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Date: Friday, 03 Oct 2014 16:25

See Self-defense against overflying drones (with Zak Colangelo). It’s a quick summary of some of the arguments in our (draft) paper on Self-Defense Against Robots.

I wonder–am I the most liberal guest-poster ever at Volokh’s blog? Must surely be in the top five at least.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Blogs, Robots"
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Date: Thursday, 02 Oct 2014 14:00

We invite submissions for the fourth annual robotics law and policy conference—We Robot 2015—to be held in Seattle, Washington on April 10-11, 2015 at the University of Washington School of Law. We Robot has been hosted twice at the University of Miami School of Law and once at Stanford Law School. The conference web site is at http://werobot2015.org.

cropped-werobot-webheaderWe Robot 2015 seeks contributions by academics, practitioners, and others in the form of scholarly papers or demonstrations of technology or other projects. We Robot fosters conversations between the people designing, building, and deploying robots, and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate. We particularly encourage contributions resulting from interdisciplinary collaborations, such as those between legal, ethical, or policy scholars and roboticists.

This conference will build on existing scholarship that explores how the increasing sophistication and autonomous decision-making capabilities of robots and their widespread deployment everywhere from the home, to hospitals, to public spaces, to the battlefield disrupts existing legal regimes or requires rethinking of various policy issues. We are particularly interested this year in “solutions,” i.e., projects with a normative or practical thesis aimed at helping to resolve issues around contemporary and anticipated robotic applications.

Scholarly Papers

Topics of interest for the scholarly paper portion of the conference include but are not limited to:

  • The impact of artificial intelligence on civil liberties, including sexuality, equal protection, privacy, suffrage, and procreation.
  • Comparative perspectives on the regulation of robotic technologies.
  • Assessment of what institutional configurations, if any, would best serve to integrate robotics into society responsibly.
  • Deployment of autonomous weapons in the military or law enforcement contexts.
  • Law and economic perspectives on robotics.

These are only some examples of relevant topics. We are very interested in papers on other topics driven by actual or probable robot deployments. The purpose of this conference is to help set a research agenda relating to the deployment of robots in society, to inform policy-makers of the issues, and to help design legal rules that will maximize opportunities and minimize risks arising from the increased deployment of robots in society.

Discussants

We also invite expressions of interest from potential discussants. Every paper accepted will be assigned a discussant whose job it will be to present and comment on the paper. These presentations will be very brief (no more than 10 minutes) and will consist mostly of making a few points critiquing the author’s paper to kick off the conversation. Authors will then respond briefly (no more than 5 minutes). The rest of the session will consist of a group discussion about the paper moderated by the discussant.

Demonstrations

Unlike the scholarly papers, proposals for demonstrations may be purely descriptive and designer/builders will be asked to present their work themselves. We’d like to hear about your latest innovations—and what’s on the drawing board for the next generations of robots as well, or about legal and policy issues you have encountered in the design or deploy process.

How to Submit Your Proposal

Please send a 1-3 page abstract outlining your proposed paper, and a c.v. of the author(s) to papers@werobot2015.org.

  • Paper proposals accepted starting Oct. 1, 2014. See http://werobot2015.org for further information.
  • Call for papers closes Nov 3, 2014.
  • Responses by Dec. 14, 2014.
  • Full papers due by March 23, 2015. They will be posted on line at the conference web site unless otherwise agreed by participants.

We anticipate paying reasonable round-trip domestic coach airfare and providing hotel accommodation for presenters and discussants.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Robots, Talks & Conferences"
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Date: Thursday, 02 Oct 2014 03:43

The students on the Law Review asked me to share this call for papers:

Every year, the University of Miami Law Review dedicates its fourth issue to articles analyzing current and timely issues pending within the Eleventh Circuit. The Eleventh Circuit issue is unique to the University of Miami Law Review-no other journal publishes an issue like it. As the premier publication for law review articles regarding the Eleventh Circuit, past issues have either provided broad overviews of relevant topics or focused on a single, relevant theme. We are now accepting submissions for Volume 69, Issue 4, which will be published in the summer of 2015. We will accept submissions from authors on any timely and important Eleventh Circuit topic. Moreover, submissions do not have to be limited to a federal issue or topic. An intertwining of both federal and state issues is welcomed, as it provides for a wider audience and a more in-depth article. If you would like to submit a current draft of an article addressing an Eleventh Circuit topic or propose an idea for an for the Eleventh Circuit article, please email Adrienne Scheffey atascheffey@students.law.miami.edu with the subject “Eleventh Circuit Issue.”

