Tag Archives: Court
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday imposed limits on the ability of police to obtain cellphone data pinpointing the past location of criminal suspects in a major victory for digital privacy advocates and a setback for law enforcement authorities.
In the 5-4 ruling, the court said police generally need a court-approved warrant to get the data, setting a higher legal hurdle than previously existed under federal law. The court said obtaining such data without a warrant from wireless carriers, as police routinely do, amounted to an unreasonable search and seizure under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
In the ruling written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, the court decided in favor of Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in several armed robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Ohio and Michigan with the help of past cellphone location data that linked him to the crime scenes.
Roberts stressed that the ruling did not resolve other hot-button digital privacy fights, including whether police need warrants to access real-time cellphone location information to track criminal suspects. The ruling has no bearing on “traditional surveillance techniques” such as security cameras or on data collection for national security purposes, he added.
Roberts was joined by the court’s four liberal justices in the majority. The court’s other four conservatives dissented.
Although the ruling explicitly concerned only historical cellphone data, digital privacy advocates are hopeful it will set the tone for future cases on other emerging legal issues prompted by new technology.
“Today’s decision rightly recognizes the need to protect the highly sensitive location data from our cellphones, but it also provides a path forward for safeguarding other sensitive digital information in future cases – from our emails, smart home appliances and technology that is yet to be invented,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Nate Wessler, who represents Carpenter.
“We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information,” Roberts said.
Roberts said the ruling still allows police to avoid obtaining warrants for other types of business records. Police could also avoid obtaining warrants in emergency situations, Roberts added.
The high court endorsed the arguments made by Carpenter’s lawyers, who said that police needed “probable cause,” and therefore a warrant, to avoid a Fourth Amendment violation.
Police helped establish that Carpenter was near the scene of the robberies by securing from his cellphone carrier his past “cell site location information” that tracks which cellphone towers relay calls. His bid to suppress the evidence failed and he was convicted of six robbery counts.
The big four wireless carriers – Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, T-Mobile US Inc and Sprint Corp – receive tens of thousands of such requests annually from law enforcement.
Carpenter’s case will now return to lower courts. His conviction may not be overturned because other evidence also linked him to the crimes.
The case underscored the rising concerns among privacy advocates about the government’s ability to obtain an ever-growing amount of personal data. During arguments in the case in December, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who joined Roberts in the ruling, alluded to fears of “Big Brother,” the all-seeing leader in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, a former prosecutor, said in a dissenting opinion that the ruling could do “far more harm than good.”
The decision “guarantees a blizzard of litigation while threatening many legitimate and valuable investigative practices upon which law enforcement has rightfully come to rely,” Alito added. Alito also said the ruling does not address “some of the greatest threats to individual privacy” that may come from data collection by private companies.
It was the third ruling in recent years in which the court has resolved major cases on how criminal law applies to new technology, each time ruling against law enforcement. In 2014, it required police in most instances to obtain a warrant to search a cellphone’s contents when its user is arrested. In 2012, it decided a warrant is needed to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle.
The U.S. Justice Department argued that probable cause should not be required to obtain customer records under a 1986 federal law. Instead, it argued for a lower standard: that prosecutors show only that “reasonable grounds” exist for the records and they are “relevant and material” to an investigation.
Roberts said the government’s argument “fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter’s location but also everyone else’s.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
There has been rising concern over the surveillance practices of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and whether companies like wireless carriers care about customer privacy rights.
Various tech firms, including Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, joined a brief in the Carpenter case urging the court to adopt strong privacy protections.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm (QCOM.O) has asked Europe’s second-highest court to throw out a 997 million euro ($ 1.2 billion) fine levied by European Union antitrust regulators, citing numerous errors in the EU decision.
The European Commission penalized the company in January for paying Apple (AAPL.O) to use only its chips in its iPhones and iPads, giving rival Intel (INTC.O) no chance of getting a share of the market.
The EU competition enforcer’s ruling was marked by errors in procedures and law, Qualcomm said in its appeal to the Luxembourg-based General Court, according to a filing in the Commission’s Official Journal on Monday.
