July 3rd, 2008, 05:00 AM
Texas PC repair now requires PI license!
This is rather unbelievable - unfortunately, it's not a joke...
The Texas legislature has decided that computer repair folks need a government-issued PI (Private Investigator) license when performing what the state calls "an investigation." If a computer repair person is analyzing data on a customer's computer, this would fall under "an investigation", and without a PI license he or she could face up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Additionally, any customer knowingly enlisting an unlicensed repair person's help is subject to the same fines.
Unless the repair is purely hardware-related (a blown PSU, for example), even looking at error logs could be (and if the Texas Private Security Board has its way, will and/or already is) interpreted as "an investigation", and the fines will apply. I have not yet received a notice from the TPSB (I have a registered computer repair business in Texas); a small number of my competitors has been informed by the TPSB that they need to either stop doing computer repair, or shut down their business until they have acquired the necessary licenses. To get the license, one needs either a criminal justice degree or complete a three-year apprenticeship under a licensed PI.
I'm all for regulating an industry (currently, computer repair folks in the US do not need any kind of certification or license, making it one of the few professional sectors that don't), but this is a bridge too far. Maybe they'll also start requiring car repair people to be licensed PI's? After all, a car contains "private data" (odometer readings, for example), and working on it may be constituted as "performing an investigation"...
The Texas State Bill in question
Institute for Justice case description
July 3rd, 2008, 06:02 AM
I was reading this this morning and was in shock... What I don't get is how no one noticed this before now? It was enacted in 2007...
IT Blog: .:Computer Defense:.
(Pronounced Pinched): Acronym - Point 'n Click Hacked. As in: "That website was pinched" or "The skiddie pinched my computer because I forgot to patch".
July 3rd, 2008, 01:48 PM
That seems pretty clear cut to me, and my response would be:
relating to the licensing and regulation of certain private
"Thank you for your communication of xx/xx/xxxx, which appears to have been sent to me in error.
I operate a computer hardware and software sales, upgrade and repair business.
I do not provide "certain private security services", in fact, I do not provide any private security services as described in the Act.
In particular I do not conduct forensic investigations, or repair computers dedicated to managing security functions such as CCTV and access control."
Texas State DOJ
The Editor, all major state newspapers. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To the CCs I would add a covering letter to the effect that the TPSB seem to be taking it upon themselves to make laws or at the very least interpret them without the guidance of the courts.
Never underestimate how pissed these guys get when someone trespasses on their turf
July 3rd, 2008, 02:26 PM
Nice one there Nihil
I need some letters written, you must help out
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
July 3rd, 2008, 02:31 PM
You know how slow the mail can be.
Originally Posted by HTRegz
July 3rd, 2008, 03:04 PM
"The check is in the post"
HT~ has a good point though, so I looked a bit further.
If you read the Bill, it has all the sorts of things that you would expect. Various levels of acreditation, people who are excluded (criminal records, dishonourable discharge...) people who are exempt (lawyers & accountants) and so on. Even handgun proficiency requirements
No mention of computers anywhere.
I would say that the legislators knew exactly what they meant and it does not seem controversial to me at least. It passed both houses unopposed (yes I checked the votes).
The TPSB seem to have taken it upon themselves to try to extend the law beyond its original intentions, which is why they have to be challenged. After all they are neither elected representatives of the people nor members of the Judiciary?
July 3rd, 2008, 03:40 PM
Que? I think you didn't look far enough, nihil
I looked a bit further. [...]
No mention of computers anywhere.
Here are the relevant parts of the bill on which the TPSB base their case:
Unfortunately, under this law, the TPSB have a very good case.
80(R) HB 2833
A person acts
as an investigations company for the purposes of this chapter if the
(1) engages in the business of obtaining or
furnishing, or accepts employment to obtain or furnish, information
(B) the identity, habits, business, occupation,
knowledge, efficiency, loyalty, movement, location, affiliations,
associations, transactions, acts, reputation, or character of a
(b) For purposes of Subsection (a)(1), obtaining or
furnishing information includes information obtained or furnished
through the review and analysis of, and the investigation into the
content of, computer-based data not available to the public.
Computer repair folks can obtain information about the identity, habits, business, occupation, knowledge, efficiency, loyalty, movement, location, affiliations, associations, transactions, acts, reputation, or character of a person through review and analysis of computer-based data that is not available to the public. If they can, they need a PI license as spelled out in the bill. Whether this was the intent of the law or not remains to be seen; the TPSB seem to think it is, and I can't really blame them, as I think the law's pretty clear. The Institute for Justice also interpret the law that way (that's why they're fighting it).
According to the Dallas Morning News, "Apparently the PI lobby persuaded the law makers to classify the investigation of data on a hard drive to be only done by licensed private investigators," which, if true, would mean that it is the intent of the law to require that computer repair folks need a PI license.
More from the DMN article:
So, let's say you take your computer into Joe's Computer Repair and ask him why your computer runs so slow. He looks on your hard drive and finds viruses in your email or spyware in your kid's IM program -- apparently that's an investigation of private data and is now against the law if Joe is not a licensed PI.
And it's also apparently illegal for YOU, the consumer to bring your computer for repair to a shop that does not employ a licensed PI.
July 3rd, 2008, 04:12 PM
I would bet that it only applies if you use the information
in the context of an investigation. If you clean out the viruses
and get the computer working, there is no "investigation".
If, in the course of fixing a computer, you stumble upon
evidence of wrongdoing, you are not qualified, and therefore
not permitted to pass that info on to a third party because
you don't have a PI license.
We wouldn't want "repair shop vigilantes" going around
accusing people of everything under the sun when they
really haven't demonstrated any forensic skills,
and haven't followed proper procedures (and haven't
paid for a license)
I came in to the world with nothing. I still have most of it.
July 3rd, 2008, 04:33 PM
Let's hope so... the lawsuit seems to center around what exactly constitutes "an investigation." Maybe installing a driver doesn't fall under that, but what about the family that lost all its baby pictures? Am I performing an investigation when I try to recover that data? The PI lobby sure seems to think so...
July 3rd, 2008, 04:51 PM
Neg, would "Data Recovery" be considered an "Investigation"? It is simple data recovery, I personally would have a problem with someone telling me it is an "Investigation".
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