California City Apologizes for Wrongly Accusing Bloggers of Criminal Hacking

To settle a lawsuit, the city of Fullerton California “has agreed to pay $350,000 and take back its accusations of criminal computer hacking” against two local bloggers, reports the Orange County Register. The settlement ends what the newspaper calls “a contentious fight over censorship and freedom of speech.”The lawsuit accused Joshua Ferguson and David Curlee of stealing computerized personnel files from a Dropbox account to which the city had mistakenly given them access. Some of the files were later published online… Attorney Kelly Aviles, representing the bloggers, said she was pleased with the settlement, but the litigation could have been avoided. “The city shouldn’t have tried to blame their mistakes on journalists trying to cover the city,” Aviles said. “It was unbelievably wrong … those kind of people should never be in public office…” Under the terms of the deal, Aviles will be paid $230,000, while Ferguson and Curlee will receive $60,000 each. Additionally, the city must publish a public apology on the home page of its website, Aviles said. While no formal charges were brought against the bloggers, the city’s accusations of criminal conduct cost them friends and family members. She said Ferguson was fired from his job. “It was really traumatic for them,” Aviles said. In turn, the bloggers must return the remaining confidential recordswhich they don’t plan on publishing anyway, Aviles said.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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The golden state city settles with blog owners who published police records, walks back criminal hacking claims

A southern California city accepted work out in a case against 2 citizen blog owners charged of publishing confidential municipal government files, consisting of authorities misconduct documents, obtained without consent.

The city of Fullerton, situated in Orange Region, agreed to pay $350,000 and also provide a public apology on its site to Joshua Ferguson and David Curlee, who ran the regional blog site “Friends for Fullerton’s Future.”

The blog owners had actually taken records off of a city data sharing account, publishing a few of them that they deemed newsworthy. Fullerton officials initially accused the blog owners of hacking into their system, acquiring the data illegally, however even more examination revealed the files were accidentally left publicly available and that the data sharing account did not have the proper password defenses.

” The city has functioned to safeguard the discretion of non-public records while ensuring robust public accessibility to public records,” the arrangement states. “While our efforts to secure these documents after their unintentional launch was well-meaning, it had effects for Mr. Curlee and Mr. Ferguson that we did not mean. The City regrets this misconception.”

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The settlement was authorized by the Fullerton City Council along a 3-2 ballot recently, finishing the lawsuit that stimulated dispute over censorship as well as freedom of expression, The Orange County Register reported.

Though not all the records taken from the account were released, those that did show up on the blog site detailed arrangements with a rogue police authorities, who eventually took a bargain to resign, finishing an investigation that can have resulted in files about any kind of misbehavior being made public. Movie critics had actually charged the city of sidestepping a police transparency regulation.

Courts had placed gag orders on the blog writers to prevent them from publishing additional police records. As part of the settlement gotten to last week, Ferguson and also Curlee consented to return any added files including personal records and to remove any type of copies.

” I rejoice we’re getting our files back,” Fullerton’s attorney, Kimberly Hall Barlow, told KTLA, including that the city acted in good faith in filing its legal action against the blog owners in 2019. “That was the entire goal of the lawsuits.”

While neither Curlee nor Ferguson faced official charges, the city’s allegations of criminal activity set you back the bloggers relationships with their friends and family participants, their lawyer, Kelly Aviles, informed the Register. She claimed Ferguson was also fired from his task over the litigation.

” It was really stressful for them,” Aviles said. “The city shouldn’t have attempted at fault their blunders on journalists trying to cover the city.”

In an initiative to satisfy its duty to react to public documents requests in a timely manner, the city of Fullerton had actually started a documents sharing program and also staff members started positioning folders and also data on a common drive as well as developed a shortcut link to the common data account, the arrangement claims.

City personnel started placing “large volumes” of documents in the documents to be examined by the city lawyer, that was to make the redactions required to shield sufferers and witnesses as needed under legislation. Yet “because of errors by former employees in the City in configuring the account, the files and folders remained in truth accessible and also able to be downloaded by the public,” the arrangement claims.

Some documents were supposed to be password safeguarded, but “due to lax password controls,” Ferguson, Curlee and possibly others would have had the ability to unzip documents without bypassing accessibility controls due to the fact that the same passwords might have been recycled for several data or divulged in public records.

Based on extra investigation, and also conversations with Ferguson and Curlee, Fullerton “currently recognizes that the records were not stolen or unlawfully taken from the common data account, as the City has formerly thought or insisted,” the contract claims. “Instead the papers were made accidentally available by the City in feedback to PRA [Public Records Act] requests.”

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