Category Archives: Law

California Right To Repair Signed Into Law

IFixit wrote: Today (October 10) marks a monumental step forward in the Right to Repair movement. We’re elated to announce that Governor Gavin Newsom has officially signed the California Right to Repair Act, SB 244, into law. This groundbreaking legislation passed the legislature almost unanimously last month.

It has been championed by state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman and is cosponsored by iFixit, along with our colleagues in the more-fixable-stuff fight. CALPRIG (the California Public Interest Research Group), and Californians Against Waste.

“This is a victory for consumers and the planet, and it just makes sense,” said Jenn Engstron, state director of CALPRIG. “Right now, we mine the planet’s precious minerals, use them to make amazing phones and other electronics, ship these products across the world, and then toss them away after just a few years’ use. What a waste. We should make stuff that lasts and be able to fix our stuff when it breaks, and now thanks to years of advocacy, Californian’s will finally be able to, with the Right to Repair.”

The tech revolution started here in California, IFixit wrote, so it’s appropriate that we’re working to fix the problems of Big Tech here, too. With access to original parts, tools, and documentation, independent repair shops will be able to compete again. And Californians across the state – accounting for 1 out of every 8 Americans – will be able to fix things however they see fit.

With California’s new law, the Golden State joins Minnesota and New York, representing nearly 20% of the US population, in guaranteeing people more control over their electronic devices. The bill goes above and beyond those laws, mandating manufacturers to keep repair materials available for up to seven years, ensuring the longevity of products and reducing electronic waste.

Covered products: all electronic and appliance products that cost $50 or more sold in California after July 1, 2021 (everything in Section 9801 of the Business and Professions code, which was just updated this session in another bill, SB 814)

Effective date: July 1, 2024

Difference from other states: includes 3 years of parts, tools, and documentation support for products that cost $50-$99.99; 7 years for products $100+

Exemptions: game consoles, alarm systems, agricultural and forestry equipment

The Verge reported California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed SB 244, or the Right to Repair Act, into law, making it easier for owners to repair devices themselves or to take them to independent repair shops. Because California is one of the world’s largest economies, this iFixit-cosponsored bill may make it easier for people all over the US to repair their devices.

According to The Verge, California is home to a number of device makers, most notably Apple, which came out in support of the bill after initially trying to stall it. As a practical matter, the California law may benefit consumers in places without such laws. For instance, Google, also headquartered in California, recently confirmed that the Pixel 8 series will get seven years of spare parts – the same number the California bill mandates.

As a Californian, I think the Right to Repair law is going to significantly help people who need to fix, swap out parts, or otherwise tinker with their devices. My hope is that this will cause the repair shops (some of which have closed) to start back up again.

Senators Introduced a Bill to Limit Section 230 Protections

Senators Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono, and Amy Klobuchar introduced a bill called the SAFE TECH Act. The full name of the Act is “Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism, and Consumer Harms Act”. All three of the Senators who introduced the bill are from the Democratic Party. It appears that no Republican Senators took part in this bill.

The purpose of the SAFE TECH ACT is “to amend section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 to reaffirm civil rights, victims’ rights, and consumer protections.” The bill has not yet been voted on by the full Senate.

Senator Mark Warner said, in a statement: “When Section 230 was enacted in 1996, the internet looked very different than it does today. A law meant to encourage service providers to develop tools and policies to support effective moderation has instead conferred sweeping immunity on online service providers even when they do nothing to address foreseeable, obvious, and repeated misuse of their products and services to cause harm.”

The SAFE TECH Act would make clear that Section 230:

Doesn’t apply to ads or other paid content – ensuring that platforms cannot continue to profit as their services are used to target vulnerable consumers with ads enabling frauds and scams;

Doesn’t bar injunctive relief – allowing victims to seek court orders where misuse of a provider’s services is likely to cause irreparable harm;

Doesn’t impair enforcement of civil rights laws – maintaining the vital and hard-fought protections from discrimination even when activities or services are mediated by internet platforms.

Doesn’t interfere with laws that address stalking/cyber-stalking or harassment and intimidation on the basis of protected classes – ensuring that victims of abuse and targeted harassment can hold platforms accountable when they directly enable harmful activity;

Doesn’t bar wrongful death actions – allowing family of a decedent to bring suit against platforms where they may have directly contributed to a loss of life;

Doesn’t bar suits under the Allen Tort Claims Act – potentially allowing victims of platform-enabled human rights violations abroad (like the survivors of the Rohingya genocide) to seek redress in U.S. courts against U.S. – based platforms.

Gizmodo reported that the SAFE TECH Act was widely endorsed upon announcement by several groups working to curb hate and extremism online, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The Hill reported that that the NAACP Legal Defense also supported the bill.

Fight for the Future posted a link to a Google Doc that shows a letter which includes a long list of groups that are against the SAFE TECH Act. In a tweet Fight For the Future stated that 70+ human rights groups have sent the letter to Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration warning lawmakers against gutting Section 230.

Techdirt has a long and very detailed post about the SAFE TECH Act. They are very clearly against it.

One paragraph says: “A key thing to recognize is that it’s obvious that the drafters of this bill believe the myth that 230 protects “big” tech companies. The bill is written as if its only talking about Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Warner handwaves away the idea that the bill would destroy smaller companies in his announcement by ridiculously (and against all evidence to the contrary) saying that all startups are too small to sue, so it would only be used against larger companies.”

Personally, I believe that more should be done to prevent people from being harassed or cyber-stalked online. Social media platforms should be required to do more to uphold civil rights laws. Based on everything I’ve read, it does not appear that the SAFE TECH Act is the solution to these problems.

CDT Filed Lawsuit Against Trump’s Executive Order

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has filed a lawsuit against President Trump’s “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship”. The suit argues that the executive order violates the First Amendment by curtailing and chilling the constitutionally protected speech of online platforms and individuals. CDT is represented by the law firm of Mayer Brown.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a good explanation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, (which President Trump’s executive order targets). In short, Section 230 says: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” It protects social media companies (such as Twitter and Facebook) from being held legally responsible for what users post on their platforms.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff is Center for Democracy & Technology and the defendant is President Donald Trump. In the 28-page lawsuit, CDT details the ways in which President Trump’s executive order is “retaliatory motivation and his goal of chilling future protected speech that is inconsistent with his views render the Executive Order violative of the First Amendment”.

CDT President & CEO Alexandra Givens has some quotes on their website, including this one:

“The Executive Order is designed to deter social media services from fighting misinformation, voter suppression, and the stoking of violence on their platforms. Access to accurate information about the voting process and the security of our elections infrastructure is the lifeblood of democracy. The President has made clear that his goal is to use threats of retaliation and future regulation to intimidate intermediaries into changing how they moderate content, essentially ensuring that the dangers of voter suppression and disinformation will grow unchecked in an election year.”

The New York Times reported that CDT’s lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the executive order. The New York Times states that this lawsuit, “…is indicative of the pushback that the president is likely to face as he escalates his fight with social media companies, which he has accused of bias against conservative voices.”

Court Rules Turning on Phone Qualifies as Search

A judge has ruled that the act of looking at a phone’s lock screen requires a warrant – in some circumstances. This ruling was made by the Honorable John C. Coughenour in the United States District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle. It seems to me that this ruling requires the FBI to have a warrant before they can look at the lock screen on someone’s phone.

The case is United States of America v. Joseph Sam. It is regarding a motion filed by Mr. Sam’s lawyer arguing that the evidence obtained from looking at the lock screen should not have been sought without a warrant and should be suppressed.

There were two things to consider in this case: the actions taken by the police when they arrested Mr. Sam, and the actions of the FBI taken later. The Court saw these actions as two separate things.

In regards to the actions of the FBI, Judge John C. Coughenour pointed out that the Fourth Amendment protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures” of “their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” The FBI powered on Mr. Sam’s phone in order to take a picture of the lock screen. In short, the FBI needed a warrant in order to do that, and did not have a warrant. Based on this, the Judge determined that this search was unconstitutional. Mr. Sam’s motion to suppress the evidence the FBI gathered during this search was granted.

Things get a little cloudy in regards to the actions of the police at the time of Mr. Sam’s arrest. It was unclear to the Court why the police “felt it was necessary to power on or manipulate Mr. Sam’s cell phone to properly inventory the phone”.

It was also unclear if that police department procedures require officers to power on every cell phone that they inventory, or whether the police searched the phone. As such, the Judge could not resolve Mr. Sam’s motion to suppress the evidence found during the police’s examination of his phone.

To me, it sounds like the FBI needs to obtain a warrant to power on someone’s phone, and to take a photo of the lock screen, beforehand. Pushing the buttons on a phone in order to activate it counts as a search.

“Zoom-bombing” Could Result in Fines or Imprisonment

The world is adjusting to the “new normal” of working from home and attending online meetings. While this is happening, a nefarious group of people have decided to enter Zoom teleconferences so they can be abusive to the people who are attending it. The Department of Justice wants people to know that “Zoom-bombing” can result in fines or imprisonment.

The Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Michigan posted a release titled: “Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Warn Against Teleconferencing Hacking During Coronavirus Pandemic”.

The release points out that the FBI reported this week that there has been a rise in “Zoom-bombing”, or video hacking, across the United States. Hackers are disrupting conferences and online classrooms with pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.

Michigan’s chief federal, state, and local law enforcement officials are joining together to warn anyone who hacks into a teleconference can be charged with state or federal crimes. Charges may include – to name just a few – disrupting a public meeting, computer intrusion, using a computer to commit a crime, hate crimes, fraud, or transmitting threatening communications. All of these charges are punishable by fines and imprisonment.

The Verge reported that the press release on the Department of Justice’s website under the US Attorney’s office for the state’s Eastern District is posted with support form the state attorney general and the FBI.

The press release includes a quote from Matthew Schneider, United States Attorney General for Eastern Michigan, “You think Zoom bombing is funny? Let’s see how funny it is after you get arrested. If you interfere with a teleconference or public meeting in Michigan, you could have federal, state, or local law enforcement knocking at your door.”

I understand that some people are getting bored while under “shelter at home” orders. That doesn’t give them the right to go online and harass people. I wonder when we will hear news about the first arrest of a “Zoom-bomber”?

Court Rules Apple Must Pay Workers for Time Spent Waiting for Exit Searches

The California Supreme Court has ruled that Apple Inc. violated California law when it failed to pay employees in Apple Stores for the time they spend waiting for mandatory bag and iPhone searches at the end of their shifts.

The case is called Frlekin v. Apple Inc. It was filed as a class-action lawsuit against Apple by a group of Apple workers. The workers claimed that they were required to submit to searches before leaving the stores but were not compensated for the time those searches required.

The decision made by the California Supreme Court was written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010. A key part of the decision says:

…Applying these factors here, it is clear that plaintiffs are subject to Apple’s control while awaiting, and during, Apple’s exit searches. Apple’s exit searches are required as a practical matter, occur at the workplace, involve a significant degree of control, are imposed primarily for Apple’s benefit, and are enforced through threat of discipline. Thus, according to the “hours worked” control clause, plaintiffs “must be paid”…

…We reiterate that Apple may tailor its bag-search policy as narrowly or broadly as it desires and may minimize the time required for exit searches by hiring sufficient security personnel or employing adequate security technology. But it must compensate those employees to whom the policy applies for the time spent waiting for and undergoing these searches.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Apple has 52 retail stores in California, and that workers are required to submit to exit searches. Employees estimate that waiting for and undergoing searches can take five to 20 minutes, or, on busiest days, up to 45 minutes.

U.S. Department of Justice Arrested Man for Laundering Bitcoin

The Department of Justice has arrested a man who allegedly was running a bitcoin mixing service on the dark web that helped criminals launder bitcoin transactions. ZDNet reported that this was the first case the Department of Justice brought against a bitcoin mixer.

The Department of Justice stated that Larry Harmon, from Ohio, was arrested for his operation of Helix, which the Department of Justice describes as a “Dark-net based cryptocurrency laundering service.” He was charged with money-laundering conspiracy, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and conducting money transmission without a D.C. License.

According to the indictment, Harmon operated Helix from 2014 to 2017. Helix functioned as a bitcoin “mixer” or “tumblr,” allowing customers, for a fee, to send bitcoin to designated recipients in a manner that was designed to conceal the source or owner of the bitcoin. Helix was linked to and associated with “Grams,” a Darknet search engine also run by Harmon. Harmon advertised Helix to customers on the Darknet as a way to conceal transactions from law enforcement.

The indictment alleges that Helix moved over 350,000 bitcoin – valued at over $300 million at the time of the transactions – on behalf of customers, with the largest coming from Darknet markets. Helix partnered with the Darknet market AlphaBay to provide laundering services for AlphaBay customers. AlphaBay was one of the largest Darknet marketplaces in operation at the time it was seized by law enforcement in July of 2017.

When I hear the phrase “money-laundering”, it makes me think of physical money being sneakily transferred through various businesses and/or bank accounts. I had not considered that bitcoin could also be laundered, but it appears it is possible. I think that this precedent – that you can get arrested for laundering bitcoin – could make those who are currently doing it consider stopping.

Another interesting thing about this case is that it makes it clear that bitcoin isn’t really private. There are apparently ways for law enforcement to track where the bitcoins go, how many bitcoins go were transferred, and the people involved in transferring it.