Judges typically take several years to rule on such cases.
Qualcomm is also involved in another EU antitrust case where it has been accused of selling chipsets below cost to drive out British phone software maker Icera, which is now a unit of Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O).
The appeal is Qualcomm/Commission T-235/18.
Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Jane Merriman
I’m a baseball fan. When I lived in the Bay Area, I was a season ticket holder to the San Francisco Giants. And every baseball fan knows about Pete Rose, the preternaturally talented player who scandalized his sport when it was revealed he bet on baseball, including games involving his own team. Now, no one is contemplating allowing players or managers to bet on games in their own sport. But the Pete Rose story serves as a grim reminder of what can happen with sports gambling.
The trouble is that sports gambling is fun! The thrill of making some dough on your team just adds to the excitement of the sport. It’s also hugely profitable for business and government. So when the Supreme Court of the United States released their decision on Murphy vs. NCAA last week, the gambling-loving world rejoiced. SCOTUS determined that the 1992 federal law called Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) violated the Constitution’s anti-commandeering clause, thus striking down the law.
Mark Conrad is a professor of law and ethics at Fordham University, where he has taught in the School of Law and in the Gabelli School of Business. He’s also the director of Gabelli’s Sports Business Concentration, and is the author of The Business of Sports -; Off the Field, In the Office, On the News. Professor Conrad was kind enough to share with me some of his thoughts on this landmark decision.
1. Nothing’s Actually Changed…Yet.
The Court’s decision caused an avalanche of news and commentary, but, “At the moment, not much has changed,” says Conrad. The decision opened the door to huge change, but nothing is actually different yet. Conrad explains, “The court declared unconstitutional the Federal law that prohibits sports gambling. It did not sanction or permit sports gambling.” So what happens now? Conrad says no one really knows: “It is now up to the states, or the federal government, to decide.” Here’s where it get interesting!
2. The Devil Is in the Details.
“This story is only beginning,” says Conrad, who also has a degree from Columbia’s School of Journalism. “No state has enact a gambling scheme, although New Jersey may soon,” he says. The question is what happens next. For starters, Conrad asks, “Will states legalize it? And if so, which ones, and when?” Next comes the what. Conrad wants to know, “Will it apply to all sports or just pro sports?” And finally, the how. Conrad ponders: “What will be the license fees for companies wishing to do business in the state? Taxes? Anti-corruption measures?” The potential complexities are endless.
3. Congress May Not Be Done.
The Court may have struck down Congress’ PAPSA law, but that doesn’t mean Congress can’t still have the final word. Conrad explains, “The problem with PAPSA was it prevented states from exercising their powers. The law did not mandate a ban on sports gambling – rather, it told the states they were not allowed to enact laws ‘authorizing’ such gambling schemes.” The problem was the way this law was structured, but not the idea behind the law. In fact, Conrad says, “The decision did state that Congress has the power to enact a ban on gambling.” It’s possible Congress could throw some very cold water on all the excitement.
4. Integrity May Be an Issue…Or May Not.
The potential implications for the integrity of sport are fascinating. As with any gambling, there’s risk of corruption. Conrad recalls, “It has occurred in the past, notably in point-shaving in college sports.” But cheating isn’t a given. “In fact, the risk of corruption may decrease with a properly regulated integrity oversight,” Conrad explains. There are examples the US could look to for inspiration. Conrad says, “The UK model has worked well. The betting companies engage in analytics and metric systems to police suspicious gambling patterns and report these anomalies.” The key is not to over-regulate or over-tax it, which may push otherwise legal gambling underground.
5. This Decision Could Have Major Implications for State Versus Federal Authority.
“This is the underlying constitutional issue in this ruling,” Conrad explains. “Ultimately, it is a constitutional law case regarding state powers under the Tenth Amendment.” Here’s his plain-English explanation of the finer constitutional points: “PAPSA was problematic because it ‘commandeered’ states rights. Instead of banning sports gambling, it said could not enact laws authorizing gambling. It’s a subtle difference, but a constitutionally defective one.” This is an important decision in part of a greater shift. According to Conrad, “It continues a trend to give greater deference to state sovereignty.” It will be fascinating to watch as the complexities continue to develop.
