I previously wrote about the Boston College Linux user, represented by the EFF, whose computer equipment was seized by police. The District Court judge denied the EFF's motion to quash, and the EFF will appeal. Although there's no opinion, you can find several other court documents here.
The EFF has also updated its Deeplinks blog post to defend its deceptive publicity attempts. The response is more horse hockey.* Instead of addressing an issue that touches on the rights of virtually every person who uses the internet, the EFF is pushing a bogus story about supposed persecution of Linux users.
The EFF's Deeplinks blog originally said that "the investigating officer argued that the computer expertise of the student itself supported a finding of probable cause to seize the student's property". The blog then asked "Should Boston College Linux users be looking over their shoulders?". EFF wanted people to believe that the suspect was targeted just because he's a Linux user.
The internet happily took up this bogus cause. Credulous stories hit digg, reddit, and slashdot. Currently, the number one google result for "boston college linux" is "Linux Use Illegal at Boston College". Linux use is not now and never has been illegal at Boston College. This is bullhonkery.*
The warrant alleged that the suspect sent prank emails and that these emails are a crime. U of Dayton law prof Susan Brenner (who uses 1337 in her blog's name) confirms this: "his use of Linux is not being defined as a crime; instead, it’s simply evidence that connects Calixte to the emails at issue."
The EFF replied to Prof. Brenner. EFF maintains that the warrant's reference to Linux is unfair. First, EFF says that "no 'connection' is provided by the operating systems" because the witness didn't specify that the suspect used Ubuntu Linux. He could have used another flavor of Linux or, heck, even a Windows terminal. EFF's second response is that the warrant makes an unfounded assertion that the student uses Linux to hide illegal activities, and that "[t]he unwarranted implication -- that because the student used an "uncommon" operating system and/or is technically sophisticated, he is more likely to be engaged in criminal activity -- should give one considerable pause."
The warrant makes no such implication. The warrant clearly states the connection. The witness reported that the suspect used a second operating system to engage in illegal activities. Boston College's server logs confirmed that the suspect used Linux to commit the alleged crimes (sending prank emails). The server logs clearly identify both the suspect and the fact that the suspect uses Ubuntu Linux. Independent confirmation of a witness's story is a strong indicator of the witness's reliability. The suspect's Linux use is therefore vitally important to the search warrant.
There is no "baseless assertion that a computer science major's use of 'two different operating systems' must be 'to hide his illegal activities'". There are allegations of specific activities confirmed by a reliable, disinterested, independent source. The Deeplinks author doesn't want to acknowledge that the server logs finger the suspect - he's happy to push the fable that it's the suspect's Linux use and not the alleged emails which supply probable cause.
As for the notion that the witness didn't specify the flavor of Linux, that's splitting hairs. Linux adoption stands at about 1-2%, and only 2 students in the dorm used Linux. The suspect is in a pretty small minority of computer users. Also, the witness reported that the suspect used two operating systems (with separate logins), so we can rule out the use of the Windows terminal.
It's a shame that the EFF is going with this "Boston College Outlaws Linux! Shock! Horror!" story, because there's a real legal issue here that's relevant to far more people than just Linux users (among whom, again, I number). Namely, should the state be able to punish violations of website Terms of Service contracts as a crime? This is a key issue in the Lori Drew case. It's an issue that touches on the rights of virtually every single internet user. Instead of focusing on the important issue, the EFF engaged in deceptive fear mongering. What a load of bullbutter.*
*I don't want to offend any delicate sensibilities. Also, I love wikipedia.