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· 3 min read

Aireyawna Youmans is our 2022 Fellow. She is currently a student at UNLV Law School and aspires to be an IT lawyer.

Aireyawna

I am proud of my ability to write poetry and prose.

INFJ.

Bad communication.

An ambivert. I can totally have fun learning from and meeting new people, but also prefer my own company and enjoy a lot of space.

Quite-so. Bunnies are my favorite. If you are in the Las Vegas area, please consider adopting through Bunnies Matter, a nonprofit dedicated to chipping and rehoming bunnies that were once abandoned here.

I do not enjoy tv shows.

It's really hard to mess up anything in the fish and vegetable department. My favorite meal is halo-halo, although it can be a bit messy to make.

I enjoy reading surveillance-history books and books of poetry.

If it is on Earth somewhere, I would like to see it.

Definitely flying.

Vegas will always be home.

Definitely a tie. We went to Red Rock, read poetry, ate fruits and cheese, and basked in the sun until it went down. Or, when we went to a rage room and broke plates and glasses and computer parts and then watched fish swim around quietly afterward.

Pretty much any of the bands or artists I was listening to at the time.

Zoology and history for sure. Though, I was a fan of any class that let me read under my desk.

My boss was a really cool person; he challenged me to find my own answers before asking others questions.

· 8 min read

The Neon Law Foundation recently worked with Black News Voice Executive Editor Stephanie Williams and local San Bernardino journalist Gail Fry to write an amicus brief spotlighting abusive digital search practices. This amicus brief was one of two briefs written in support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) challenge to a San Bernardino County Superior Court’s decision to seal 8 search warrant affidavits relating to the use of cell-site simulators indefinitely and in their entirety.

Cell-site simulators trick cell phones in a region into connecting to a cell-site simulator which pretends to be a cell tower. Once the cell phones in a region connect to the cell-site simulator, the simulator can copy information sent from or received by the cell phones. The extent of this technology’s ability to track and monitor individuals has led to some concern and limitations on its use. You can learn more about cell-site simulators here.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBCSD) uses cell-site simulators and is reported to be the California agency “granted the most electronic warrants to search digital property per resident in the state." Likely in an attempt to illuminate to the public why SBCSD performed so many digital searches, EFF petitioned the San Bernardino Superior Court to unseal 22 search warrants and their supporting affidavits for cases involving cell-site simulators in 2019. Following this petition, SBCSD and San Bernadino County District Attorney (collectively “the County”) released portions of some of the warrants and affidavits but released only one of the search warrants and affidavits in its entirety. Notably, the County refused to release any portion of 8 of the warrant affidavits arguing that these 8 should remain entirely and indefinitely sealed in order to protect law enforcement investigations and the identities of witnesses. EFF challenged the complete and limitless sealing of these 8 warrant affidavits, but the Superior Court agreed with the County and ruled “that the entirety of each of the affidavits must remain sealed because there is no alternative means to release any of the information without compromising the identity of the parties, and that the affidavits are to remain sealed indefinitely.” You can read the court’s opinion here.

EFF has appealed this decision to California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. The Appellate Court will hear the case early next year. You can read EFF’s final reply brief here.

Two organizations have filed amici briefs in support of unsealing the records and overturning the lower court’s ruling. The First Amendment Coalition argued “The Superior Court, and now Real Parties in Interest the San Bernardino County District Attorney and the San Bernardino County Sheriff, have taken a radical position: the orders sealing court records are sacrosanct and beyond the public’s ability to challenge,” First Amendment Coalition’s brief says. “Fortunately for those concerned about government transparency and accountability, that radical position is contrary to the law regarding public access to judicial records.” You can read the First Amendment Coalitions amicus brief here.

Neon Law Foundation filed an amicus brief as well. In our brief, the Neon Law Foundation argues that when a cell-site simulator is used the search warrant affidavit provided to justify its use will always contain at least some disclosable information which would not compromise an ongoing investigation.

To support this assertion Neon Law Foundation first shows that the CalECPA clearly establishes that California citizens have a right to a minimum disclosure if they are a target of a search warrant. Since a cell-site simulator cannot track a single phone and instead tracks a region, the public has a right to know at least some minimum disclosure.

Neon Law Foundation then provided to the court an interoffice memo sent at the San Bernadino Sheriff’s Office outlining a requirement to log various data regarding cell-site simulators. Neon Law argues that this interoffice memo demonstrates that the County knows both the value of the data they are logging and that they can sort the data in a way that does not compromise the privacy and safety of the investigation. A copy of the interoffice memo can be found in this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) response the County gave to MuckRock journalists.