(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday revived a business group’s challenge to a Seattle law, the first of its kind, that would allow drivers for ride-hailing services such as Uber Technologies Inc UBER.UL and Lyft to unionise.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the city did not have the power to regulate payment arrangements between companies like Uber and Lyft and their drivers.
The litigation is unfolding amid a national debate over whether workers in the “gig economy” are independent contractors, who typically cannot form unions, or employees.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which sued over the law last year and counts Uber and Lyft among its members, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did a spokesman for the Seattle city attorney’s office.
Seattle’s law, passed in 2015, requires the city to select a union as the exclusive bargaining representative of the estimated 9,000 drivers in Seattle who work for Uber, Lyft and other services. The law was put on hold pending the outcome of the Chamber’s lawsuit.
The Chamber argued that by allowing drivers to bargain over their pay, which is based on fares received from passengers, the city would permit them to essentially fix prices in violation of federal antitrust law.
A federal judge in Seattle last year disagreed, saying the state of Washington had specifically authorized its cities to regulate the for-hire transportation industry.
But the 9th Circuit on Friday said state law allows the city to regulate rates that companies charge to passengers, but not the fees that drivers pay to companies like Uber or Lyft in exchange for ride referrals.
The court sent the case back to the judge in Seattle to reconsider the Chamber’s antitrust claim.
The city and supporters of the law, including labor unions, have said that allowing drivers to unionize would improve their working conditions, making ride-sharing services safer for passengers.
Lawyers for the city had told the 9th Circuit that in some cases, drivers were engaging in unsafe behavior such as driving on little or no sleep because they are not paid adequately.
Uber is appealing a state’s judge dismissal of a separate lawsuit the company filed challenging Seattle’s law. A third lawsuit by Uber drivers was dismissed last year.
The case is U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. City of Seattle, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 17-35640.
Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Phil Berlowitz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider whether to let states force out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases in a fight potentially worth billions of dollars pitting South Dakota against e-commerce businesses.
South Dakota is asking the nine justices to overturn a 1992 Supreme Court precedent that states cannot require retailers to collect state sales taxes unless the businesses have a “physical presence” in the state.
The state, appealing a lower court decision that favored Wayfair Inc, Overstock.com Inc and Newegg Inc, is being supported by President Donald Trump’s administration.
A ruling favoring South Dakota could eventually lead to online customers paying more for many purchases.
Such a ruling could help small brick-and-mortar retailers compete with online rivals while delivering up to $ 18 billion into the coffers of the affected states, according to a 2017 federal report. The justices are due to decide the case by the end of June.
South Dakota depends more than most states on sales taxes because it is one of nine that do not have a state income tax. South Dakota projects its revenue losses because of online sales that do not collect state taxes at around $ 50 million annually, while its opponents in the case estimate it as less than half that figure.
The justices will hear the case against a backdrop of Trump’s harsh criticism of Amazon.com Inc, the dominant player in online retail, on the issue of taxes and other matters. Trump has assailed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, a newspaper that the Republican president also has disparaged.
Amazon, which is not involved in the Supreme Court case, collects sales taxes on direct purchases on its site but does not collect taxes for items sold on its platform by third-party venders, amounting to about half of total sales.
South Dakota is supported by industry groups representing major retailers that have brick-and-mortar stores, and therefore already collect state sales taxes. The National Retail Federation, which supports the state, has a membership that includes Walmart Inc and Target Corp, as well as Amazon.
E-commerce companies supporting Wayfair, Overstock and Newegg include two that provide online platforms for individuals to sell online: eBay Inc and Etsy Inc.
The 2016 South Dakota law requires out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax if they clear $ 100,000 in sales or 200 separate transactions. The state sued a group of online retailers to force them to collect the state sales taxes, with the aim of overturning the 1992 precedent.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham
The U.S. government’s Supreme Court battle with Microsoft Corp over whether technology companies can be forced to hand over data stored overseas could be nearing its end, after federal prosecutors asked that the case be dismissed.
