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Encryption Crime The Courts United States IT Your Rights Online

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.
  • Wait (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:45PM (#33976314)

    Isn't the log-in page for most social networks HTTPS? Or is he only allowed to use Facebook's (ridiculously) non-encrypted log-in page?

  • 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 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.

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

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:50PM (#33976440) Journal

    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 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:59PM (#33976652)

    This is pretty standard. They know he can't help it, but this way if they later want to throw the book at him for something they can't necessarily prove, they just invoke this.

  • 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.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:05PM (#33976780) Homepage

    Well, a lot of us also object to the idea that "inalienable rights" can be revoked just because you are a felon.

    Although probation is something that sits in place of incarceration. It's not permanent. Restrictions during probation
    are a bit different from being permanently dis-enfranched. That said, a guy needs to be able to make his way in the
    world as it is even if he is scum.

    As a matter of public policy, it makes no sense to deprive scum of the ability to legally fend for themselves. All this
    does is just intentionally breed more crime.

  • Re:Motorcycle (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> 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.

  • 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.
  • Re:need more input (Score:3, Insightful)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:12PM (#33976922)

    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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:21PM (#33977088)

    AC wrote:

    Sex offenders in many states are barred from living in certain areas (near schools, playgrounds, daycares, etc), and nobody seems to think that's a bad idea.

    I think it's a bad idea. Anyone who has actually considered the consequences think it's a bad idea as well. Many people who live in the tiny areas where these laws concentrate all the sex offenders think it's a bad idea. Of course, most of them just think "can't we get them banned from here too?!" without caring where they go after that. The only people who think things like that are a good idea are people who lack the foresight to realize the consequences or who just don't care. The funny thing is that they're always called "unintended consequences" but you can always find someone who thought about it and tried to inform the people who made the decision about what would happen and was ignored.

    So, yes, criminals may have forfeited some of their rights. They certainly have to in order to be locked up, but that doesn't mean it's rational to throw any restriction you want at them. They have to make sense and be fair. Yes, that's right, fair. Even criminals have a right to fair treatment. You can't simultaneously let them walk around and set up the rules so that just trying to live in what would be a non-criminal manner for other people sends them right back to jail. This kid is a minor, so he probably doesn't have to pay a lot of bills online, handle bank accounts, etc. (although he might). Most adults simply won't be able to get by in the modern world without making use of things that are forbidden to this kid.

  • 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."

  • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:44PM (#33977510) Journal

    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 peers!

  • 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"...

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

    by JesseMcDonald ( 536341 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:56PM (#33977684) Homepage

    I would not consider being effectively banned from using any modern computer (or smartphone, etc.) a "minor" punishment. If that was not the judge's intent then the court clearly does not understand the implications of its own sentence. They even specifically lifted the ban on using social networks, but it is impossible to log in to most social networks without HTTPS, which requires encryption software.

  • Re:Wait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:11PM (#33977908)
    Hah, silly man. How cute to think that would give you anonymity on Facebook...
  • Re:need more input (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dubbreak ( 623656 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:12PM (#33977918)

    ..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't take 'way my HOTDOGS!"

  • by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:34PM (#33978264)

    Yet meting out harsh punishment does nothing for the victim (except make them feel better for spite's sake, which is not something I'm prepared to declare a desirable goal). There should be enough of a punishment to be a deterrent, but beyond that, it's just being cruel to the criminal for no gain (worse, you run the risk of creating a career criminal if you harass them too much, making it impossible for them to reform).

    I'm all for deterrence, but deterrence does not have to mean that you go overboard on your criminals in righteous anger. And according to your original claim, that means I don't have compassion for the victims, which is sheer bullshit.

  • by Miseph ( 979059 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:42PM (#33978380) Journal

    Apparently you are unaware of the enormous breadth of choices that exist between beating somebody until they're half dead, cutting off an appendage, branding them, or otherwise taking thoroughly barbaric retaliatory measures and doing nothing at all. Nobody has advocated the latter, they've just said you're an asshole for advocating the former.

  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:46PM (#33978426)

    I don't want bike thieves in jail. It wastes tax dollars having to give them room and board when there are tons of homeless people who would love a meal and a bunk somewhere.