Neon Law Foundation then briefly points out that in the cases the County used to support the notion that they had a right to seal the search warrant affidavits in their entirety, the judges of those cases ruled that only a portion of the affidavits should remain sealed, not the entire affidavit. Therefore, pointing out that is an exceptionally high standard and almost unheard of for a court to allow an affidavit to be sealed in its entirety.

After this, Neon Law Foundation points out that the County already aggregates and anonymizes the data from search warrant affidavits before supplying that information to Open Justice. Open Justice is an organization under the California Attorney General’s office that releases information like when cell-site simulators are used to the public online. This shows that the County has the ability and understanding of how to release data to the public in a way that supports transparency and does not compromise investigations.

Lastly, an example was provided for both the court and County for how the County could redact a warrant affidavit in a way that would both satisfy EFF’s inquiry into the legitimacy of the County’s use of cell-site simulators and protect information crucial to an investigation. Hopefully, by walking the County through the process they could better understand what can be released at a minimum!

You can read Neon Law Foundations full amicus brief here. Read the Amicus Brief

After the Neon Law Foundation filed its amicus brief, the County filed a response. Their response begins by attempting to state that the public has no right to petition to contest the indefinite sealing of search warrant affidavits. The First Amendment Coalition’s amicus brief contains why this assertion would be a gross overreach of power and is simply untrue. The County ends their reply by stating that if EFF and the amici get their way, “The media and other activists will cause a flood of judicial, in camera review work statewide of warrants remaining sealed under Hobbs and such. And police techniques and the safety of confidential informants will be at risk of perpetual, ad hoc scrutiny by whomever is curious.” The County is somewhat correct here. If we at Neon Law Foundation had our way, each use of the highly invasive cell-site simulators would be heavily scrutinized. It is a dangerous technology that invades the public’s privacy and should be regarded as such.

The more powerful the government’s capacity is to invade individual privacy, the more it should be held accountable in its practices. It is common for government powers to justify sacrificing the privacy of the public for an increase in security, as SBCSD does. When individuals protest, a standard response is “if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to be afraid of.” We have seen the end results of that slippery slope throughout history across societies, where governments chipped away or violently overtook their citizens’ liberties under the same justification of safety until the primary danger to the public became the state itself.

While the right balance of privacy and safety will always be a matter of debate, one could always argue that the idea of “if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to be afraid of” should just as well apply to our government. In fact, ensuring government accountability and transparency was the original intent of the California Legislature in passing the CalECPA to hold law enforcement agencies accountable to the public with regard to searches they carry out with cell-site simulators. Additionally, the United States Congress signaled the same respect for government accountability to the public when it created the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for citizens to make public inquiries upon the government to ensure the functioning of our democratic society. What the EFF and Neon Law Foundation asks for merely echoes the directives of our most authoritative democratic institutions.

Unfortunately, SBCSD argues in it its reply to Neon Law Foundation’s amicus brief that the decision to keep search warrant records wholly and indefinitely sealed was the county judge’s. However, we crucially highlight that the SBCSD is complicit in the county judge’s mistake of law for repeatedly requesting the court to seal these records more extensively than the California Legislature allows in the CalECPA. As long as SBCSD continues to submit these unfair requests for sealing documentation of their actions, the SBCSD shows its disregard and disrespect for the state and federal law it is beholden to, and the public.

Neon Law Foundation is committed to the idea of protecting one’s right to their personal digital information and privacy. Although releasing search warrant information does not initially seem to align with this belief, it does when take into account that San Bernardino County is attempting here to hide the aggregate and anonymized data that would hold the County accountable every time they use a technology that could deeply violate the personal privacy rights of everyone in San Bernadino County. Neon Law Foundation recognizes that anonymized aggregate data that is available to the public provides a lever that can keep an organization accountable to those it may be tracking.

· 3 min read

Jacob Smith is our 2021 Fellow. He is currently a student at UNLV Law School and aspires to be an IP lawyer specializing in Open Source.

Jacob Smith

What talent are you most proud of?

This question was difficult for me, so I am going to interpret it a different way. Discovering, learning, and training duo acrobatics has led to many talents and has greatly impacted the trajectory of my life. I am proud of the changes not only in my understanding of health but also in the way I view life that I have gained through acrobatics.

Do you know your Meyers-Briggs?

Last I checked I was ENTP, however when I was younger I consistently tested as INTP. I haven't taken a test since attending law school and I think I have changed over this process.

What are your pet peeves?

I hate when someone lies to me and I can't stand when someone chews loudly with their mouth open

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

I don't like to consider myself as either to be honest. In the past when I saw myself as an introvert I felt more apprehensive to socialize, and when I considered myself an extrovert I felt more pressure to socialize.