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "U.Miami"
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 20:28

Gablesstage is running a special for students on Wednesday – $10 tickets to its 8pm performance of “Mothers and Sons” by Terrence NcNally. I saw the show this weekend and it’s good. Not the very best they’ve ever done (which is a very high bar) — the script is a little preachy in a couple of places — but very well acted, especially by Angie Radosh. Well worth seeing at full price, not to mention the discounted $30 on Wednesday, and at $10 for students it’s a steal.
Mothers-and-Sons
Apparently the special Wednesday performance is to make up for Friday’s being cancelled for Yom Kippur. So, take a break! We’re lucky to have such a fine theater in our neighborhood. Gablesstage is located in the Biltmore Hotel, although the actual entrance is around the side on the NE corner of the hotel. Skip the valet at the main entrance: Self-park for free in the main lot, then it’s a very short walk.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Kultcha"
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 15:44

Some time ago I agreed to give a talk on privacy issues 1pm this afternoon at UM’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

I’ve only just discovered, however, that the lecture series I’m a part of is the UM All-Stars. And they mean it: the wrap-up speaker on Oct. 13th is no less than UM’s Head Basketball Coach.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Talks & Conferences"
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 14:52

arghOh, joy: despite a vigorous round of patching, Shellshock isn’t dead, and isn’t even resting:

Google security researcher Michal "lcamtuf" Zalewski has disclosed to iTnews that over the past two days he has discovered two previously unaddressed issues in the Bash function parser, one of which is as bad as the original Shellshock vulnerability.

"The first one likely permits remote code execution, but the attack would require a degree of expertise to carry out," Zalewski said.

"The second one is essentially equivalent to the original flaw, trivially allowing remote code execution even on systems that deployed the fix for the initial bug," he added.

— iTnews.com.au, Further flaws render Shellshock patch ineffective. Spotted via Slashdot

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Internet, Software"
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Date: Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 21:44

wage_theft_vs_bank_etc_robberies

Plus, there’s no significant risk of jail.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Econ & Money, Law: Criminal Law"
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Date: Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 15:43

The NYT has a great story today, Miss a Payment? Good Luck Moving That Car on sub-prime loans for cars requiring that buyer accept installation of an immobilizer that can be operated by remote control by the lender’s agents. The article concentrates on ways in which these are being abused, e.g. immobilizing cars in traffic, far from home, when payments are not in fact late, and more.

It also hints at a group of legal issues, notably privacy (the GPS technology on which the immobilizer relies makes cars trackable by the monitoring company), and whether state laws on repossession — which require more notice, or more time between a missed payment and authorized action by the lender — should apply to a ‘virtual repossession’ or not. (Attention: Student note topic seekers. Doing this analysis in just one state would be a fine topic, and a social good.)

Then there’s the sociological aspects,

Beyond the ability to disable a vehicle, the devices have tracking capabilities that allow lenders and others to know the movements of borrowers, a major concern for privacy advocates. And the warnings the devices emit — beeps that become more persistent as the due date for the loan payment approaches — are seen by some borrowers as more degrading than helpful.

“No middle-class person would ever be hounded for being a day late,” said Robert Swearingen, a lawyer with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, in St. Louis. “But for poor people, there is a debt collector right there in the car with them.”

Missing, though, is the first thing that occurred to the cypherpunks when this technology first got mooted over a decade ago: How long until it is hacked? What happens when some bad guy starts war driving with a black box immobilizer causing accidents or other harms? And to what extent will the makers of the immobilizer be liable for those harms? Another good student note, at the very least.

[Note: Edited to add italicized line in second paragraph, which mysteriously got cut out before posting.]

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Cryptography, Law: Privacy, Student Note..."
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Date: Wednesday, 24 Sep 2014 22:34

arghAnd all your linux-embeded devices with any Internet access. From the sound of it, that’s about how bad the “shellshock” bug in Bash is:

A remotely exploitable vulnerability has been discovered by Stephane Chazelas in bash on Linux, and it is unpleasant. The vulnerability has the CVE identifier CVE-2014-6271. This affects Debian as well as other Linux distributions. The major attack vectors that have been identified in this case are HTTP requests and CGI scripts. Another attack surface is OpenSSH through the use of AcceptEnv variables. Also through TERM and SSH_ORIGINAL_COMMAND. An environmental variable with an arbitrary name can carry a nefarious function which can enable network exploitation.

— Slashdot, Remote Exploit Vulnerability Found In Bash.

Shellshock name spotted on Errata Security (good blog BTW), and the faithful INQ, which shares the cheerful fact that the NIST vulnerability database “rates the flaw 10 out of 10 in terms of severity.”

Update: It looks as if patching severs will be easy – mine is already done. The real problem will be patching devices with embedded linux. To achieve that the consumer needs (1) to know the device exists, is connected to the internet, and is under your control — all sometimes much less obvious than one might imagine; (2) the device has to be patchable; (3) there has to be a patch; (4) the consumer has to know where to go to get the patch; (5) the consumer has to be able to apply it.

Internet of Things considered dangerous?

Update2: This is a nice test for the Shell Shock / shellshock vulnerability:

env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"

If it returns something like

bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt
bash: error importing function definition for `x’
this is a test

You are fine. But if it says,

vulnerable
this is a test

Then you have the bash bug.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Software, Sufficiently Advanced Technolo..."
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Sep 2014 22:45

Justice R. Fred Lewis, a very loyal alumnus, swore in students from the class of 2014 this evening — recent graduates who learned only yesterday that the passed the bar. They looked pretty happy about it.

The Justice told the graduates that they were starting a new life, “24/7 you’re going to be a lawyer.” He extolled the value of civility in personal and professional life. He reminded the graduates that they had achieved their law license with the help of many others, friends and family. That license he told them, permits many things, but “not to be an ass.”

There was more good advice: keep some perspective, don’t let anyone suck the joy out of your life, do good works, think of life balance.

Then he administered Florida’s highly aspirational oath:

I do solemnly swear:

“I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida;

“I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;

“I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceedings which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;

“I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;

“I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my clients, and will accept no compensation in connection with their business except from them or with their knowledge and approval;

“To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications;

“I will abstain from all offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;

“I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone’s cause for lucre or malice. So help me God.”1

It was a very happy event, but I couldn’t help but think about the almost 18.8% of our Florida test-takers who didn’t pass the bar. Florida overall had an almost 30% failure rate, which is substantially higher than in recent years; FSU’s pass rate was about half a percent higher than ours this year, U.Florida had a 10% better rate. Other law schools in the state did worse, or much worse, than we did. Our results were not by that measure embarrassing, indeed the pass percentage was higher than last year, but I still wish it was better. The administration will crunch the numbers, but we’ve not in the past been able to spot many predictors other than being right near the bottom of the class, and that itself is very imperfect. Oh yes, and some small part of the 18.8% will be long-ago graduates who retired to Florida and decided to take the bar. The Florida Bar counts them as our graduates for this purpose.


  1. I didn’t hear anything about a chance to affirm the oath. I hope this option was made clear to the graduates before the event.
Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Law School, Law: Practice"
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Date: Sunday, 21 Sep 2014 21:14

Wasting no time, we’re having a swearing-in ceremony in Gussman Hall Tuesday evening for members of the Class of 2014 who passed the Florida Bar. Justice R. Fred Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court will be presiding, which is pretty nice.

One of the odd things about teaching law is that unless they turn up at alumni events you don’t necessarily ever learn for sure whether your former students passed the bar; since people don’t advertise their troubles it’s even rarer to learn who among them failed. (Presumably all *my* students passed, right, since they’re the sort of hard workers who self-selected hard courses, right?) We do get a cumulative score for in-state exam takers, but we also have a lot of students who take other states’ bar exams. Indeed, arguably, the ones who go farther away are disproportionately our more motivated students, so it’s always hard to know exactly what to make of the in-state success number. This and other reasons is why I’ve argued time and again that Bar Pass Rates are Over-Rated As A Measure of Law School Quality.

In any event, here’s wishing you good fortune if you’re waiting for your results. In the unlikely event any of my former students from the class of 2014 read this blog, you are invited to email me your results, or better yet, brag in the comments below that you passed.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Law School, Law: Practice"
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Date: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 18:46

Patrick Gudridge is our Vice Dean and a really smart legal academic.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcV1hWfYKmM

Several years ago I suggested we dress up the faculty in Halloween costumes, take a group photo, and publish it online with the caption “A Serious Faculty that Doesn’t Take Itself Too Seriously”. This met with no approval at all.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Law School, U.Miami"
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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 16:11

In order to debug some very odd behavior under the hood, I’ll be doing odd things to the site theme in the next day or two. While it may temporarily change the looks, it shouldn’t change the content.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Discourse.net"
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 16:34

Donna Shalala will ‘step down’ as U.Miami President at the end of the school year.

