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Police Searches of Cellphones

29 Apr

All data is not the same – some of it is personal. 

Do you consider your Cellphone your personal Property?
Do you think the data on your CellPhone is your personal property?
Do you believe that a warrant should be needed to search your personal property as provided in the 4th amendment?
What protections does the U.S. Constitution provide and how do those protections work in today’s society?

Supreme Court Taking Up Police Searches of Data Troves Known as Cell phones –

Fixing the USPS

25 Aug

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

John F. Kennedy

Listen to the entire speech here.
Fixing the USPS (United States Postal Service)

Why is it against the law to open a First Class Letter and not against the law to read someones email?

Everything is becoming digital and that includes the United States Postal Service (USPS).  You and I didn’t choose this.  This is being forced upon us. Until we run out of electric power we will move towards an ALL DIGITAL world.  Accepting this change is difficult, hard to imagine and even harder to understand what it all means.

I will argue anyone over 50 has a meme (an immutable image) of the 1960’s model of our postman / postwoman delivering our letters and picking up our outgoing mail.  We baby-boomers know that a hand-written letter carries more emphasis and the effort often shows how much we care.  Today’s generation is living in real-time.  How can the USPS compete with that world and still provide the services we rely on as a free and democratic society?  We just cannot abide the vestiges of the analog world any longer.

There are so many examples to consider.  All of our radio, television, music and telecommunications have been converted to a digital format.  Pictures, documents, tax returns, banking, finances…well, it has all been converted, and yet we still are struggling with the reality about the USPS.

With one of the largest work-forces in the United States;  over 546,000 workers are employed by the USPS.  These workers are responsible for many of the day to day functions of our countries operation and well-being.  They provide a constitutional protection of 4th amendment protection to our communications and property. A proper search warrant is required to open certain classes of mail.  Read more here

4. Can Postal Inspectors open mail if they feel it may contain something illegal?
First-Class letters and parcels are protected against search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and, as such, cannot be opened without a search warrant. If there is probable cause to believe the contents of a First-Class letter or parcel violate federal law, Postal Inspectors can obtain a search warrant to open the mailpiece. Other classes of mail do not contain private correspondence, and therefore may be opened without a warrant.

The establishment of the Postal Service in 1775 was preceded by a colonial mail service to ensure that communications between our founding fathers were not intercepted.  The freedom to send private communications has been protected by those principles for all these years and it is under siege.

These 4th amendment protections do not exist with commercial carriers like Fed-Ex.

9. Right to inspect. FedEx may inspect the shipment at any time and may permit government authorities to carry out such inspections as they may consider appropriate. FedEx, in addition, may reject or suspend the carriage of any prohibited items or one that contains materials that damage or may damage other shipments or that may constitute a risk to FedEx equipment or employees or to those of its service providers.


Digital communications are disruptive in nature and have created new challenges as well as entirely new industries.  The USPS is no longer the only way to communicate or transport personal property securely across large distances.  These changes of the Digital World have created new questions about privacy and new laws have been created to attempt to define the boundaries and rules.  We have more questions than answers and struggle to keep up with the variety and scale of the communication tools.

Nothing today in the digital world mimics the legal protections of the USPS mail box.

USPS Digital letters do not exist.  We have no constitutional protect for any electronic data.  You should think twice about getting your bills and statements delivered electronically.  Everything you do online can be copied, stored, analyzed and used for other purposes.

The USPS needs to claim a stake in the digital WWW (Wild Wild West) and provide the Federally Regulated services in digital format that we rely on today.  The question is are they capable of pushing that agenda forward?  The USPS is under attack.  We need to help the USPS protect us this day and moving forward.

The USPS has a great history that can be admired and preserved.

