price. That is, if you buy a bike for 10 dollars, you are expected to know that means it is stolen. No court will convict you of being in possesion of stolen property if you can show that you couldn't have known, buy a 100 dollar value bike for 50 might be reasonable. Buying something you could reasonably suspect of being stolen is what fences do, which is illegal.

    Then there is the case of the this "kid" having committed other offences. This is no "innocent" teen who just happened to think he got lucky on a deal.

    Finally, when you are convicted and sentenced in court, a lot of the rights you assume were natural are taken from you. Criminals can have all sorts of sanctions imposed. From restrictions were they can go, to how far they can travel, from leaving the country, to have to report regurlary, to not drinking, not causing a further nuisance (probation), not talking to people, not talking to certain people (offence for all criminals released from jail after serving their sentence to associate with known felons) etc etc. And YES, the system DOES take account of new developments and the crime and the tools used in it.

    A child rapist might be forbidden to come near childeren, but a criminal businessman can be forbidden from running a business. If you scam people over the phone, you can be forbidden from using one, just a drunk driver may not drive a car.

    Now, slashdot editor, is it THAT hard to imagine that as criminals use the internet and encryption that they are then forbidden to use it?

    Gosh, this sounds a lot like those cry stories where a person is banned from driving for being drunk and then claim they really need the car and is it fair to deprive them of said car... HELLO? Punishment is SUPPOSED to hurt. Probation is supposed to send the message, we are watching you. If you don't want more restriction, behave AND behave better then a NORMAL citizen who has NOT been convicted and sentenced.

    Newsflash, criminal punishment is punishing criminals. OMG! The horrorz!

  • So if his laptop joins a network that has wep or wpa encryption, he's in violation? What if he goes to a website that requires https? Or logs into any site that encrypts one's credentials?

    I have to wonder if they really thought that through.

  • So, if the terms of his "Get Out Of Jail Free" card were too onorous ... what were the alternatives?

    Screw him, thieving bastige. Let him see how six months (or six years?) in jail for Grand Theft Larceny suits him.

  • Since basically every browser supports SSL/TLS for https: connections.

  • by LowerTheBar ( 1741458 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:26PM (#33977186)
    Computer Thief Barred From Using Handlebars
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:32PM (#33977286)

    the 'legal system' wants an effort-free way to check up on his activities.

    encryption only makes 'law enforcement's job harder. and so to ease their job, they tell the kid he can't communicate in private anymore.

    I find this more criminal than ANY theft any kid could do.

    as usual, our legal system is broken beyond belief. I know there is a lot of missing data here, but I cannot think of any other reason to inflict this does not jibe with the crime kind of punishment.

    it has to be that they want an easy 'in' to his computer at any time and with no 'complications'.

    seems wrong. I can see what they WANT, but just because they WANT it does not mean they should HAVE it. same with the kid, he WANTED the bike and used force to take it (we assume). the government is doing the same fucking thing! they WANT to see what he's doing at any time, and they FORCE him to communicate in the clear.

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:45PM (#33977532)

    that doesn't have encryption software on it.

    Or a cell phone for that matter.

    And no ATMs for you. Oh and I guess you can't enter your pin into keypad at the supermarket, or at the bank teller you now have to use.

    And don't even think of using that TV which supports HDCP. And step away from that Xbox.

    At least he's only 15 and doesn't have to worry about whether they bothered putting any encryption into the voting machine this time.

    Hopefully they defined computer more carefully than just "computer"...

  • Does SSL count? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zadaz ( 950521 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:42PM (#33979300)

    Does SSL count? Because that is certinaly encryption. So pretty much any computer with a web browser is out.

    What about a computer with wifi? WEP and WPA are encryption.

    Enforcing a no-encryption rule is like forcing someone to remove all the locks from everything they own.

  • by DdJ ( 10790 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @05:34PM (#33980032) Homepage Journal

    As far as I can tell, this means he can't use any computer that honors DRM, because DRM is implemented via cryptography.

    An iPod that can play protected content from the iTunes Music Store or from Audible is a computer that uses encryption.

    A reasonably modern set-top box that can decode HBO is a computer that uses encryption.

    A Kindle that can display DRM-protected ebooks is a computer that uses encryption.


"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll