By Andrew Crocker
DHS Civil Liberties Office Validates Suspicionless Border Searches of Electronics
Wired reports that the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released an “Impact Assessment” regarding the authority of customs and border agents to conduct warrantless, suspicionless searches of electronic devices. In its executive summary, the CRCL concluded that the 2009 executive directives allowing such suspicionless searches comply with the Fourth Amendment and that a heightened reasonable suspicion requirement “would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.” Because the CRCL publicly released only the executive summary of the assessment, the American Civil Liberties Organization (ACLU) reports it has filed a FOIA request for the full findings. The ACLU has long been critical of the suspicionless search policy and is representing a plaintiff who alleges his constitutional rights were violated during a 2010 border search that resulted in the 11-day seizure of his laptop.
Obama Criticizes Patent Trolls
Mashable reports that this week, during a technology-focused Google+ Hangout following his State of the Union address, President Obama discussed patent reform and singled out so-called “patent trolls,” businesses that acquire broad patents and use them to sue other inventors. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a video of the Hangout, in which Obama responded to a question about patent trolls by saying, “They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They are essentially trying to leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them.” GigaOm praises the President’s stance but suggests that the administration’s past efforts on patent reform, including the 2011 America Invents Act, have not done enough to protect legitimate innovators from suits by patent trolls.
Python Software Foundation Fights Competing Trademark in Europe
Ars Technica reports that the Python Software Foundation (PSF) is fighting an a trademark application in the European Union by a British company, POBox Hosting. PSF, which manages the open source Python programming language community and holds a registered US trademark in the name “Python,” argued in a blog post that POBox’s attempt to trademark the term “Python” in conjunction with its computing services will lead to customer confusion because of the similarity of the organization’s market areas. In the post, PSF’s chairman seeks testimony about the recognizability of the Python trademark from European companies using the programming language. The Guardian notes that the dispute has the potential to mobilize the open source community because of Python’s popularity with developers.