It is with gratitude and affection for the University that I share with you my decision to step down at the end of the 2014-2015 university year. A long time ago a friend advised me to always leave a job when you still love it. That is certainly the case here.

Despite her reaction to the strike, on balance President Shalala has been an excellent leader for the University of Miami. She will be a very tough act to follow.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "U.Miami"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 20:32

WordPress released a new version of its TwentyTen theme.  Would it kill them to include a changelog?

Author: "A. Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Software"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 03:29
Froomkin-Hi-Res-Original_350

Dan Froomkin

In most folks’ opinion, including mine, my brother Dan’s most successful media work was when he blogged about the White House at White House Watch from 2004-2009. Now Dan’s back with an expanded brief at The Intercept.

See the inaugural post, Froomkin Blogs Again: Obama Makes Bushism the New Normal. Lots of good stuff about how Obama doubling down on Bush-era policies that destroy privacy, and sweeping torture under the carpet, will make it harder than ever to eradicate either. Plus, there’s a summary of Dan’s new orientation (which, happily, intersects with some of my scholarly interests):

Even in a flawed press climate, a pretty compelling picture emerges when you connect the dots. I’ll be doing that relentlessly, and with a particular focus on the areas that concern me the most. Among them: National security issues and whistleblowing; the collapse of oversight; media failure; political exploitation of fear; torture; the corrupting influence of money; and the moral bankruptcy of the major political parties.

I also want to spend a lot of time exploring issues related to privacy policy in an era of ubiquitous data. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s primary and most admirable goal was to spark a national conversation about surveillance and privacy. But the conversations that have ensued have been relatively narrow and muted.

I’ll be doing original reporting — from the Snowden archive, and elsewhere. I’ll be asking lots of questions. And I intend to serve as a megaphone for sometimes insufficiently heard people who have great ideas — and who have a track record of being proven correct over time, rather than, say, consistently wrong. (Nominees welcome!)

And I’ll be depending on readers to do it all. There’s so much more to keep track of than there was even five years ago — heck, keeping abreast of Twitter lately has been nearly a full-time job — so I’ll need help finding the newest, the most intriguing, the best and the worst. There will be new ways for informed readers to make important contributions to the discussion.

Most significantly, this is a work in progress. The principal goal that seems to be emerging at First Look Media — the umbrella organization financed by Pierre Omidyar that publishes The Intercept — is experimentation in the pursuit of accountability.

It’s great to see Dan back in this harness. Just one cavil: the title of his first post is “Froomkin Blogs Again”? What have I been doing here for the last decade plus?

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Dan Froomkin"
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Date: Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 04:13

I think I’ve pretty much got https working on this blog. At present it will serve up both unencrypted or encrypted versions depending what you ask for. The encrypted version is, at least on my computers, noticeably slower to turn up.

So the question is, What do I do now? Should I turn of http and forward all traffic to https? If I do so, should I remove the remaining insecure items, which I take to be the counters and the little map that shows where visitors come from? Is there a free counter somewhere that is https compliant? If I don’t force https, what’s the point of having the encrypted version there if almost no one other than the people running EFF’s great https-everywhere plugin will ever see it?

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Cryptography, Discourse.net"
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Secured?   New window
Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 23:06

I’ve purchased a certificate for the blog so it can run on SSL/TLS, ie have an https address.

Little did I know how much grief this would cause. However, I only locked myself out of the blog once, and with the help of of a WordPress https plugin I am gradually reducing the number of mixed-content errors.

Security really shouldn’t be this hard …

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Cryptography, Discourse.net"
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Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 19:16

Blog migrated to a new server. Many things still flaky.

Along the way I learned that I had 2.2 GB — yes gigabytes — of useless accumulated metadata for comments, caused by getting 1.5 million 2.1 million or so sp*m comments over the last decade. I removed those with the WordPress WP Clean Up plugin which worked like a champ.

Before I got to that point, however, I had to back up my databases, and because of all the cruft they were too large to back up on the old host. Eventually I figured out how to let PHP run for half an hour and I got there.

The transfer to the new service (Dreampress instead of a VPS at Dreamhost) was supposed to be automatic, but it wasn’t. Files didn’t get copied over, permissions were wrong, and doubtless more stuff I don’t know about yet.

Anyway, lots of cleanup and checking left to do.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Discourse.net"
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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 22:07

Gonna do radical stuff under the hood of the blog. Expect flaky behavior until I sound the all clear.

Best case: all goes smoothly tomorrow and blog stops crashing.

Worst case: on Monday I’m back where I started.

Author: "Michael Froomkin" Tags: "Discourse.net"
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