Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Privacy for Dummies

The case is captioned "People v. Kent," but a good alternative caption would be "Privacy for Dummies."

James D. Kent, then a Professor of Public Administration at an college in Dutchess County, New York [the judicial panel did not specifically name the college, but those of us who can put two and two together can easily figure out that it is Marist College], was convicted on various child pornography charges. The Appellate Division upheld his conviction.

Reading the facts of the case, Kent stored approximately 30,000 images of naked or nearly-naked young girls, age range approximately 8 - 9 years, in orderly folders and subfolders on the hard drive of the office computer. He complained to the College's info tech people when the computer malfunctioned, the college info techie found the stored images on the hard drive, and the matter was reported to the police.

In addition to the issues regarding the probative value of the forensic methods used by the police, Kent also claimed on appeal that his privacy rights were violated.

The Appellate Division wasn't caving in to such whining. The computer was Marist College's, not Kent's. He had no expectation of privacy on his employer's computer. And Kent seems to have forgotten that it was he who invited Marist College to take a look at his office computer.

The porno pervert is in the can until at least next August [New York State Inmate ID Number 09R3078]. I don't know which is more appalling, the guy's fascination with prepubescent females or his abject stupidity.

As for Marist College, it now has a very effective (if unofficial) policy against using College computers for pornographic purposes. The old maxim "Punish one, educate a thousand" (yes, I know that its origin is Mao) can ring very true. And in this case, it wasn't even Marist College that got stuck with administering the punishment!

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  • At 19 October, 2010 01:21, Blogger utopia27 said…

    This case is a travesty and a miscarriage of justice. Every level of the judicial system has demonstrated a total lack of objective judgment. When folks see the headline "child pornography" they lose their minds and their reasoning ability.

    To correct a couple of factual issues in your post, defense did not claim that the case should be thrown out due to an expectation of privacy on the computer. Defense asked the appelate court to find the initial counsel incompetent (and for a retrial) because the initial defense counsel failed to seek exclusion of the key prosecution evidence (the hard drive) for several reasons. An inability to actually track the chain of custody of the hard drive, or ensure its original condition, from the time Dr. Kent asked for the computer to be repaired.

    The appeals court also got a number of factual points incorrect - understandable because the original trial record was so terrible from a technical forensic standpoint.

    At the end of the day, this appeals court ruling means that anything (ANYTHING) that makes it into your browser cache - whether you asked for it or not - is your responsibility. You're liable for it. And if you try to remove it, because you didn't like it, or thought it might be illegal, all you're doing is demonstrating your control of the material, and putting yourself at greater liability.

    The original ruling, and this appeals court ruling, demonstrate a reckless disregard for the actual way the Internet works, the degree of liability individuals should be expected to assume, and the sensible treatment of demonstrable best efforts to remain on the right side of legal liability.

    For details and history of the case, please see: http://www.justice4jimkent.com/

  • At 19 October, 2010 03:39, Blogger Expatriate Owl said…

    utopia27 says "defense did not claim that the case should be thrown out due to an expectation of privacy on the computer."

    The judicial opinion of the Appellate Division states, at *9, "The defendant contends that the search violated his constitutional rights because he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the files stored in his office computer."

    Let us do the arithmetic: approximately 30,000 images, including approximately 17,000 in a live folder (sorted into individual files according to child victim). Assuming, arguendo, that each image was just one kilobyte, that comes to 30 megabytes to be downloaded. How long does it take to download 30 MB

    But 1 KB images are usually the thumbnail size. Good, porno quality images need to be considerably larger. To err on the side of underestimation, let us say that the average image size was 50 KB. Multiply the time in the previous paragraph by 50.

    And, oh yes, there were some video clips involved, including a 40-minute video. That was certainly lots of kilobytes.

    I find it very, very, highly doubtful that ALL of those porno items could have been downloaded by students using a clueless professor's computer.

    I believe that the man is in fact guilty.

    Nevertheless, your utopia27's comment has been posted. Readers are welcome to access Jim Kent's partisan propaganda website and read what Jim Kent wants them to read, and then arrive at their own conclusions.

    I have arrived at mine.


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