Flash Digest: News in Brief

Digest Commentary First Amendment Flash Digest

Minnesota Judge Granted Search Warrant Demanding User Information on Anyone Who Googled Crime Victim’s Name

The Police Department of Edina, a suburban town outside of Minneapolis, won a court order commanding Google to provide “any/all user or subscriber information” of anyone who searched for a crime victim’s name. A photocopy of the warrant was first posted by public records researcher Tony Webster on his website. According to Webster, the Police Department requested the warrant in a financial fraud investigation, where a man contacted a Minnesota bank, posed as a customer asking for a $28,500 wire transfer, and used a fake passport for ID verification. The Police Department thought the suspect must have searched Google for the victim’s name before making the fake passport, and wanted Google to provide the relevant information. As Webster suggested in his post, the warrant could massively expand the definition of supporting “probable cause” required for a warrant and could catch many innocent people conducting routine, non-criminal searches of the victim’s names. Ars Technica reported that Google declined to “comment on specific cases,” but stated it would always fight against “excessively broad requests for data about [their] users” in an e-mail to Ars.

Man Arrested in Maryland for Tweeting Seizure-Inducing GIF to Journalist

John Rayne Rivello was arrested at his Maryland residence, charged with cyberstalking journalist Kurt Eichenwald. Eichenwald, who was known to suffer from epilepsy, received anonymous messages via Twitter from Rivello containing seizure-inducing GIFs with the statement, “You deserve a seizure for your post.” The Justice Department released the criminal complaint that illustrates how Rivello was tracked down by the telephone number associated with his Twitter account and his Apple iCloud. A Dallas County grand jury indicted Rivello for assault with a deadly weapon. This case is the first time that a prosecutor brings criminal charges for using technology to injure medically vulnerable people, according to Washington Post.

DHS Ban Many Electronic Devices in Passenger Cabins on U.S.-bound Flights from Several Muslim-majority Countries

The Department of Homeland Security announced rules that will ban all personal electronic items larger than a cell phone in passenger cabins on U.S.-bound flights from 10 specific airports in Muslim-majority countries. In a separate FAQ sheet accompanying the rules, the DHS stated that the affected ten airports were selected “in close cooperation with our intelligence community partners… based on the current threat picture.” It did not specify what constituted “larger than a smart phone,” stating that this was commonly understood by most international passengers although size and shape varied by brand. The new ban will be effective “until the threat changes” as assessed by the DHS.