• The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed three lower court rulings concluding that federal agents’ computer searches relating to the use of steroids in professional baseball violated the Fourth Amendment. The ruling reaffirms a previous decision by the full court of appeals that the government cannot use the “plain view” doctrine to search seized data for evidence that it lacked probable cause to obtain. The case began in 2002, when the government was investigating allegations that the Bay Area Lab Cooperative illegally provided steroids to 10 professional baseball players. When federal officials learned that the players had tested positive under a new drug testing program, they obtained warrants from two California magistrate judges and a Nevada federal judge for records on those players. In reviewing the seized data, the government learned that approximately 90 other players had also tested positive for steroid use. The government took the position that data on these players fell into “plain view” when it was seized and therefore could be used as evidence against those players. The players and their union moved to have all three seizures quashed and for the return of the seized data and samples. Three different federal judges granted their motions, all of them highly critical of the government’s practices. The Ninth Circuit court blasted the government’s conduct in the case, stating that, among other things, the government deliberately expanded its search beyond the data on the 10 suspected players. It dismissed as “sophistry” and “too clever by half” the government’s plain-view arguments. United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc., No. 05-10067, 2010 WL 3529247 (9th Cir. Sept. 13, 2010).
  • Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, has stated that changes made by Facebook to enhance user privacy have brought it into compliance with Canadian privacy law. “The changes Facebook has put in place in response to concerns we raised as part of our investigation last year are reasonable and meet the expectations set out under Canadian privacy law,” Commissioner Stoddart said in a September 22 statement. Facebook’s official blog states that as a result of the changes, Facebook users now have greater control over how much of their personal information is disclosed to developers of applications such as games and quizzes that are available on the social networking site. Although Facebook has always allowed users to restrict the disclosure of their personal information, those restrictions did not previously apply to third-party developers of applications available on the site.
  • The European Commission (EC) has referred the United Kingdom to the European Union Court of Justice for failure to comply with an EU directive on the confidentiality of electronic communications, such as e-mail or Internet browsing. Specifically, the EC objects to a UK law on interception of communications and enforcement by supervisory authorities. The EC initially launched legal action in April 2009 in response to citizen complaints about how UK authorities dealt with concerns about the use of behavioral advertising by Internet Service Providers. The EC has stated that the UK is violating the ePrivacy Directive and Data Protection Directive by failing to establish an independent national authority to supervise the interception of communications and to hear complaints, by authorizing interception of communications where consent has not been given, and by prohibiting and providing sanctions in case of unlawful interception.