Are you an animal person?

Absolutely. I have two cats at the moment (Sazerac and Paloma) but I have had all sort of animals when I was younger. One of my life goals is to have a wild raven that hangs out with me when I go hiking in its area.

What’s your favorite tv show to binge watch?

The one series I can always come back to again and again is King of the Hill.

What’s your favorite meal to cook yourself?

I keep it simple when I'm cooking for myself. If someone else is involved though I'm a big fan of some sort of roast with Mojo sauce.

What kinds of book do you enjoy reading?

I'm a big fan of Jack Kerouac, David Graeber, and Neil Gaiman.

What places are on your travel bucket list?

I hope to travel a bunch in my life, but one place I've always thought would be really fun to visit is the Basque region of Spain.

Do you prefer to fly or drive when you travel?

I love a good road trip. I used to drive the perfect little Blazer that barely slept two in the back that was great for road trips. I do love the time you save with flying though. I also really like airports.

Where would you move to if you could bring your friends and family with you?

I don't hate where I'm at currently.

What was the best date you ever went on?

I got taken to this amazing Japanese restaurant recently. The uni was so good that I started crying.

Who was your celebrity crush when you were in high school?

I have no idea. I probably just agreed with what everyone else said. My pop culture knowledge at that time was really bad.

What subjects did you most enjoy in school?

I've always liked math and physics. I thought I hated writing until I got to college and realized I loved writing about specific topics

What did you enjoy most about your last job?

I really enjoyed how much I learned. It was a dive into the unfamiliar so I was constantly learning new things.

· 4 min read

Jungmin James Park is our first Executive Director. He is a proud graduate of UC Berkeley and UNLV Law and is ultimately responsible for what we accomplish here at the Neon Law Foundation. Below are his answers to some "get-to-know-you" questions.

Jungmin Park

What talent are you most proud of?

Finding an inappropriate joke in rock bottom situations.

Do you know your Meyers-Briggs?

I usually get INTP, but I've also gotten ENTP and even INTJ when I went to compare results among MBTI test providers or tried alternate interpretations I had of the test questions. Perhaps my interest in examining the consistency of the test is indicative of my personality...

What are your pet peeves?

Stingy scoops at restaurants like Chipotle and Panda Express. I'm talking less than a flat scoop from a full tray outside of peak hours-no excuses.

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

Introvert, but can be convincingly extroverted when required.

Are you an animal person?

Yes, but I have no love for mosquitos and ticks.

What's your favorite tv show to binge watch?

I recently binge watched Squid Games like the rest of the world, but I tend to watch food and travel shows. I follow Strictly Dumpling (Mike Chen) on YouTube, and I like to revisit Anthony Bourdain's work.

What's your favorite meal to cook yourself?

I make a three-egg omelet for breakfast on a near daily basis with any combination of peppers, spinach, onion, mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes, and ham.

What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

Lately, I've been interested in self-help books like Jordan Peterson's “12 Rules For Life” and Jocko Willink's “Extreme Ownership”. However, I mostly read from Wikipedia, Quora, and Reddit, and go down hyperlink rabbit holes on those sites for general knowledge.

What places are on your travel bucket list?

Italy, Turkey, Japan, and somewhere with glaciers.

Do you prefer to fly or drive when you travel?

Drive the first time, fly to revisit.

Where would you move to if you could bring your friends and family with you?

Houston left a good first impression on me on a recent short visit. I am curious about Dallas and will have to check it out. San Diego is cool but too expensive and seems to be getting increasingly crowded.

What was the best date you ever went on?

It was in 2011 when I had just moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. A newly made acquaintance I met at a local bus stop while on my way to school invited me to visit a Ceramic Art show with her in San Francisco. She was also new to the area, so neither of us really knew where we were going, and GPS directions were unreliable. We got lost for a bit, but that ended up being a good way to get to know each other, and we managed to find our way to the Fort Mason Center in time for the show. The Bay's largest food truck rally also happened to be conveniently parked right outside for the evening.

We had such a memorable day getting to know each other, exploring a new place, and sharing a small feast, that we both felt we had to acknowledge it was a date. We shared a relationship for six years.

Who was your celebrity crush when you were in high school?

Emma Stone in Superbad (2007) and Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls (2004).

What subjects did you most enjoy in school?

Geography, sociology, speech communications & debate, astronomy, the Rhetoric of the Catholic Church in Medieval Europe.

What did you enjoy most about your last job?

I had free food and housing, and got paid to hike around in the forest by moonlight and compass with a rifle slung on my back. There was a lot of yelling and not much sleep, but it was a meaningful experience.