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N.Y. AG's Porn Plan Raises Eyebrows

Leaked e-mails revealing the New York attorney general's plan to outsource evidence gathering for child-porn prosecutions are raising eyebrows among bloggers and causing defense lawyers to cringe, according to a report published yesterday in Wired. Some 700MB of internal e-mails from the controversial anti-piracy company MediaDefender were leaked two weeks ago via the file-sharing network BitTorrent

As Ars Technica reported then and Wired wrote about yesterday, the e-mails showed that the office of N.Y. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had undertaken a project to have MediaDefender gather data about peer-to-peer users who access pornographic content. In one e-mail, an intelligence analyst in the AG's office explained how it would work:

"On your end, the peer-to-peer crawler will be identifying files matching the established search criteria from various hosts. This data will then be collected, filtered for New York resident ip addresses (to the accuracy limits imposed by geo-query tech). The data will then be transferred to us where; on our end, a separate piece of software will use that data to connect into the network and download the file from a host and store it on our servers for evidence retention and further analysis."

Ars Technica says that the e-mails are not sufficient to describe the full scope of the project. But, as Wired makes clear, whatever its scope, defense lawyers don't like it. As one lawyer told Wired:

"Generally it is not looked upon favorably when a prosecutor engages a private company to collect evidence in a case or to ... partner with in a criminal case. This raises grave ethical concerns regarding the propriety of that relationship between the prosecuting authority and the private company, and it also could potentially show favoritism toward that company in the future."

Wired said it was unsuccessful in its attempts to obtain comments on the e-mails from either the AG's office or MediaDefender. But MediaDefender is nonetheless on the defensive: Ars Technica reports that it has retained lawyers from the firm Sheppard Mullin to send take-down notices to Web sites that publish the leaked e-mails.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 28, 2007 at 03:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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