  • 1775 – Benjamin Franklin first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress
  • 1847 – U.S. postage stamps issued
  • 1855 – Prepayment of postage required
  • 1860 – Pony Express began
  • 1863 – Free city delivery began
  • 1873 – U.S. postal cards issued
  • 1874 – General Postal Union (now Universal Postal Union) established
  • 1893 – First commemorative stamps issued
  • 1896 – Rural free delivery began
  • 1913 – Parcel Post® began
  • 1918 – Scheduled airmail service began
  • 1950 – Residential deliveries reduced to one a day
  • 1957 – Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee established
  • 1963 – ZIP Code inaugurated
  • 1970 – Express Mail® began experimentally
  • 1971 – United States Postal Service® began operations
  • 1971 – Labor contract negotiated through collective bargaining, a federal government “first”
  • 1974 – Self-adhesive stamps tested
  • 1982 – Last year Postal Service™ accepted public service subsidy
  • 1983 – ZIP+4® Code began
  • 1992 – Self-adhesive stamps introduced nationwide
  • 1993 – National Postal Museum opened
  • 1994 – Postal Service launched public Internet site
  • 1998 – U.S. semi-postal stamp issued
  • 2006 – Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act signed
  • 2007 – “Forever” stamp issued
  • 2008 – Competitive pricing for expedited mail began

We need a Digital Ben Franklin to step forward.  We need the protection of our communications to be a protected Constitutional right and it needs to extend to our digital property and data.

The USPS workers need to be retrained as digital data handlers.

Every US citizen needs a USPS “personal electronic mail-box”.

The concept of “rural delivery” in the digital world means universal service and free and open networks.  Free and Open Networks should be a part of the new USPS.

Everyone needs to be able to access their mail-box with any device connected to a network on a 24 by 7 by 365 day basis…not the commercial Internet but a secure private data network.

Laws for postal  mail should be applied to digital mail.

As Jaron Lanier explains in his new book “Who owns the future” we are headed in a direction that is both dangerous and will potentially create the next revolution.  In a NY Times article he can be summarized as follows.

“Who Owns the Future?” reiterates some ideas in Mr. Lanier’s first book: that Web businesses exploit a peasant class, that users of social media may not realize how entrapped they are, that a thriving middle class is essential to keeping the Internet sustainable. When “ordinary people ‘share,’ while elite network presences generate unprecedented fortunes,” even that elite will eventually be undermined. Mr. Lanier compares his suggestions for reconfiguring this process to Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal,” but the last thing he worries about is writerly grandiosity. “Understand that in the context of the community in which I function,” he says of Silicon Valley, “my presentation is practically self-deprecating.”

As Jaron points out…

This book may not provide many answers (“It is too early for me to solve every problem brought up by the approach I’m advocating here”), but it does articulate a desperate need for them.

My response to solving this problem is to completely redesign the information architecture we all live in today.

  1. We must stop giving away our Digital Data under the premise that it is all we can do.
  2. We must overturn the 3rd Party Doctrine rulings in favor of personal property rights in our electronic information.
  3. We must secure 4th amendment rights in our personal property and put our Sovereign Government in charge of protecting our digital property and upholding our rights for due process.
  4. We must build a new model for information management.
  5. We must build a system that protects all original works for all intellectual property and a method for economically sharing that information.

Simple things …

24 Oct

 Simple things….

Something simple…that the Personal Data Coalition believes… is that everyone needs protection for their personal electronic information and data.  The fourth amendment needs to be updated to protect every U.S. Citizen’s Personal Data.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

We need to get Constitutional rights for our electronic information just as we have protection for our papers as personal property.  Why should a paper copy of a bank statement be protected by search and seizure laws and our online data not?

Our country was founded with the acknowledgement that ideas and works of science and art  need copyright and patent protection.  In the digital age we struggle with the protection of digital works.  If we created a secure, reliable, online repository for our creative works with attribution and legal protection we could help address the problems with digital copyright and patent protection.

Copyright and Patent protection is a role and responsibility of our Sovereign Government.  Until there are Constitutional Protections (acknowledgement of our digital information and data as personal property) our Government has no responsibility to protect those works.  The Personal Data Coalition believes giving our digital information and data constitutional protection will allow the U.S. Government to protect its citizens in a digital age.  It will begin to fix the copyright and patent problems we face today.

We need to update the U.S. Constitution for the digital age.  Larry Lessig is fighting for the Constitution of the United States.  You can watch a recent video here.   It is time to look at the Constitution in the digital age and update it to reflect our digital lives.


Everyone needs internet access – Net Neutrality

26 Apr

“The internet is global”

[but the global governance of the internet is not recognized or well known or that functional]

“all media is moving to the internet”

[Government censorship or regulation is only available on regulated communications services.  Currently the internet is not under the jurisdiction of any government agency.]

These comments can be heard in this video from Bill Moyer’s Journal It is short and worth watching.

Everyone needs access to the internet.

