The Dobbs Wire: Is the government breaking the rules, using secret technology to erode constitutional rights? In cases around the country involving illegal images, prosecutors have dropped charges rather than allow defense attorneys to scrutinize how the government gathered the evidence – what are they hiding? Jack Gillum delves into all this, have a look at his report for ProPublica! The article includes links to lots of material including an important letter from Human Rights Watch to the US Department of Justice. -Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire [email protected]
ProPublica | April 3, 2019
Prosecutors Dropping Child Porn Charges After Software Tools Are Questioned
More than a dozen cases were dismissed after defense attorneys asked to examine, or raised doubts about, computer programs that track illegal images to internet addresses.
by Jack Gillum
Excerpts: At a time when at least half a million laptops, tablets, phones and other devices are viewing or sharing child pornography on the internet every month, software that tracks images to specific internet connections has become a vital tool for prosecutors. Increasingly, though, it’s backfiring.
Drawing upon thousands of pages of court filings as well as interviews with lawyers and experts, ProPublica found more than a dozen cases since 2011 that were dismissed either because of challenges to the software’s findings, or the refusal by the government or the maker to share the computer programs with defense attorneys, or both. Defense attorneys have long complained that the government’s secrecy claims may hamstring suspects seeking to prove that the software wrongly identified them.
“Courts and police are increasingly using software to make decisions in the criminal justice system about bail, sentencing, and probability-matching for DNA and other forensic tests,” said Jennifer Granick, a surveillance and cybersecurity lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project who has studied the issue. “If the defense isn’t able to examine these techniques, then we have to just take the government’s word for it — on these complicated, sensitive and non-black-and-white decisions. And that’s just too dangerous.” MORE: