On Sunday, 03 November 2019, the Reporters Committee on Press Freedom released an article [HERE] outlining their read on the case against us. They see the overreach and concern to journalists being posed by Fullerton’s read on the law.
“The prior restraint sought here is, of course, concerning. But this is the first case we’re aware of where the computer crime laws have been misused so brazenly against members of the news media. First, the conduct alleged — accessing publicly available documents over the public internet — is clearly not hacking. A court finding that accessing publicly available documents over the public internet constitutes hacking would pose serious concerns for data journalists.”
Two days later, 05 Nov, the same day the City Council voted 4-1 to continue the lawsuit against this blog and two of your humble friends, the RCPF filed an amicus brief supporting us in our appeals court effort to overturn the Temporary Restraining Order issued against us.
You can read the entire RCFP Amicus Brief [HERE]. Some highlights are as follows.
“The essence of the City’s allegations in this case is that bloggers reporting on newsworthy matters of clear public interest (namely, potential government misconduct) violated federal and state hacking laws by accessing information that was made available online by the City to all the world. The City claims it is entitled not only to an extraordinary prior restraint on publication but also damages, in part for claims against the City for breach of confidentiality caused by the City’s own cybersecurity lapses.”
This was not hacking:
“If Amicus’s reading of the declaration of the City’s information technology expert is correct, one did not even need a username or password to access files in the Dropbox account maintained by the City, in which it commingled allegedly sensitive and privileged information with material that it affirmatively invited public records requesters to download.”
The theft from a “house” analogy doesn’t work:
“A public website, including the Dropbox account here, is not like a “house.” When an entity chooses to make information available to the public on the internet, without a technical access restriction like a password, that information can legally be accessed by anyone.”
VPNs/TOR are industry practice:
“It is true that the use of a VPN and Tor serves to protect user anonymity, and that “even some journalists routinely use” them. Id. Indeed, the use of such services is not only commonplace among journalists—it is a recommended industry practice.”
“Everyone should be using encrypted services and applications to protect their communications. In fact, in 2017, the American Bar Association’s Committee on Ethics and Legal Responsibility recommended that lawyers use “high level encryption” or other “strong protective measures” to protect sensitive client information.”
Read the whole thing, it’s worth it. We’ll bring more updates as they happen.