By Christopher A. Crawford
The New York Times reported that for the first time, in a notice filed on Friday, October 26, federal prosecutors told a criminal defendant that evidence against him was gathered using warrantless wiretaps. U.S. v. Muhtorov, No 1:12-cr-00033-JLK-01 (D. Colo. Jan. 12, 2012) (hosted by the Lawfare Blog). The Feds’ move will likely prompt the defendant, Jamshid Muhtorov, to challenge the warantless wiretap as unconstitutional, possibly leading to review by the Supreme Court. In arguments before the Supreme Court last year, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said that prosecutors would notify defendants if they were facing evidence gathered using such warrantless taps, only to discover later that defendants had not, in fact, been notified. An inter-departmental debate ensued, resulting in the decision to tee-up the Supreme Court’s review of the wiretapping process as delineated in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. 50 U.S.C. § 1881(a) (2006).
New Smartphone Patent War Begins
A company named “Rockstar,” jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, and other tech giants, filed eight patent infringement lawsuits against Google in the Eastern District of Texas on last Thursday. Rockstar Consortium v. Google Inc., No. 2:13-cv-00893-JRG-RSP (E.D. Tex Oct. 31, 2013). Rockstar, a so-called “patent privateer,” is essentially a holding company for more than 6,000 patents that were purchased for $4.5 billion dollars by Google’s rivals in 2011 with the intent to sue the search giant. Google has called such privateers “patent trolls.” Ars Technica has characterized Rockstar’s lawsuits as the opening salvo in a “nuclear” patent war which will be fought over key 4G cellular patents—a thinly veiled attack on Google’s Android phones.
FTC Asks For Comments Regarding Regulation Of The “Internet of Things”
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has solicited comments regarding “the internet of things,” a catch-all term for the new wave of technologies, such as smart utility meters or GPS built into our cars, that promise to link every aspect of our lives to the Internet in the name of convenience, safety, and efficiency. Some industry groups have called for self-regulation, as was successful with the world wide web, but others, like the Electronic Privacy Information Center, note that this newer technology will allow people to be physically tracked in real time across many networks and thus that the security concerns are entirely different. For instance, the same smart meters used to manage more efficiently our homes’ heating and cooling might also tell someone that we are currently at home. In September, the FTC signaled its desire to acknowledge such concerns when it settled with TRENDnet, a surveillance camera maker, requiring it to substantially improve its system security. TRENDnet, Inc., F.T.C. No. 122 3090 (Sept. 4, 2013). The FTC staff will meet on November 19th to discuss the comments and how to move forward with new regulations. GigaOM covers this matter in greater detail.