President Donald Trump on March 22 signed a provision into law making it clear that U.S. judges can issue warrants for such data, while giving companies an avenue to object if the request conflicts with foreign law.
“This case is now moot,” the U.S. Department of Justice said, citing the newly passed legislation, in a 16-page court filing on Friday that requested the dismissal.
The Supreme Court on Feb. 27 heard arguments in the case, which had been one of the most closely watched of the high court’s current term. Some justices urged Congress to pass a law to resolve the matter.
Microsoft and the Justice Department had been locked in a dispute over how U.S. prosecutors seek access to data held on overseas computer servers owned by American companies. The case involved Microsoft’s challenge to a domestic warrant issued by a U.S. judge for emails stored on a Microsoft server in Dublin relating to a drug-trafficking investigation.
The bipartisan new law, known as the Cloud Act, was supported by Microsoft, other major technology companies and the Trump administration. But civil liberties groups opposed it, saying it lacked sufficient privacy protections.
Microsoft, which has 100 data centers in 40 countries, was the first American company to challenge a domestic search warrant seeking data held outside the United States. The Microsoft customer whose emails were sought told the company he was based in Ireland when he signed up for his account.
A representative for Microsoft did not immediately return requests for comment on the Justice Department’s filing.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Mexican mogul Carlos Slim’s America Movil must allow competitors to use its network and infrastructure, essentially holding up aspects of the 2014 telecoms reform.
The court said the obligation imposed by the reform on America Movil, Mexico’s largest telecommunications firm, to lend interconnection services to competitors does not violate its rights.
“Because the constitutional decree itself recognized that there are certain obligations that are imposed on the preponderant economic agent, which will expire once there are conditions of real competition in the market,” it said.
The case was filed by America Movil’s Telmex unit.
A central pillar of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s reform sought to bolster competition by giving other companies free use of Slim’s network, which grew from the former state monopoly he acquired in the 1990s.
The policy was later abandoned by the government after the country’s Supreme Court ruled in August that America Movil’s interconnection rates should be set by the telecommunications regulator, not legislators.
The IFT telecommunications regulator said in November that America Movil would be able to charge rivals 0.028562 peso per minute for calls to its network as of Jan. 1. Competitors can charge 0.112799 peso per minute for mobile calls to their networks, it said.
Rival AT&T Inc calculated that for every peso cent America Movil can charge for interconnection fees, the company’s competitors in Mexico would collectively pay about $ 20 million per year.
America Movil declined to comment.
Slim holds about two-thirds of mobile phone subscriptions in Mexico.
Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Stephen Coates
LONDON (Reuters) – Uber [UBER.UL] will defend its right to operate in London in a court hearing on Monday after the app was deemed unfit to run a taxi service and stripped of its license in its most important European market.
Regulator Transport for London (TfL) shocked the Silicon Valley firm by rejecting its license renewal bid in September, citing its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.
Uber’s 40,000 drivers, representing around one in three of all private hire vehicles on the British capital’s roads, can continue to take passengers until the appeals process is exhausted, which could take years.
The legal battle pitches one of the world’s richest cities against a tech giant known for its forays into new markets around the world that have prompted bans, restrictions and protests, including by drivers of London’s famous black cabs.
Uber’s lawyers will begin their appeal at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday, in what is expected to be a largely administrative hearing designed to set a date for a fuller hearing next year.
Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi has apologized to Londoners and met TfL Commissioner Mike Brown in October for what both sides described as constructive talks.
Brown told Reuters in November that “there are some discussions going on to make sure they are compliant.”
Months of legal wrangling are likely unless the Silicon Valley app, valued at around $ 70 billion with investors including Goldman Sachs (GS.N), can come to a new arrangement with the regulator.
“We continue having constructive discussions with Transport for London in order to resolve this,” an Uber spokesman said ahead of the hearing. “As our new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said, we are determined to make things right.”
Losing its London license was just one of many blows to Uber this year as a stream of executives left amid controversies involving allegations of sexual harassment and issues surrounding data privacy and business practices.
In Britain, Uber is looking to appoint a new boss after Jo Bertram announced her departure less than two weeks after London’s decision.
It also faces potential problems in the northern English city of Sheffield where its license has been suspended and in Brighton, southern England, where local officials extended the firm’s license for only six months to give them more time to consider the outcome of the dispute in London.
Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Keith Weir
(Reuters) – Over 30 technology companies including Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Facebook Inc. (FB.O) on Friday urged a U.S. patent court to disregard drugmaker Allergan Plc’s (AGN.N) contention that its transfer of some of its patents to a Native American tribe shields them from the court’s review.
Two trade groups comprised of tech industry leaders argued in a joint brief submitted to the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board that the board has the right to review the validity of patents covering the dry eye medicine Restasis that Allergan transferred to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in a deal announced in September.
“This panel’s statutory authority to review whether the Restasis patents were properly granted as a matter of federal law does not and should not depend on the identity of the patents’ owner,” said the trade group.
Allergan is arguing the tribe’s sovereign status means the patent review board, an administrative court, has no jurisdiction over the transferred patents. The tribe agreed to exclusively license the Restasis patents back to Allergan in exchange for ongoing payments.
Many technology companies have praised the patent court, saying it is a low-cost and efficient way to cancel dubious patents used to bring abusive lawsuits. They fear that, if upheld, Allergan’s strategy could be widely adopted and used against them.
The case before the patent board stems from a challenge to the Restasis patents brought by generic drug companies led by Mylan NV (MYL.O). Generic makers had been blocked from selling their own versions of the blockbuster medicine until the patents expired in 2024.
But a federal judge in Texas already invalidated the Restasis patents in a separate proceeding, rendering Allergan’s tribal deal effectively meaningless. The company had said it did not object to federal court review of its patents but felt the administrative process was unfair.
Despite that ruling, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board is hearing arguments on whether it must accept Allergan’s tribal immunity argument.
A group of prominent law professors, including Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California at Berkeley, submitted a brief on Friday siding with the tribe and Allergan.
“Far from being a scheme to shield patents from review, the agreement from the Tribe’s perspective is part of its economic development plan,” the academics said. “The Allergan-Mohawk contract reflects exactly the sort of economic entrepreneurship that Congress has been urging upon tribes.”
Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Anthony Lin and Andrew Hay
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – An Austrian law student cannot bring a class action suit against Facebook’s Irish unit over alleged privacy violations in an Austrian court, an EU court adviser said on Tuesday, but can sue the company in his home country on his own behalf.
Arguing Facebook violated privacy rules, Max Schrems is claiming 500 euros ($ 576) in damages for each of some 25,000 signatories to his lawsuit, one of a series of European challenges to U.S. technology firms and their handling of personal data.
“A consumer who is entitled to sue his foreign contact partner in his own place of domicile, cannot invoke, at the same time as his own claims, claims on the same subject assigned by other consumers,” the EU top court’s Advocate General Michal Bobek said.
The advocate general, whose opinions are not binding but usually followed by the court, said allowing a class action suit in this case would lead consumers to choose the place of the most favorable court.
Privacy activist Schrems, who had argued that individual lawsuits on user privacy would be “impossible” due to the financial burden on users, said a ruling in line with the advocate general’s opinion would still allow him to set a precedent.
“In the advocate general’s view, I can at least bring a ‘model case’ at my home jurisdiction in Vienna, which may enable us to debate the illegal practices of Facebook in an open court for the first time,” Schrems said in a statement.
Facebook said the advocate general’s opinion supported the decision of two courts that Schrem’s claims could not proceed as a class action.
While common in the United States, class action suits are rarely recognized in Europe.
“It is not for the Court to create such collective redress in consumer matters, but eventually for the Union legislator,” the Advocate General said.
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in Vienna; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and John Stonestreet