A Week in Review - January 8th, 2016

2016 began in California with a new law allowing police to confiscate a citizen's firearms for a period of 21 days (extendable to a full year) if a relative believes they are "in need of mental health evaluation," and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer said "he would provide training to lawyers on how to help families seize the guns of relatives." It is unknown when the same legal model will be applied to other Constitutionally-protected rights such as voting or religious expression. After all, if one is in need of mental health evaluation, they should not be voting for lawmakers. And, if one is already unstable, perhaps we should ban them from attending a mosque, where they may be radicalized while in their vulnerable state.

President Obama's executive orders on gun control included the removal of HIPAA restrictions on physicians when it comes to "mental health prohibitors"  Physicians may now, without any legal repercussion, disclose mental health matters to the NICS background check system without first getting permission from their patients.  There is real concern that survivors of violent crimes may no longer seek mental health counseling to deal with their trauma because doing so may strip them of the very means of defense against future victimization.  There is also concern over how those Federal prohibitors may be defined in the future, given that there have been calls to label "global warming deniers" as mentally ill.

Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur wrote, “Encryption supports respect for privacy and the secret communication of citizens by providing them a means to communicate protected data confidentially and with integrity. This is also important for the exercise of the freedom of expression. For example, it enables citizens, but also allows empowers important democratic functions like journalism by allowing confidential communication.”

Whether this is a sincere effort to protect the privacy of its customers, a ruse to quell migration to encrypted operating systems and email providers, or even a case of buyers' remorse for having collaborated with prior government intrusion is unknown. Regardless, tech giant Microsoft is joining Yahoo, Facebook, and Google in instituting a new policy of notifying individual consumers when they reasonably believe the users' accounts are being probed, if not hacked, by "state-sponsored actors."