It should be “free” <$20.00 /year for individuals but organizations and  Companies will have to pay.

The use of the internet is for access to our information and because “all media is moving to the internet” it will be the way we get our general news and information in the future if not already today.   When all of our personal information is online we will have to have open access to the internet as the means to survive.  It will be just like the air we breath.  We will have to have it.  Take it away and we will be unable to function.  It is very important and a necessary resource for our digital future.

Missouri Hospital Association Data Reporting Mandate

03 Apr

Since 1993 all Missouri hospitals have been required to report personal data on all hospital patients receiving care.  Data has been collected beginning in 1986 and Kansas and Missouri are jointly collecting data since 2000.   Reporting data is sent on CD’s (Compact Discs) monthly to member hospitals.  (I would guess without any security or encryption.)  That is a lot of CD’s.  I wonder if all of them are accounted for?  Have any been “thrown away”?

In a recent meeting in February 18, 2010 they have started to enforce rules about a 1% error threshold with the quality of data.  Here is a summary of the February 18 meeting.  I wonder if they have provided any historical data of provider error rates?

HIDI will provide an overview of the guidelines for data submission, including the collection, editing and correction of discharge data.

HIDI recently conduct regional meetings at MHA-member hospitals to review HIDI’s inpatient and outpatient discharge collection process. Staff provided an overview of the guidelines for data submission, including the collection, editing and correction of discharge data. Staff also provided an update on the required discharge data submission to the state.

In November, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services notified hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers of its intent to enforce the 1 percent field level error threshold for reporting patient abstract data included in 19 CSR 10-33.010. The rule, effective since Dec. 31, 1992, established procedures for state reporting of patient abstract data for inpatients and outpatients by hospitals and ASCs. HIDI processes and reports discharge data for most MHA-member hospitals and for HIDI-contracted ASCs. According to DHSS, enforcement of the 1 percent error threshold will begin with federal fiscal year 2010’s first quarter data submission — discharges between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2009. Reporting organizations not able to meet the 1 percent error threshold must submit a corrective plan of action to DHSS.

The full report can be found here.

(click on this image to enlarge)

In addition to the personal data required the medical diagnosis, condition, procedure codes, charges, patient disposition, physicians and medical record number were provided.

This information is kept in it’s original form and can be used for other purposes if approved by the HIDI Data Release Advisory Committee appointed by the director.  Unique patient data can be used for detailed studies though subsequent release of data cannot identify patient, physician or provider.

In a letter dated November 18, 1992 from Kenneth L.  Kuebler, Executive Vice President of HIDI,  he provided a concern about this data collection process.

“7.              In addition, legal counsel has brought to our attention the fact that compliance with certain of your reporting requirements will place hospitals in violation of a federal patient confidentiality statute (I will provide the precise citation later when it is provided to me) that precludes the release of the identity of patients treated for drug or alcohol abuse.  The rules will need to reflect this restriction and exempt from the reporting requirements the name or social security number of patients discharged for these types of treament.”

I wonder if compliance to this Federal Patient confidentiality statute was monitored or enforced.  It would have fallen to the reporting hospitals and ambulatory surgery facilities.

HIDI provides many reports to…

The following data are available to MHA-member hospitals.

Hospital Inpatient Reports

These reports contain comprehensive information concerning hospital utilization patterns and patient characteristics and are valuable tools for hospital planning and evaluation. Available since 1986, the reports are mailed to member hospitals that provide inpatient discharge data. Beginning with the 2000 Hospital Inpatient Reports, inpatient discharge data for Missouri and Kansas are combined and reported at the hospital level. Participating Missouri hospitals may purchase reports for Kansas, and participating Kansas hospitals may purchase reports for Missouri. In 2003, the utilization rate tables for Missouri were added to the CD as a convenience to members. The tables report the 500 most frequent principal diagnoses, the 500 most frequent principal procedures and all diagnosis-related groups (DRG).

Interim Hospital Inpatient Reports

Hospital Outpatient Reports

Census Data

Management and Productivity Reports

Monthly Utilization Report

Do all states collect this type of data?

I searched through the 19 CSR 10-33.010. (The rule, effective since Dec. 31, 1992, established procedures for state reporting of patient abstract data for inpatients and outpatients by hospitals and ASCs.)  I did not find the word privacy.  I don’t know what privacy laws protect this data.