Those in attendance at Herbert Joe’s Enfuse 2016 panel “From Katz to Riley (and beyond): How SCOTUS Views Evolving Technology” were in for a treat. Certainly, the conference’s in-depth presentation delivered excellent technical content, but it was quite a breathe of fresh air mid-conference to find myself sitting for a panel oriented around jurisprudence.
About the Session
Herbert Joe is, like most Enfuse attendees, a computer forensics professional; however, he is a rarity as a technical professional with a law degree. A Master of Laws (LL.M.) and Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.), Joe was both comfortable and well-versed with the legal content being addressed throughout his presentation.
The importance of discussing such content was not lost on those in attendance of Joe’s panel; perspectives on law in this field can involve strong, deeply-held opinions, and the legal elements often get approached cautiously under pain of evoking undue contention with others.Such conflicts were present even during the presentation; comments were made, questions were posed, and interpretations were challenged, but the calm and professional demeanor with which such was conducted was admirable and I attribute the possibility of such constructive dialogue to the presence of Joe as both a legal scholar and an able mediator of conversation.
The format of Joe’s panel was a well-planned series of Supreme Court cases, beginning in the early 1900s with Frye vs. US, and concluded with the present day Apple vs. US case. Joe’s format was not only simple and straightforward – allowing for the accommodation of conversation and debate – but it reinforced the notion that law (and the technology to which it pertains) is an evolving life form which isn’t always prepared for the innovations of humankind. Statutes and precedents are reactive entities that can only adapt with each new technological implementation to the best of its ability.
In the short course of an hour, a century’s worth of Supreme Court (and some non-SCOTUS) decisions and their effects were addressed; certainly a crash-course, but informative nonetheless. The cases reviewed in the presentation were as follows:
– Frye vs. US
– Olmstead vs. US
– Katz vs. US
– Kyllo vs. US
– U.S. vs. Jones
– US vs. Davis
– Riley vs. California
– Apple vs. FBI
Undoubtedly, these cases are far too numerous and complex to master in an hour’s time, but what can be established are several crucial questions we must ask ourselves when we consider technology’s place in the law:
– What can or cannot be used as evidence?
– What actions are (or are not) permitted by law enforcement?
– What, when considering technology, constitutes a search?
– What limits ought to be placed on searches of technology?
– What legal standards and expectations must be upheld?
It is in the five aforementioned areas that Herbert Joe’s presentation conveyed a clear-cut, yet stimulating, synopsis of the last hundred years of technology law. No J.D.’s were handed out following the presentation, but what each attendee did receive was the opportunity to be educated in a facet of law which most very much consider to be a gray area, and to engage in a rational dialogue about such the causes and effects of our justice system, which we may take with us and consider for the uncertain future.