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posted by janrinok on Tuesday June 24 2014, @02:21PM   Printer-friendly
from the another-outbreak-of-commonsense dept.

A federal appeals court has reversed an accountant's tax-evasion conviction because the government seized his computer data and held it for more than 2.5 years - a breach of the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches. "If the government could seize and retain non-responsive electronic records indefinitely, so it could search them whenever it later developed probable cause, every warrant to search for particular electronic data would become, in essence, a general warrant", Judge Denny Chin wrote, in Docket 12-240-cr [PDF] for the appeals court.

From the article:

At least one digital rights group said the decision may affect the National Security Agency's vast electronic snooping programs disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"I would certainly argue that it calls into question the whole collect-it-all-and-sniff-through-it-later practice", Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Courthouse News Service.

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Kromagv0 on Tuesday June 24 2014, @02:25PM

    by Kromagv0 (1825) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @02:25PM (#59425) Homepage

    Good thing this was a tax evasion case instead of a kiddy porn or terrorism one. It doesn't bring out the ends justify the means arguments when attempting to trample our rights. Lets hope this is upheld on appeal or the US Supreme Court declines to hear the inevitable appeal that the Government will be filing.

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by tempest on Tuesday June 24 2014, @04:29PM

    by tempest (3050) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @04:29PM (#59473)

    There are many interesting points in this case. The original data copy (usually I associate "seizure" as taking, not "copying") was within the scope of the warrant, but they failed to delete the other stuff once the relevant data was obtained and copied. The second warrant was issued near the 2.5 year expiration date, and data not relevant to the first handed over, so it appears there isn't a loophole of daisy chaining warrants to keep data indefinitely.

    For me the first thing that comes to mind is encryption. If you have something encrypted and it can hold out for 2.5 years, then the government is "required" to delete it.

    It seems like this guy was guilty, so I suppose avoiding prosecution is a bad thing, but with so many points on data retention clarified I'd still say this is an overall good thing.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Tuesday June 24 2014, @05:02PM

      by frojack (1554) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @05:02PM (#59484) Journal

      I'm glad the court set you straight that copying is seizure.

      But you totally missed the main point. Data was not handed over upon the second warrant. The authorities already had it, and used it to try to build a tax evasion case.

      And by the way, he remains NOT GUILTY of tax evasion.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by frojack on Tuesday June 24 2014, @04:32PM

    by frojack (1554) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @04:32PM (#59474) Journal

    http://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=14/06/18/1751241 [soylentnews.org]

    All the salient points were covered a week ago.

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    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @05:20PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @05:20PM (#59491)

      At least it's from another source. :)