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Apparently, using Linux is a crime at Boston College

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posted on Apr, 23 2009 @ 03:24 PM
First the story:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reported over the last couple of days that a Boston College computer science student has been targeted by BC police largely on the basis of using Linux. No, really - I’m serious.

School officials allege that this student sent an email to a school list outing another student as gay. Assuming he actually did this, it’s clear that this wasn’t particularly nice, professional, or tolerant; I’ll leave it to the lawyers to judge whether it was illegal. Regardless, the real problem here is not whether the student was professional or respectful of his peers, but that Boston College police seized several items, citing his use of Linux as probable cause supporting their actions.

According to the EFF,

In his application, the investigating officer asked that he be permitted to seize the student’s computers and other personal effects because they might yield evidence of the crimes of “Obtaining computer services by Fraud or Misrepresentation” and “Unauthorized access to a computer system.” zdnet

Here's the EFF link:

Boston College Campus Police: "Using Prompt Commands" May Be a Sign of Criminal Activity

Apparently what Mr. Calixte (Boston College student) did was send an email accusing another student of being gay. If true, it surely doesn't make him a nice guy, but that's not really the story here. The story is that the premise for targeting Mr. Calixte is simply that he is a computer expert and that he used Linux.

This apparently gave the authorities probable cause to seize his computer and other property under this manufactured pretext in order to search for incriminating evidence.

The EFF and apparently the Linux blogosphere are obviously up in arms about this and quite frankly so should we.

Because if this stands, you're an IT expert, and you happen to be using Linux as your OS, get ready for authorities to be free seize and search your property on that basis alone.

It was bound to happen sooner or later, the Boston police is apparently working for Microsoft.

Edit to add link.

[edit on 23 Apr 2009 by schrodingers dog]

posted on Apr, 23 2009 @ 03:30 PM
He might have been breaking the law after all....

read the paragarphs at the very end of the article...

... observed Mr. Calixte break into the B.C. grading sytem....

quite a read... I think the story is twisted to make it look as though they took his stuff because of using linux.

posted on Apr, 23 2009 @ 03:34 PM
Actually, the part that wasn't mentioned in the initial article (conveniently left out) is that the suspect had hacked into the school computer system to change the grades on his and his dorm-mate's transcripts. It was traced back to the IP Address of the specific it was most likely him or his dorm-mate. Once the suspect sent the harassing email to his dorm-mate calling him "gay" his dorm-mate narc'd on him and ratted him out to the authorities. It wasn't because he was running (*)nix that constituted probable cause for a Warrant but because of the verbal report from from his dorm-mate.

So, it was a lot more than just calling someone "gay" in an e-mail and using Linux to do so.

I really lost respect for the EFF over this one. They really hyped it up when the d00d probably is guilty and the Cops & Courts did nothing wrong other than show their ignorance of Operating Systems when typing up the Show Cause and Warrant.

posted on Apr, 23 2009 @ 03:38 PM
Interesting nonetheless. Appropo of nothing I have one machine running a Linux distro - Ubuntu and have never had to use a command line...that would bother some in the IT industry no doubt. Linux distros are not just for geeks anymore.

posted on Apr, 23 2009 @ 03:48 PM
reply to post by elevatedone

Yeah, so the two roommates have a beef, and one goes to the cop and says that dude hacked into the BC computers, has illegal movie/music/software downloads (what student doesn't), and I blame him cause my computer keeps crashing.

Yet the premise of the warrant is based on using an operating system other than the one BC uses.

The issue here as I see it, is not the culpability of Mr. Calixte, but the premise under which they seized his possessions. Not only did they screw up on the warrant, but may in the process have lost any chance at a legitimate prosecution of him.

I must concede however that I am neither a computer or law expert, I just thought it was an interesting case which might have wider ramifications. As to the actual legitimacy of the warrant, the courts will have the final say, so I will wait for that.

posted on Apr, 23 2009 @ 09:51 PM
Ok, the more I read the details of this case around the internet the less sure I am about the accuracy/honesty of the cited article.

It seems that as I said before that reasonable cause was established by his chirping roommate. Apparently, legally speaking , the fact that he had an ax to grind with the accused is immaterial to obtaining the original warrant. Also, apparently, this roommate of his had snitched on another case before this one and had some degree of credibility with the cops.

The police really screwed up on some of the wording in the warrant. It remains to be seen if it will cost them the case.

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