Porn again. Illinois became the most recent state to pass a law criminalizing “revenge porn,” sexually explicit photos publicly disseminated (most often by posting them to the Internet) without the subject’s consent, usually by a jilted lover seeking retribution, or by someone who has obtained the pictures by hacking into the victim’s smartphone or computer. The measure, signed into law on December 29, 2014, by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, makes posting revenge porn a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Fourteen other states – including New York, Utah, Texas and California, which recently convicted a man for posting nude photos of his ex – have similar laws. In those states without revenge porn statutes, there are other potential avenues for combatting revenge porn, as we discussed in an early 2014 blog post.
Fake-out stakeout. For several months now, we’ve been covering the increasingly prevalent use of social media by law enforcement agencies conducting criminal investigations. In one such instance, the FBI sent a link to a fabricated news story to the MySpace page of a high-school-bombing-threat suspect to lure him into downloading malware that revealed his whereabouts. In another, the DEA set up a fake Facebook page in the name of a woman whom the agency was investigating as bit player in a federal drug investigation. All of the scenarios present a unique group of ethical and legal questions that are being debated in the media and in the U.S. court system. Now, a federal judge in New Jersey has sanctioned one such social media evidence gathering tactic: Denying a criminal defendant’s motion to suppress pictures from his private Instagram account, U.S. District Judge William Martini held that police officers did not need a search warrant when they accessed those pictures by friending the defendant using a fake Instagram account. The judge referenced a New York federal district court opinion holding that the government did not violate the Fourth Amendment when it accessed a criminal defendant’s Facebook profile through one of the defendant’s Facebook “friends,” a cooperating witness.
Goggle gaffes? With a market cap of more than $382 billion, incalculable influence over a variety of business sectors, and a name that earned a place in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, Google is clearly on a roll as we enter the New Year. Yet, as Forbes contributor Gene Marks notes, the company has had its share of outright flops, and it invests an awful lot of money in products that no one wants to buy. For example, a “solution in search of a problem,” Google Glass has yet to get off the ground. And, because it would likely require giving the government more centralized control over the U.S. transportation system, the driverless car for which Google recently introduced a prototype is apparently years away from being a viable option. But there’s no chance of these seemingly profitless projects taking the tech giant down, according to Marks. Awash with cash from other profitable revenue streams, the company can afford to invest in dream projects that aren’t likely to bring in money anytime soon.