Federal Courts Spread FUD About RECAP

Update: The federal courts are just fine with attorneys using RECAP. They just want you to be careful about computer security in general.

pacer--public-recordsLast week I wrote about RECAP, a Firefox extension that automatically uploads PACER documents to the free, public repository. Shortly afterward, the federal courts sent out an ominous warning full of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), suggesting that RECAP was dangerous, open-source software.

Paul Levy at Consumer Law & Policy Blog expertly picks apart the courts’ e-mail:

In other words, the courts’ experts have not been able to find any present security concerns, but they want users to worry that “open source” software is more vulnerable to malign modifications.  Be afraid.  Be VERY afraid.

RECAP is open source, which means anyone can find flaws or suggest improvements. But RECAP is maintained by Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. While anyone can edit the code, the CITP decides what gets released to the public.

RECAP appears to be a solid project. Plus, it can save you and your clients money and it will help bring public records into the light.

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  • It’s not FUD. RECAP itself says that the documents being uploaded cannot be meaningfully verified as authentic because courts are not allowing hashes or something. The vulnerability isn’t necessarily a security breach, but basically, RECAP does not guarantee that the documents it makes available are authentic. All it takes is one crazed hacker to upload a bunch of fake docs onto RECAP.