Appalled by things legal

A couple of weeks ago I was Astounded by Things Legal. That stopped working for me so I moved on. I am now Appalled.

A couple of weeks ago in this space I was Astounded by Things Legal. Well, the legal fun never seems to stop.

Following last week’s BackSpin segment on Ameritrade’s customer data leaks Art Medlar, from who I originally heard about the issue, dropped me a note: “Just got a call from … the Ameritrade privacy department. No new information, but it seems like someone there read Network World and Slashdot. Also, it sounded like they're pretty seriously concerned … they're pretty certain that while some addresses are leaking out, not all of them are; possibly far from all of them.”

Interesting. So, Medlar was one of the unlucky few. I hope Ameritrade is really taking this seriously because leaking even a single customer address is an appalling breach or trust. I wonder if Ameritrade will formally notify Art as the law requires?

Another previous BackSpin topic that has been updated is the Julie Amero case (also mentioned last week). The latest news is that a Superior Court judge overturned Amero’s January conviction of four counts of risk of injury to a minor which could have carried a 40 year jail sentence (if you are behind in your reading, no, she didn’t force feed them crack or beat them with a baseball bat – this is all over out of control porn popups on a PC!) and ordered a new trial.

When Amero is found not guilty I sincerely hope she will sue the school she was working at for negligence or whatever they can be sued for as well as the Assistant State’s Attorney, David Smith, for whatever the correct legal term is for being a shortcut-taking, careless lawyer who doesn’t give a damn about justice. If ever there was justification for massive compensation to be awarded, this case is it.

My final appointment with appallment is over another topic that won’t die: As you may recall, Sam Peterson II was charged under a 1979 Michigan antihacking statute for “unauthorized use of computer access” when he was caught using an unencrypted Wi-Fi service without authorization.

Peterson had frequently parked near the Reunion Street Café at lunchtime and got out his laptop to check his e-mail. One unlucky day the Chief of Police in Sparta stopped to ask him what he was doing. Peterson innocently told him. Bad move (did you know that you never have to tell the police what you’re doing – if there’s a real problem they’ll let you know but if they are just fishing you should stay quiet). Anyway, the chief went away, researched the law, and decided to prosecute.

I wrote in my previous column that according to the nice lady at the Sparta Police Department the café owner, Donna May, had pressed charges. When I tried to speak to May she wasn’t available but she did return my call a couple of days ago to tell me that not only did she not press charges she really didn’t care if Peterson or anyone else used her Wi-Fi service! She told me that anyone is more than welcome to use her Wi-Fi although she would prefer that people ask first.

May also told me that the reason that the chief accosted Peterson was that a lady barber in the Varsity Barber Shop had noticed Peterson repeatedly sitting outside and notified the police of someone repeatedly loitering. This sounds very odd.

May also told me that the police later caught another man doing the same thing and called her. She asked to speak to him and told him that he should say he’d used the café restroom and asked her if he could use her Wi-Fi from his car. The man, in turn, told this to the policeman who was, according to May, rather annoyed and said that they wouldn’t refer such cases to May in future. May replied that would be fine as they hadn’t done so before!

So, it appears that the Sparta police are capitalizing on this ridiculous Michigan law and actually trolling for people to prosecute with the complicity of the local prosecutor! This is insane and shameful. If May doesn’t care then tell me, where’s the harm being done other than to the poor bastards who get snagged for the high-tech equivalent of jay walking and wind up with a police record?

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