    I rather see bike thieves pay restitution to the victim, and then have to work for community services, such as IMBA, to keep trails maintained. Perhaps a project to get new fixtures out for people to lock their bikes to, or just a good old fashioned litter patrol on bike paths. Or perhaps deploy and keep clean Porta-Potties on bike commute routes.

    Perhaps even teach some basic bike mechanics or other trade skills so they actually have something to offer an employer other than a mouth and an attitude. Even with an entry level job, they are paying taxes, and this is better than someone spending their lives watching TV 24/7 on the taxpayer dime.

    Keep the jails and the prisons for the violent criminals and repeat offenders. The others can be put on a work crew and actually do something useful and not draining taxpayer dollars.

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

    by Lobachevsky ( 465666 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:53PM (#33978532)

    He better not use a web-browser, they all support SSL. Oh, and he can't use banking websites, they all require https.

  • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:23PM (#33979030) Homepage

    You have to admit, the punishments were effective.

    If you actually read the Old Testament -- not just skim a few parts like most people do -- you'll find that the punishments weren't really as bad as people often assume. Yes, there were a lot of harsh consequences spelled out in Torah...but there were a lot of remediations available, too. Check out the requirements to make restitution in Exodus 22 []: "If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep." (v. 1), "If the stolen animal is found alive in [the thief's] possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—he must pay back double." (v. 4), "If a man gives his neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor's house, the thief, if he is caught, must pay back double." (v. 7). I could go on, but you get the idea: if you wrong someone else, you must pay them back for the inconvenience with enough interest to provide incentive not to do that again, but it's hardly the "lop off an appendage or two" that Archangel Michael (/. user, not THE Archangel Michael, lol) seems to favor.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:35PM (#33979190)

    The last question is easy. Its because you define someone as being a bleeding heart if it is bleeding for the criminal.

    You are showing much more emotion, but it is toward the victim. So either you are both bleeding hearts and your statement about bleeding hearts always going toward the criminals is false. Or the bleeding heart only counts if there is a connection with the criminal so your question would be pointless.

    Or you could have been fishing for this post and now deserve a trolling award.

  • 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?

  • 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.

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

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:48PM (#33979382)

    the banking industry will push back again and win.

    If the banking industry gave a damn then identity thieves would have their heads mounted on spikes at the door of your local branch.

    If the government outlawed SSL, they'd just shrug, scratch the $50 cert off their expense list, and move on with their life. It's not like they're the ones who pay when people use stolen credit card info or empty out your bank account.

    No, but they're the ones who pay when large masses of people are suddenly reluctant or flat-out unwilling to conduct online transactions anymore. They're also the ones who pay when criminal investigations are conducted regarding cases of ID theft that involved their systems and accounts. Those are not free for a business because of compliance costs due to subpoenas, data retention requirements, etc.

    That second item can be passed onto their customers or maybe even written off as a cost of doing business. That first item cannot; it represents business that is lost entirely. It is very much in a bank's interests to have reliable encryption methods that make customers feel confident about making online transactions. That's especially when you consider that the percentage of total transactions that are conducted online is only going to increase.

    Just to mention it, there are two types of governments that feel threatened by the privacy and security of the people: those that are fascist/authoritarian/statist and those that are in the process of becoming fascist/authoritarian/statist. Governmental fear of encryption is so clearly about totalitarian control that it's sad most people can't see that. Put it this way: does anyone seriously believe that a terrorist willing to murder people is going to be afraid of a penalty for illegally using encryption? I tell you who would be afraid of such a penalty: honest law-abiding citizens with careers, families, and a lot to lose by being on the wrong side of the law.

  • 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.


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

    by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @06:01PM (#33980354)
    The judge has limited his educational and vocational possibilities with this order. His interaction with most nearly any electronic communication and/or device with access control is now barred. Poor education, no job. Hmm, I wonder what we'll find this kid end up doing for money...?
  • Re:need more input (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Friday October 22, 2010 @02:32AM (#33983198)

    In this modern world I'd even go so far as to call it cruel and unusual punishment.

    Seriously, unless they have something that establishes he used a computer in furtherance of a crime, they have no business cutting him off from the vast majority of society.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern